A couple months in? Sometimes even on the first date? There are as many opinions on this question as there are men in this world, and each will often vigorously defend his position. And of course abstinence guy will never be able to step into the shoes of early-in-the-relationship guy, and vice versa. Which is why time and experience have shown that arguing about this decision — especially over the internet!
Thus what I hope to lay out in this article is not an iron-clad rule for when you should become intimate in a relationship.
Before we begin, I should probably point out the somewhat obvious fact that this post is directed at those who desire a long-term relationship. You may have a heard a parent, teacher, or preacher contend that waiting to have sex will ultimately strengthen a relationship. But is there any actual evidence out there that backs up this well-meaning, if often vague advice?
There is at least some that seems to point in that direction. In one study , Dr. Sandra Metts asked participants to think about the different turning points in their present or past relationships. In another study , Dr. He surveyed over 2, people who ranged in age from 19 to 71, had been married anywhere from 6 months to more than 20 years, and held a variety of religious beliefs and no religious beliefs at all.
The results were controlled for religiosity, income, education, race, and the length of relationship. What Busby found is that couples who delayed intimacy in a relationship enjoyed better long-term prospects and greater satisfaction in a variety of areas in their marriage. Those who waited until marriage to have sex reported the following benefits over those who had sex early on in the relationship: Relationship stability was rated 22 percent higher Relationship satisfaction was rated 20 percent higher Sexual quality of the relationship was rated 15 percent better Communication was rated 12 percent better For those couples that waited longer in a relationship to have sex, but not until marriage, the benefits were still present, but about half as strong.
These studies are certainly not conclusive and do not decidedly settle the question of whether or not delaying intimacy is beneficial for a long-term relationship. Busby offers this explanation for such a result: Researchers have found that the human mind has a natural affinity for stories, and this predilection strongly extends into how we view and make sense of our own lives. They affect both how we view the past, and how we see our future.
And as it evolves, that larger story in turn colors the interpretation of the scenes. Psychologists have found that just like all good stories, the coherence of our personal narratives matters and the more coherence our life story has, the greater our sense of well-being.
Coherence grows out of a number of things, including the way one event seems to lead naturally to another, and how clearly cause and effect can be seen. We booked a weekend at a bed and breakfast a few weeks later and had sex for the first time. It may be easy to dismiss stories as just…stories. But the effect of personal narrative in your life should not be underestimated.
This is likely as true for sexual intimacy as it is for anything else. Every relationship we have, however brief and insignificant, influences every other relationship we have, and the patterns that we repeat across relationships become very difficult to change.