Imagine you’re on the best date of your life with the person you suspect is The One. The sexual chemistry is palpable, but you’re looking for a long-term thing — not just a hookup. Should you jump into bed with him or her as soon as you’re alone? Or should you wait until you’ve gone out on a few more dates before sleeping together?
The short answer: Do whatever the hell you want.
With Americans staying single
longer than ever and singles outnumbering their married counterparts, there really is no norm nowadays when it comes to the timing of sleeping with new partners. According to Pew Research Center, as of 2007, only 38% of adult Americans believed premarital sex was wrong, a number that’s likely only gotten smaller in recent years. (FWIW, studies suggest that there’s good reason to get it on as soon as possible if you want to cash in on awesome honeymoon-phase sex.)
Like we said, there’s no “right” time; deciding when you’re ready to have sex with someone is really a different-strokes-for-different-folks kind of thing. But what leads couples to hit the sheets at any given moment in their relationship? And how does that timing affect their bond? To get a better idea, we asked women in long-term relationships to divulge how quickly they had sex with their significant others.
Eve, 28, Brooklyn Relationship length: Zero days Waited: 4 hours "I was drunk and wanted to have sex. I probably wouldn’t do anything differently."
Alex, 24, Los Angeles Relationship length: 6 years Waited: One night. "We were friends first, and beyond the undeniable chemistry, we had both communicated that we wanted to [have sex], so it felt right. No regrets."
Stephanie, 25, Brooklyn Relationship length: 1 year, 3 months Waited: Three dates "I knew I liked/trusted him from the moment we met. We were co-workers/friends for six months before anything romantic happened between us, but after hanging out twice after work (I would call those hangouts official 'dates'), we finally slept together on our third date. I wouldn’t do anything differently."
Jennifer, 24, Philadelphia Relationship length: Two years Waited: Two weeks "We had been getting along really well and they made me feel wanted. I did it for the right reasons, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made."
Maddie, 25, Chicago Relationship length: Zero days Waited: First date “We had a good connection and I was feeling it and felt sexy, so it seemed right! I wouldn’t do anything differently. I’m a firm believer in not stigmatizing sex and following your heart, and your… you know.”
Alyssa, 27, New York City Relationship length: A little over a year Waited: three months “I felt emotionally invested in the relationship and like I was on sure footing with the person. Once it did happen, I was completely comfortable, knowing it wouldn't change a thing about our relationship.”
Lily, 20, San Francisco Relationship length: about two years Waited: about two weeks "It just kind of happened. We didn't have a long discussion about it or even really ever discuss sex before we did it. It was my first time, too, but nothing about it seemed scary or daunting. It felt right and natural. Would I change anything? Probably not. We've been amazing together ever since, and every experience has been better than the last, so no, I wouldn't change a thing."
Cheyenne, 24, Tennessee Relationship length: 5 years Waited: first date "We immediately clicked, and he had set up my perfect first date. After months of talking leading up to the date, we'd already gotten to know each other well enough that the date was tailored just for me. Hell no [I wouldn’t change anything]! Life's short, and that was still and always will be the best first date I ever had."
Shelby, 20, Texas Relationship length: 1.5 years Waited: a little less than two weeks "We went on a few dates (after meeting on Tinder) and just really hit it off. He invited me over, and that was that! I wish I was less nervous the first time we had sex. I was ready, but really nervous about my experience level."
Caitlyn, 19, Kentucky Relationship length: two months Waited: 1.5 months "I knew I was ready when I started daydreaming and fantasizing about doing it. I mean, it was kind of awkward, but the first time always is, so I don't think I would have changed anything."
Hazel, 20, California Relationship length: one month Waited: first date "I guess I didn't actually know until it happened. We were on a rooftop stargazing while on spring break and the air was really crisp, but he was so warm. I'd known him long before we started dating, so being able to share a silence without feeling uncomfortable stood out a lot. I wouldn't change anything, I believe everything happens for a reason, and none of my actions were careless. Except if I had to choose one thing, I suppose I probably would've brought blankets (cement is cold)."
Irene, 19, Puerto Rico Relationship length: one year and two months Waited: around 1.5 months "I just really liked him and felt super comfortable in the relationship we had at the moment. I would've liked to hold out a bit longer, maybe wait three months, because I feel like that's the norm, but I don't really care what people think. Besides, it wouldn't really change my relationship anyway."
Cheyenne, 25, Maine Relationship length: one year Waited: one day "I wanted sex, therefore I had it. Me being honest about what I wanted made my partner feel comfortable in being honest as well. We had an open dialogue about sex from the first time we met."
Alex, 23, Seattle Relationship length: four years Waited: 3.5 years "Neither of us felt hesitant. Natural progression of love, friendship, and comfort with intimacy. I would have used more lube! But I don't regret waiting as long as we did, though we might seem abnormal."
Alexis, 21, State College Relationship length: three years Waited: one week "We had sex the second time we were together. I met him at a fraternity day-long [event], and then left a party with him the following week. It kind of just happened. He was really nice and we actually had a somewhat intelligent, real conversation before having sex, which is something that doesn't happen often when college guys are trying to just have sex with you. I don't think it really had that big of an impact on the relationship that we formed or where it is now. I think in college relationships, having sex sooner than later is more common just because of the hookup culture that exists."
Shannon, 21, London Relationship length: nearly four years Waited: had sex the day before we got together "It just felt right; he's such a sweet guy and treated me way better than I had been treated before. It gave us the final push to realize how compatible we are to get together."
Larissa, 30, Brazil Relationship length: 11 years Waited: two dates "We already knew each other for, like, one year or more, and I knew he was in love with me and wouldnt be an assohole. I lost my virginity to him. I don’t know if I was ready, but I was waiting for it anxiously. I don’t think I would do anything differently. Maybe I would wait a little longer for us to become more natural with each other."
Ariel, 29, New York City Relationship length: five years Waited: five dates "We slept together after seeing each other for three dates in two weeks. Things moved pretty quickly. I think this was the guy I was supposed to be with, because I was just myself immediately. The [physical] intimacy part is big, but it isn't the only part. After five years, you realize that there are bigger hurdles to overcome. "It was a good amount of time that passed before we slept together. I was ready for this. We ended up spending that entire weekend together and have been inseparable ever since. Everything happens for a reason, and now I'm marrying my best friend. So, I think that speaks for itself."
Hannah, 22, Philadelphia Relationship length: five years Waited: three months "We had known each other for years before we started dating. We went to high school together and had the same group of friends. When we started dating, it wasn't until about three months that we had sex for the first time. We definitely didn't go into the relationship expecting to wait that long — that's just kind of how it happened. I feel like there was a transition period from friend to girlfriend that we needed to get through before we knew for sure this was both something we wanted and were both comfortable with. But, if the opportunity had come along sooner than that, we definitely would have taken it. "It was a good amount of time, but I don't think our relationship would have suffered had we had sex sooner. Our choices were based on our comfort and trust in each other, along with a little bit of random happenstance. As a same-sex couple, it took a while for us to come out fully as dating, which definitely added to our inability to actually find a time and a place to have sex the first couple months, since there was a bit more secrecy involved. "In the end, the biggest thing, regardless of the genders of the partners or how long they've been together, is communication. If a couple feels comfortable having sex after a few weeks or a few days, or if they want to wait a while, it's fine as long as both people are on the same page."
Isabella, 30, Connecticut Relationship length: two years Waited: three dates "We slept together after three dates. I wanted to do it on the first date, but felt a ‘moral’ obligation [to wait], because I actually liked the guy. That's the horrible advice I got from people. Once we did, it was perfect and could have been on the first date. Some people will be quick to judge me, but they can take their ‘moral’ BS elsewhere. If I were to change anything, it would be to do it on our first date. The time frame of us hooking up sped things along. I don't like to waste time."
Aly, 25, Toronto Relationship length: three years Waited: one month "We waited until about a month after we started dating [to have sex]. We didn't purposely hold out or time it. It just seemed to happen that way. We started dating at the beginning of December, and went on a bunch of dates. The holidays came, and we both got busy with family. Then we both got sick and had to reschedule the ‘come to my place’ date. "I think this was a good amount of time, since we got to know each other before getting intimate. We really had a chance to talk about ourselves, and share our hobbies, our likes, and our dislikes before getting into it. "I don't think I would do anything differently. Waiting helped us see early on that our relationship had legs. We learned that we could communicate well, were respectful of each other's time, and weren't just in it for the sexual gratification — although that was pretty nice too!"
Victoria, 25, Central Florida Relationship length: eight years Waited: a few hours "We didn’t wait to hook up — we had sex the night we met. It just happened! We were very into each other from the second we saw each other. I wouldn’t do it differently. No regrets. It strengthened our relationship. I knew I loved him when I saw him, and sleeping together sealed the deal. For him and me both."
Dani, 28, New York City Relationship length: seven years Waited: one or two months "[We didn’t have sex] until we were totally exclusive, after about one to two months of dates and spending time together on a regular basis. I actually thought our relationship was more casual, because he had just gotten accepted into a grad school program in another country. I initiated first, thinking it was just going to be a fun fling. He was the one that held out, because he wanted me to understand that he didn’t consider it a fling — which won him major points. "When the time came, I felt totally secure and ready, so I’d say a good amount of time had passed. Since we established our exclusivity, we didn’t have that extra layer of insecurity wondering whether or not either of us were seeing other people. If the timing of sex did play a role, I think it just established the fact that we were committed to each other and only each other."
Ali, 31, Los Angeles Relationship length: five years Waited: three days "I waited a whole three days! We met and spent time together for three days in a row. You could technically say it was our first real date. I was planning to hold out, because I knew we had an amazing connection from the moment we met. I liked him so much that I didn't want to ‘ruin’ it by sleeping with him too soon, because I feel like that is always the warning we get from our girlfriends. Then, it just happened. "For us, the timing felt right. It might seem too quick for others, but obviously things have worked out pretty well for us. I wouldn't change a thing. I feel like it made us incredibly close from the very beginning."
Emmalie, 26, Akron, OH Relationship length: 10 years Waited: two years "My husband and I met in high school when I was 16 and he was 17, so we decided to wait two years until it was legal for us to have sex. That doesn't mean we didn't try other stuff, of course. But even then, we took our time and made sure both of us were completely comfortable before doing anything for the first time. It was perfect for us, because we were both still young. It allowed us to truly get to know each other as people, not as objects, before committing everything to each other. "I would change absolutely nothing. In addition to our happy moments and arguments, our decision to wait so long has done its own part to shape our relationship. We spoke a lot about sex before doing it for the first time, so we had an idea of what the other liked and did not like. The development of that solid line of communication has been and continues to be one of the best tools for us during our decade-long relationship."
Stephanie, 28, Coral Springs, FL Relationship length: seven years Waited: six months "We were together for about six months before we had sex, and it was all my idea. I actually wanted to wait until I was married before having sex. It had nothing at all to do with religion — it was just how I felt. I wanted my husband to be the only person I was with. "When I first met my husband, I had just gotten out of a very rough relationship. I got drunk one night and signed up for online dating, and my husband was one of the people on there. We talked online for a few days. After that, we met up and spent almost every day together. He stuck around, even though he knew I was a virgin and wasn’t planning to have sex any time soon. After about a month, I knew I was in love with him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. He never once pushed me or became frustrated. He was very patient with me and still is in all my craziness of life."
Gabrielle, 35, Long Island, NY Relationship length: three years Waited: three months "Since Emily and I knew each other as friends for two years before we started dating, starting an intimate relationship with each other happened fairly quickly — after three months. "The two years that we were friends, each time we would try to get together in person, one of us was traveling or committed to work projects. It was our friendship over the phone and via Facebook that started to develop first. We started falling in love when we both finally had a chance to just be with each other without being on the go all the time. When we got around to being able to just watch movies together as friends is when we were able to let our guards down and open up to each other. It gave me the courage to ask her to be my girlfriend — I had never asked anyone that question before. "I would change absolutely nothing. When our relationship moved from friendship to intimacy, it felt like we were holding hands with the universe. Everything was in sync."
Stephanie, 27, West Hartford, CT Relationship length: six years Waited: a week and a half "We had sex after a week and a half of knowing each other. Our relationship was a little different, because we met working at a sleepaway camp, so there weren't really 'dates.' We had our first night off, and we all went out and had a couple drinks. And then, bam. Oops! "It was definitely too fast. The fact that we met at sleepaway camp made us feel like we had known each other forever after a week and a half, but we really didn't. The sex was awkward, because we really were not ready for it. After the first time, we decided to wait another two weeks to try again. "It was so long ago, and we have an amazing relationship now, so it’s hard to really judge if I should have done things differently, because everything still worked out for us. Ultimately, it brought us closer together, because it forced us to be comfortable with each other and talk about how we should not have rushed things. It helped us start out with a very open and honest relationship."
Lindsay, 28, New York City Relationship length: six years Waited: a few hours "We slept together the first night. A mutual friend had briefly introduced me to him earlier that week, so technically it was the second time we had ever met. He grew up with a close friend of mine from college who had told me he was a great guy, so I think I trusted him very early on. "I think it accelerated our relationship, for sure. We felt more comfortable with each other early on, which was very important because we wound up seeing each other about five to six times before we had to go our separate ways. I headed back to college for my senior year, and he headed back to his campus for his last year of business school. We talked daily for a couple months and wound up dating long-distance for the first year of our relationship, which I don’t think would have happened if we had started things slower than we did. "I am always embarrassed to say that I slept with my now-husband the first real night we met. But I wound up marrying my best friend, so I wouldn’t change a thing."