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Five things to consider before having sex on the first date

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About 50% of young adult couples have sex before embarking on a committed relationship. Having sex on the first date usually works out well if both of you agree that a hook-up is all you’re after and neither of you is expecting a serious, long-term commitment. But what if you think that you want something more? Who do you listen to in the heat of the moment- your logic or your libido? Here are five things to consider when making your decision:

What are your sexual ethics?
Researcher Ira L. Reiss was among the first to identify three types of sexual ethics: (1) recreational sexual ethic: you view sex primarily as fun and pleasurable; (2) relational sexual ethic: you disapprove of hooking-up, but feel that sex is an important part of sharing intimacy in a loving, committed relationship; or (3) marital sexual ethic: you disapprove of all premarital sexual activity. While conflicting ethics about sex can put a damper on an otherwise enjoyable evening, you won't be disappointed if you rely on your ethics in times of doubt and stress.

How likely are you to regret your decision?
People who are high in relational sexual ethic tend to prefer to delay sexual activity until after they have been dating a month or more. Individuals who follow a recreational sexual ethic may have sex prior to going on a first date, or shortly thereafter, while those who adhere to a marital sexual ethic tend to practice abstinence. If you tend to value intimacy and relationship quality over sex, then you’re much more likely to regret sex on the first night. But, if you’re all about having fun and seeking pleasure, then odds are you won't think twice about having a random hook-up with someone you just met. For individuals who are abstinent, the decision to have sex on a first date might have a tremendous impact on their emotional wellbeing if the relationship does not work out as they had hoped it would.

Think about your dating goals.
If you’re dating for the purpose of starting a long-term, committed relationship, then you probably want to stop yourself from giving in to passion on the first night. Studies have found that married couples who postpone sex until later in their dating relationship tend to focus on communication as the foundation of their attraction for one another. The initial excitement and intense passion of sex naturally tapers off as the relationship ages, but an early emphasis on companionship and partnership leads to greater long-term relationship satisfaction for couples who delayed sex compared to couples who spent the early days of their relationship caught-up in the initial headiness of sexual intimacy.

What do most people do?
While it may not weigh heavily on your decision to have sex, knowing whether or not other people wait to have sex may make you feel more comfortable. In a survey of nearly 11,000 singles, about 48% reported waiting just over one month before having sex with a new dating partner, while nearly 36% had sex on the first date or within less than a month of starting a relationship, 9.9% had sex before the first date, and 6.6% reported that they were practicing abstinence.

The implications for your relationship.
According to the results of several studies, having sex early in the relationship, including sex on the first night, leads to lower overall relationship satisfaction, lower perceived quality of communication, and greater feelings of relationship instability. By contrast, delaying sex has the opposite effect. Couples who wait a while to have sex are more satisfied, have better communication in their relationships, and feel more secure about the future of the relationship.

Deciding whether or not to have sex on the first night is a decision that you should make with after considering your sexual ethics, relationship goals, and how you might manage your emotions if the relationship does not work out the way that you thought it would.

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