Should you have sex on the first date? If not, then when should you? How do you know youre doing the right thing, to move your relationship forward rather than back?

Often people assume that taking the step of having sex means that you automatically are shifting the new and blossoming relationship to a deeper and more intimate level. And this then should naturally move the relationship forward, and make it more serious, perhaps exclusive, and (surely) on the track to something long-term. This however, is pure assumption, unless you have talked with your new partner about how youre each feeling.

If you're looking for a long-term relationship, having sex on the first date is not a wise decision. And this doesn't mean from a moral perspective, although most people surveyed agreed sex on the first date wasn't smart or acceptable. Having sex releases the biochemical oxytocin. Oxytocin creates a sense of bonding in our brains. If you have sex with someone you barely know, you can therefore create feelings of attachment to someone who is all wrong for you, and frankly, possibly a waste of your time. (Or even if you don't bond with them, they can bond with you, and that can be awkward too). Time ought to be spent getting to know the person you're dating to see if they are worth bonding yourself with them, and investing your intimate energy with them. Really, before any sex, and before that oxytocin is released and starts blinding you to your new partner's faults and flaws. This is if you're looking for a relationship with Mr or Ms Right. If you're simply looking for sex and a casual 'good time' only, all bets are off and as long as you're playing safely, it's pretty straightforward to meet your need and walk away. Because you're not looking to build anything, so it doesn't matter if sex destroys potential. This is not the case when a new relationship is at stake.

A relationship can be derailed and sabotaged by the timing of sex. No one in a healthy long-term relationship ever said, "Gee I wish I slept with my partner sooner", but how many times have people (men as well as women) uttered regrets about wishing they hadn't jumped in the sack quite so fast. This is not to say that sex on the first date dooms every relationship. There are plenty of couples who can testify to the fact that they have now been together ten months or even ten years and they started out with a roll in the hay a few hours after meeting. But for every story you hear of that working out well, there are many, many more that didn't work out and were in fact heart break disasters. So just as dating is a numbers game of playing the field and meeting lots of people before you find your Prince or Princess Charming, when it comes to sex too, you have to play your odds, and play smart, if a relationship - a healthy and lengthy one - is what you're after.

So how do you know if you've waited long enough? Does the three date rule still apply? Even though some espouse a set of rules to follow when it comes to dating, sex and snaring your mate, there is no set of rules that applies to everyone. It's far better to follow a set of principles than a set of rules. How well do you know the person you're dating? Are they looking for the same future you are? Have you built some electric sexual chemistry together and feel breathless anticipation at the idea of being sexual together? Have you met each other's friends and socialised together in groups and one on one? Do you know if you share the same values? These are just some of the questions you may want to ask yourself before you get into bed together. But most importantly: do you talk well together? Can you talk about intimate things? Can you talk about sex, waiting for sex, pleasure, what you want, what you like? Intimacy isn't getting naked with each other, true intimacy is getting vulnerable and true with one another. So if you're after a relationship, and not just a good time, don't focus on timing of getting between the sheets, and instead focus on talking and getting the spark between you sizzling in each other's hearts and minds. From there, the sex will follow, and so will the relationship.



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Dr Gabrielle has written three books, Spicy Sex, Urge, and Sex in the Time of Generation X. Spicy Sex and Urge are available in good bookshops and online. Spicy Sex and Urge have been translated into various languages and continue to be in high demand around the world. (Sex in the Time of Generation X is now out of print).
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