Few moments in any relationship are as exciting, scary and sweet as the first time you do the deed. For some people, bedding down happens on date number one; for others, not until vows are said. But for most of us, it’s sometime between those two extremes, though exactly when is up for debate.
While there are no hard-and-fast rules, men and women do rely on certain signposts to know when they’re ready for sex with someone new. Here’s how to tell when the time is right for an amazing night.*
1. When you’re sure you’re the only one
Many people give a green light to sex once they know they’re in an exclusive relationship. The key word is know — not assume, or guess or hope. Brendan, 25, from New York City, explains how he puts his cards on the table: “I usually wait until our conversation is flowing, say, over a meal, and I ask, ‘Are you dating anyone else right now?’ in a really casual way. I like to know up-front.” He learned the hard way that waiting for a commitment is the best thing for him. “A girl I slept with told me after the fact that she was currently sleeping with two other guys! It made me feel gross.”
Why does exclusivity make such a difference? Perhaps because people feel they can really let loose when they're secure in the relationship. “It’s emotionally comforting to know the person you’re sharing your body with isn’t bedding someone else in his spare time,” explains Dana, 25, from Brooklyn, NY. “It makes sex more passionate and meaningful.”
2. When you want to suss out someone’s long-term potential
For other people, sex comes before a serious commitment — in fact, having sex is the very way they figure out whether they want to hang around for the long haul. Tao, from Washington, D.C., explains it this way: “I’m not a dog, but I am a guy. And for me, sex is a physical act, while a relationship takes time to cultivate," he says. His solution? Have sex early on to find out if you want to mesh the two. “Girls worry too much that the guy will lose interest if they have sex too soon,” he says. “But if a guy likes you, having sex with him will only make him more interested!”
Hitting the sheets after only a couple of dates is not just a guy thing. “For me, it can happen as early as the second date,” says Cate, 26, Boston, MA. “Good sex is just as important as good conversation, and I think it’s important to find out how sexually compatible you are together.”
3. When you feel understood
Still other singles don’t adhere to either the just-do-it or wait-till-later camps. For them, it all comes down to a moment when it becomes crystal clear there’s great rapport. Says William, 36, from Naperville, IL, “I’d been going out with this girl for a while, but I was on the fence about whether or not we’d make love. I just didn’t know whether we really ‘got’ each other. Then over dinner, I was telling some story about what inspired me to change careers, and she pretty much finished my sentences for me. The fact that she understood my thinking in such depth convinced me that we were really in sync — which would translate well in the bedroom. It did.”
4. When you nearly die laughing
What is it about people who can get you giggling at the drop of a hat? Whatever it is, it gets some single people ready to head to bed. “If the guy can make me laugh hard, he’s pretty much sealed the deal,” says Michele, 43, from Akron, OH. “I don’t care whether it’s date one or 21, but he has to have me laughing hard before I sleep with him. If I’m dating someone and the vibe has been so-so, if he all of a sudden has me on the floor laughing, it makes me see him in a whole new light. Being funny is sexy. It says you’re confident, you can make fun of life and you’re probably imaginative in bed.”
5. When the kissing gets really good
Let’s face it, a kiss is not just a kiss. Many consider it a testing ground for whether, and when, they should take thingsfurther. “It sounds cheesy but I know I’m ready for sex when his kiss makes me go nuts,” says Brooke, 25, from Providence, RI. “Most of the time it takes two or three dates before the kissing gets that good. It can start out pretty generic, but over time we’ll start figuring out what really turns each other on. Once he delivers that kiss that literally makes my knees weak, and it feels like there are fireworks going off inside my body, I usually decide that the time is right for really great sex.”
6. When you feel comfortable baring all
No doubt, stripping down in front of someone new can be a little nerve-racking. Perhaps that’s why some people use their comfort level with being naked as a way gauge if they're ready to go all the way. Explains Leslie, 30, of Madison, NJ: “I’m self-conscious about my body as it is, so I know that when I feel like unabashedly ripping my clothes off in front of him, I’ve reached a safe place.” Getting to this point is a gradual process. “I like to have a few kissing sessions, sometimes clothed, other times partially clothed, to get used to the idea of being naked,” she says. “Then when we finally do it, it’s not so hard for me to undress, because we’ve both sort of been there before.”
7. When you feel your partner has earned it
In this fast-paced world, it can be easy to fast-track every aspect of a relationship, including sex. Maybe that’s why some people choose a more slow-paced approach, holding off until they feel their date truly deserves it. “I like a long buildup to sex,” says Helen, 44, of San Anselmo, CA. “Why rush it? A drawn out flirtation leads to more anticipation, which leads to really hot sex. If you do it right away, it’s over shortly, and he may lose interest. If you wait, he’ll feel like the luckiest guy in the world that he finally landed you.” Helen’s motto? Let your date wine and dine you. “Since you were so hard to obtain, he’ll work harder at pleasing you. You don’t want to be like every other woman who hopped into bed with him quickly. Be different, and you’ll get treated like a princess.”
Sari Locker, Ph.D. is the author of the The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amazing Sex. She regularly appears on MSNBC, CNN and the Fox News Channel, among others.
Tips & Warnings
*Note: Before engaging in sex, it’s imperative that you decide what type of birth control you will use, and you should supplement that with condoms to protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Also, this article is not intended to advise virgins. Deciding when to have sex for the first time in your life involves much more than is discussed here.