Too Fast or Too Slow?

Friendly but no-nonsense relationship and dating advice for women in their 20s and 30s, from the guy perspective. Come back for biweekly posts and "tips of the week." Skip to the advice...

Apr
8

Most guys realize that women face tough choices when it comes to having sex with someone for the first time. Merciless social expectations say that if you do it too soon you're a slut, while waiting too long makes you a prude. And because men and women are wired differently, the pressure is typically on women to decide when the time is right. If you find it a big pain in the ass, even in your 20s and 30s, to navigate this impossible set of expectations, I don't blame you. But from the guy perspective, there is a way.

Too Fast?

A lot of guys actually stress over the "too fast" dilemma, too. That's because we understand, or think we understand, that for women, sex carries an expectation of intimacy. For us, on the other hand, sex and emotional intimacy typically just aren't hard-wired to go together. We mature, we find the right woman, and ultimately sex and intimacy become more connected -- but that connection is not built into our hormonal makeup. This means that having sex too soon can create a fear of being trapped in an emotional intimacy we're just not ready for. The fear isn't necessarily enough to prevent us from following our hormones and jumping right in (with a willing partner), but it is enough to wreck something that could have worked out because we had sex too soon and then got freaked out.

You may be thinking that it's just not your responsibility to create a "safe" environment where a guy doesn't feel trapped or freaked out following physical intimacy; that's clearly his problem. But if you're looking for the right guy, then this is just as much your responsibility as his. Why? Because what works best for a guy -- even if it's not always what he asks for -- is a woman who doesn't compromise her own comfort level when deciding when to sleep together. In other words, if sex doesn't carry big expectations of intimacy for you, and you want to sleep with a guy the night you meet him, be safe and jump in. As long as you are completely clear that it's the first night and this guy might not actually end up falling in love with you (or even calling you afterward), you have nothing to lose. And you really don't -- because if a guy in this situation truly likes you, he'll most likely pick up on your casual attitude, not feel emotionally cornered, and happily move ahead with you. The idea that guys think girls are "sluts" if they have sex too quickly is basically a myth (the guys who do express this are typically either freaked out or projecting their own lack of self-confidence, and definitely not worth your time).

On the other hand, if you're the kind of woman who needs a call after sex -- and no reasonable guy will blame you if you are -- then please, don't have sex until you know that call will come. It might be two dates, five dates, or five months in, but with the right guy you'll know when you're ready, and your chances of feeling good about what you did afterward will be a jillion times higher. Every guy has a female friend or friend-of-a-friend who thought she wouldn't care, had sex with a random guy too soon, and then got hurt afterward when it didn't work out. This means that every guy is already a little predisposed to freak out when he feels like sex carries the expectation of an intimacy he's not ready for. So it sounds old school, but if sex makes you vulnerable, wait to do it until you're comfortable with the emotional intimacy you've already attained with a guy.

Too Slow?

Is it possible to wait too long to have sex? The short answer, even from the guy perspective, is "no." I won't say there's no such thing as going too slow, but if what you want is a meaningful relationship, don't be afraid to take your time. In fact, this is a perfect way to weed out the guys that aren't for you. If a guy walks out of the room, or says he can't date you anymore, or breaks up with you just because it's taking too long for you to have sex with him, then guess what -- he's not the right guy. You should never have to compromise your comfort level about sex to save a relationship. The right guy may wheedle, he may kiss and nibble and touch, but if you're not ready then he'll understand. And if he does walk out, you won't have any regrets, because you didn't compromise your physical and emotional comfort.

That said, the advice about taking your time is not intended as a license for you to be cold or shut a guy out. If you're going slow without finding other ways to tell a guy that you're into him, he might lose confidence, become disheartened, and end the relationship for that reason. But as long as you're communicating your feelings clearly, the right guy won't leave just because it's taking too long to have sex.

Just Right

So, to be ridiculously clear: the right time to have sex is when you've reached the level of intimacy and trust you need to feel comfortable about it. You might need just an hour's conversation to confirm a guy's not a psycho, or you might need months of emotional bonding before you know it's time, but either way, I can't emphasize enough that the right guy will respect the time it takes. I can think of dozens of friends who've had hookups or dates end badly because sex and intimacy were rushed based on different expectations, but I can't think of a single friend or acquaintance, guy or girl, who was in a relationship that seemed "right" but ended because the woman put off sex. So while the temptations may sometimes be just as strong for you as they are for the guy, be aware of your emotional fallout level, and hold off until you know it's at an acceptable point. You'll both be glad you did.

8 comments

Anonymous

Okay, dammit. I met a man in person after a week of conversation via internet dating site and then texting. We had coffee on Friday and hung out to have lunch also. I am 37 and he is 42, so we have both been around the block a few times. He seems mature and he is very communicative. He wanted to hang out again soon and I had a free night the next evening so he came to see me (we live an hour away from each other). We had a great evening and one too many glasses of wine. We were intimate, when he asked if I wanted to be I told him I was conflicted about it, which I was. I wanted to in the moment, but I knew that I probably shouldn't...but i had too much wine and so my judgement went the wrong way. He stopped without orgasm, saying it was too early for that in our relationship, which kind of makes sense to me. I think when that happens even more feeling happens due to chemicals being released in our brains. Anyway, we had a great evening, the next morning was excellent, too. He has continued to text and call and wants to see me a couple times this week. I am freaked out, and you said it well in your blog, basically I have allowed myself to be more vulnerable than I care for. I'm trying to figure out how to move ahead and feel okay. I thought about just cutting the relationship off and not even going forward. I do like him and do want to see where it goes , but now I think I care too much what will happen, like I need it to work out. To make myself feel okay about having sex? Maybe? I mean, he's not like a superstar or anything and I barely know him, so it's not like I can care this much because of him. I wish I could erase the knowledge that we had sex from my brain. I'm actually trying to do that, just mentally pretend it didn't, and act in a way i would normally. It's working a little, actually. Yes, if I can not think about it, then I do okay. I also have the thoughts that maybe whatever could be is already ruined by this early action. If that's the case, then I should just end it so I don't have to invest anymore emotionally. Thanks for any input.

ethanfburke

You're right that the trick is to get out of your own head, so you can normalize your situation with this guy who you're still interested in. If you can't do this, as you say, it's not the end of the world because he isn't a superstar and you don't really know him that well yet anyway. If you can, there's a possibility -- but just a possibility -- that a real relationship would develop anyway.

Instead of pretending it didn't happen, why not talk to this guy, explain that what happened was a little fast for you and that you'd like to dial it back for awhile, and see where things go? If his reaction makes you more comfortable, that will tell you a lot about your potential for a successful relationship, while if it doesn't and you remain anxious about the whole thing, that's probably an indication that this guy isn't right for you.

Anonymous

I have a situation similar to the last post and have been driving myself insane over the past few days overanalyzing the whole thing. This gentleman and I were introduced to each other a couple of months ago. He and I both had gotten out of a really rough relationship several months to a year prior--well past a rebound situation. We started dating. We hit it off immediately and couldn't get enough of being around each other and were in constant communication nearly every day. I have always been one to "wait" for a long time (marriage or at least 6-8 months) before becoming intimate with someone. He never once pressured me and was always the perfect gentleman. I was very comfortable with him as I had never been before with anyone else. One night we became intimate after a wonderful date night and dating after a month. I never felt cheapened or like anything changed. It seemed as if we actually got closer so I did not feel any regrets for doing something completely out of character for me...until now. Afterwards we maintained our constant communication and seeing each other. I did not mention another word about that night nor pressure for the relationship to go any faster than what we were doing. I never mentioned marriage or moving in or anything that would potentially indicate I wanted to go any faster or be intimate again. Like the previous post, I feel we should get to know each other better before it happens again and I can maintain my self respect at the same time. As of 3 days ago, I've not heard one word from him. I've figured out that maybe he needs some time and space to think but I'm stuck in utter chaos. I don't know what to do. The last time I saw him he kissed me goodnight and said "I'll talk to you later" right before I went home (no sex involved). There was absolutely no indication of there being an issue. What do I do now? I don't know what this means. I can completely respect anyone needing space but the not knowing is tearing me apart. Of any other man I had ever dated, this one was possibly "the one" in my book. Should I contact him or wait until he contacts me and give him his space?

ethanfburke

I'm sorry to hear about your confusion; I've been away from the blog and by now you may already have your answer. But I will say that the fact that you slept with this guy, and then decided to wait before doing it again, most likely has little to no connection with him not being in touch for three days after your last date. It sounds like what happened may have made you more attached -- to the point where three days without contact was tearing you apart -- but that isn't the same thing as him reacting to your sleeping together, or not sleeping together. Chances are it's not as big a deal for him as it is for you, and his being out of touch may be because he is losing interest in general, or may be for some other, completely unrelated reason that you've already found out by now.

If you have an update to the situation and still want advice I'd be happy to respond again -- let me know!

Anonymous

I have this co-worker who I've been friends with since we started working together. It was not until recently that our relationship started changing. It was subtle flirting at first on breaks, then full out acknowledgment Of what we were doing. It continued on like that for awhile, only while at work, since 'vewe never exchanged phone numbees. One day after work, me and some co-workers werem going out to eat. At the parking lot, I endend up running into said friend. I was able to convince to come along. He was cool with it, as long as he could be my ride. On the way to eat, during the car ride, he asked if we could hang out together, alone. I agreed.

Later that night, we kind of hooked up, just issing. After wards we chalked it up to heat if the moment, and acted like nothing happened. A couple days later at work, I needed a ride home, and he offered. We made out again, this time going further.

Here's the thing though, yes I'm an adult (a young one, but an adult nonetheless), but I've never had sex before. Not because I believe in "Saving myself" but because I've never actually been attracted enough to someone to want to have sex.
He knew I was a virgin. He stopped what we were doing, saying that he'd rather I "wait for an amazing guy, who likes me like that, to be my first."

We ended that night on an akaward hug, and a promise to still be friends. For the reasons he said he wanted to stop, it's not like I could be mad at him.

From then on, we talked akawardly at work, acting like nothing happened between us.

We ended up seeing each other at a party. He was already a little tipsy the moment I got into there. He was back to his flirty, touchy feely self. Obviously I knew it was the alcohol.

We both got drunk together, and talked about "The Night"

He basically said he didn't want to take advantage of me that night, that he does care about me.

I basically tell him, don't worry about it, it's okay.

Some point during the night, we start kissing, in front of our mutual friends who knew nothing if the situation.

He looks up, see a really good guy friend of mine (gay) and says

"yeah, we've kind of made out."

Friend: "I know."

Him: "You know?"

Me: "He knows."

Him: "He knows?"

Me: "Yep, he knows."

We kiss again, he then in his drunken stupor, starts telling my friend: "I really find her attractive." Looks at me. "I really find you attractive"

By this point I start to feel sick so I sit down. I hear him talking to my friend about the situation. He basically said he was trying to respect women more, and he wanted to respect me.

In one if my least proudest monents, I publicly got suck. This point is aploy blur, but I remember him blaming himself, apologizing, because he had me drink so much...

Anyway, I haven't gotten the chance to see him yet. I don't even know why I'm writing this, or what question I really want answered.

I feel like all it is for him is lust, and he really is a good enough guy, not to want to hurt Me. On the other hand, I have my few friends who know the whole situation, saying that he really does like me, but the whole virgin thing scares me.

Truth be told, I would be okay with just a fling. I have this chemistry with him I haven't had with anyone I've ever dated, and it's something I'd like to explore. Just because he would be my "first" that doesn't mean I'm going to fall in love with him.

I would rather explore my sexuality without too many emotional attachments, so when I do find Mr. Right, I'll know what I want. I would be lying if I said I didn't like him a little bit, but I also know a relationship wouldn't go anywhere. That's what I'm telling myself at least.

ANYWAY, I guess I'm writing this because I want someones opinion on whats going on in his head. Am I more then likely rightto in thinking, this is just lust for him, but he's trying to be a good guy and not take advantage? Or are my friends right, that he does like me, but he's intimidated? Or is it just lust, AND he's intimidated?

I just want someones objective standpoint, to help me wrap my whole, naive head around the situation please.

ethanfburke

If you want to find out what's really going on with this guy, you'll need to find a way to date and spend time with him without the pressure to have sex, talk about having sex, or worry about what having sex would or wouldn't mean. Can you trust yourself to spend time with him, make out with him, and let it progress little by little? If so, tell him that's what you want to do, without any pressure for it to be some amazing relationship. If he's willing to take it step by step and be open to how things develop, that will tell you it's probably more than just lust. On the other hand, if he keeps making excuses about not wanting your first to be something that isn't special, most likely he is just after the sex and you can move on. Because even if your first time doesn't need to be special for you, it does need to be with someone who is completely ok with it, and won't screw it up by being guilty or apologizing for it later.

Ciaobella

I would like to get your (and your commrades opinion) on a related subject; What if you felt it was right to be intimate with someone on the first date and then decided that you actually have a strong attraction to the person and dont want to have sex again until things develop more? How do you have that conversation without hurting their feelings or scaring them off? I do not regret what happened, neither does he, I received a phone call 2 days later and an email and there is a plan to hangout again when I get back from a vacation I leave for this Friday. Here is the background info; We went on a date this past Firday (after emailing on match back and forth several times) and had a great time, good conversation and there was a good connection so we decided to meet up with a few of each of our friends that we coordinated meeting up with at the same place after our dinner. After a few drinks with the combo of our friends we hungout with a small group at his house and I ended up staying over. Needless to say there was a good amount of alcohol involved which contributed to me making a decision that I otherwise might not have. Again, it went well and I am not the type of girl to come across as a stage 5 clinger and more of the independent type that he likes. I want to talk to him about how I am feeling when I see him again as I dont think that continuing to hook up right away is something that I am interested in doing until we get to know eachother better and hangout more. I am a very selective person and it is nearly impossible for me to find men that I see potential with and I really see potential with this guy and dont want to F*^% it up right from the start so I feel I need to approach t topic the right way, if at all. Thoughts?

ethanfburke

I don't think this situation is as unusual, or as complicated, as you're worried about. Next time you hang out, wait for a natural lull in the conversation and bring up the fact that you had a lot to drink the last time you hung out, and probably moved a little faster than you otherwise would have. Let him know you enjoyed it and don't regret it, but that you might need to take things a little slower for the moment since that's how you usually operate. If you can tell him that much in a calm and collected way, you shouldn't have to worry about putting him off -- especially if he's really a good match for the kind of person you describe yourself as. This conversation is common enough that you can probably picture the romantic comedy version: in the next scene the falling-in-love couple are right back in bed again. It doesn't have to happen that way for you, but you'll learn a lot about whether this is the right guy for you if he can gracefully accept this information and go right on through the date. If things do get a little awkward but this is still meant to be, the two of you will hang with it long enough to find yourselves between the sheets again.

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