How long should you wait to have sex? Nearly 50 percent of couples in a new survey reported holding out one week to a month before heading to bed with their partners.
What’s more, 21 percent of the couples waited up to two months and 10 percent waited up to half a year to have sex, according to the survey of 1,000 Americans and Europeans. Only 18 percent of those surveyed reported waiting less than a week to have sex.
That first time matters because sex is an incredibly vulnerable act, says relationship therapist Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D.
“This is because people bring the whole of their past sexual and romantic relationships into their present ones,” he says.
That’s a lot of pressure, especially if you have anxiety about forming a new relationship or being intimate with someone new, says sex therapist Ian Kerner, Ph.D. But you can never move past your nerves until you just do the damn thing, right?
Is there ever really a perfect moment to seal the deal?
Kerner and Hokemeyer both agree that it totally depends on the individual, and there are pros and cons to both having sex early on or choosing to wait a couple of months. Whether or not commitment matters is up to you, but even if you go in thinking its just a fling—keep in mind that your partner is still a person with thoughts, feelings, and a body that should be respected, says Hokemeyer.
One-night stands can even help you find the one. In fact, one in three relationships began with a hookup, according to research from the University of Virginia. Having sex early on in your relationship can help you feel bonded to that person, says Kerner, and it’s a great way to figure out if you’re romantically compatible or not.
But doing it too early can also be detrimental if it goes wrong, adds Hokemeyer.
“You could be inebriated, stressed, anxious, or overly stimulated. And while its certainly possible to make up for a bad first impression, it could be embarrassing and take a while to get over,” he says.
That’s why some people prefer to wait. Plus, giving yourself time to get to know your partner will only enhance the experience later on, says Kerner. Postponing sex can build anticipation, which lights up reward centers in your brain, he explains.
“I know plenty of couples that did a bit of a courtship dance around sex and took the slow road,” he says. “They learned to appreciate each other, and they learned to enjoy kissing, touch, oral sex, and all of those activities that don’t get consumed by intercourse.”
And that helped them appreciate the real thing that much more when it finally happened, he says.
But being forced to wait can get frustrating. So what if you don’t want to wait, but your partner does—or vice versa?
Well, it’s not completely up to you, says Kerner. Sex has to be a consensual act and ultimately, pleasure requires being relaxed and feeling good about your partner, he says. If your partner wants to wait, just let them know how much you’re looking forward to it to build the anticipation, he suggests.
Plus, the more comfortable your partner feels, the better it will be.
But knowing your personal limit is important, too: “If you want to have sex now, tell them,” says Hokemeyer. “Then let your partner respond, listen to what they have to say, then consider it as you move forward in the relationship. It’s also okay to cut bait after a set period of time. No one wants to be bread-crumbed away from other romantic and sexual opportunities.”
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