As relationship therapists, one question we get often from clients is how long to wait to have sex with their new partner. Sometimes there is (real or perceived) external pressure from your new partner causing you to ask this question or you might feel that having sex is a way to solidify a new relationship. Other times, having sex with your new partner might seem like a way to fast-track the partnership into your desired status.
My advice around this question isn’t always popular with clients, but it’s backed with evidence that having sex too quickly can create an environment for future relationship challenges. Below you’ll find some things to consider when you are asking yourself the question “is it time to have sex with my new partner”?
The role of attachment
Everyone has a default attachment system or common type of response to closeness and separation in intimate relationships. This attachment system is developed based on your earliest experiences of connection with others and is reinforced in your relationships as an adult. No matter if you fall into the anxious, avoidant, or secure style, you’ll be impacted by having sex early in a relationship.
Anxiously attached individuals tend to feel more vulnerable after sex and desire even more closeness after experiencing this level of intimacy with another. Additionally, they may start to assume certain things about the relationship, such as the level of commitment, exclusivity or outlook, and start losing themselves in the idea of the partner and desired relationship. As you might expect, it’s not uncommon for the anxiously attached person to question "will my partner still be there or will they leave me now that I have been more intimate and vulnerable?”. Sex can exacerbate the natural anxiety felt from those with this type of attachment system, which is a reason to wait on this relationship milestone.
Given that the avoidantly attached person is more comfortable with personal distance than closeness, getting intimate too quickly can lead the person to pull away, seeking distance. You can see, how if the anxiously attached and avoidantly attached person were to have sex too quickly, the avoidant partner might run from new requests and desire for closeness and intimacy and the anxious partner can feel abandoned and rejected by the avoidant’s need for some space after getting close - this can send the couple into a tailspin. An avoidant individual might also subconsciously begin to sabotage the relationship to prevent more closeness. If avoidant partners feel they have gotten in too far too deeply, they may start to engage in behaviors that create more space in the relationship. Sex can trigger intense feelings and too much closeness for an avoidant, causing this person to need more distance. These repetitive scripts are common in relationship dynamics between avoidant and anxious partners and only serve to reinforce the idea that closeness is bad or distance is bad.
So, how long should I wait to have sex?
If you are still looking for a firm answer around how long you should wait to take the next step with your new partner, my general recommendation is no less than six weeks or six dates, whichever is longer. This waiting period gives you the ability to evaluate the relationship more comprehensively and avoid the honeymoon phase or fog of infatuation that is strongest during the initial getting-to-know-you period of a new romance. It allows you to recognize whether this person might have an anxious or avoidant attachment style. It also allows a more secure attachment over time to unfold because you don’t get in too deep too quickly because of initial physical attraction. This waiting period helps you understand fully how this person makes you feel following a number of dates and whether he or she might be triggering any patterned responses you might have in the initial phases of a relationship.
The team at Center for Shared Insight can help you navigate the challenges of any new relationship, including those around intimacy. Our team can also help you identify and overcome patterned responses and ways you might be sabotaging love in relationships so you choose relationships that are more fulfilling and healthy long-term. We offer a free consultation to learn more about your unique situation and learn how we can help. Contact us to schedule yours today.