How long should you wait to have sex? Nearly 50 percent of straight couples in a new survey reported holding out one week to a month before getting it on with their partners.
What’s more, 21 percent of the couples waited up to two months and 10 percent waited up to half a year to have sex, according to the survey of 1,000 Americans and Europeans from DrEd.com. Only 18 percent of the men and women surveyed reported waiting less than a week to have sex.
That first time matters because sex is an incredibly vulnerable act, said relationship therapist Paul Hokemeyer, PhD.
“This is because people bring the whole of their past sexual and romantic relationships into their present ones,” he said.
That’s a lot of pressure, especially if you have anxiety about forming a new relationship or being intimate with someone new, said sex therapist Ian Kerner, PhD. But you can never move past your nerves until you just do the damn thing, right?
That got us thinking: Is there ever really a perfect moment to seal the deal?
Kerner and Hokemeyer both agree that it totally depends on the individual, and there are pros and cons to both having sex early on or choosing to wait a couple of months. Whether or not commitment matters is up to you, but even if you go in thinking she’s just a fling—keep in mind that your partner is still a person with thoughts, feelings, and a body that should be respected, Hokemeyer said.
One-night stands can even help you find the one. In fact, one in three marriages began with a hookup, according to research from the University of Virginia. Having sex early on in your relationship can help you feel bonded to that person, Kerner said, and it’s a great way to figure out if you’re romantically compatible or not.
But doing it too early can also be detrimental if it goes wrong, Hokemeyer added.
“You could be inebriated, stressed, anxious, or overly stimulated. And while its certainly possible to make up for a bad first impression, it could be embarrassing and take a while to get over,” he said. (Here’s why you tend to finish faster during first-time sex.)
That’s why some people prefer to wait. Plus, giving yourself time to get to know your partner will only enhance the experience later on, Kerner said. Postponing sex can build anticipation, which lights up reward centers in your brain, he explains.
“I know plenty of couples that did a bit of a courtship dance around sex and took the slow road,” he said. “They learned to appreciate each other, and they learned to enjoy kissing, touch, oral sex, and all of those activities that don’t get consumed by intercourse.”
And that helped them appreciate the real thing that much more when it finally happened, he said.
But being forced to wait can get frustrating. So what if you don’t want to wait, but your partner does—or vice versa?
Well, it’s not completely up to you, said Kerner. Sex has to be a consensual act and ultimately, pleasure requires being relaxed and feeling good about your partner, he said. If your partner wants to wait, just let him or her know how much you’re looking forward to it to build the anticipation, he suggests.
Plus, the more comfortable your partner feels, the better it will be. (Once you do get to that point, blow her mind with the tips and tricks in How to Pleasure a Woman, the ultimate sex manual from Men’s Health.)
But knowing your personal limit is important, too: “If you want to have sex now, tell her,” Hokemeyer said. “Then let her respond, listen to what she has to say, then consider it as you move forward in the relationship. It’s also okay to cut bait after a set period of time. No one wants to be bread-crumbed away from other romantic and sexual opportunities.”
First published on MensHealth.com