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Sex and Dating — What’s a Woman to Do?

Dating a new person can be fun and exciting. It can also feel awkward these days for a woman who wants to get to know a man well before becoming physically intimate. She may have heard that if sex doesn’t happen by the third date the man will bolt. This is not necessarily true and will be addressed below.  

If a woman is looking to marry, she’ll be wise to listen to her head as well as her heart, to think through what really makes sense for her. It’s important to clarify your boundaries for yourself before a situation arises that may test them. By doing so, you’re more likely to make a good decision when the time comes.

Should You Take a Test Drive?

A test drive could go either way. Let’s say the sex is fabulous. But if you don’t know him too well, it could turn out to be the only good thing in your relationship. For most women, compartmentalization doesn’t work so well in this area; he’s likely to become less appealing to you physically if he’s not there for you in other important ways.   

Perhaps, on the other hand, you’re attracted to someone with whom you’re compatible. You really enjoy being with him. The two of you have similar values, interests, and lifestyle preferences. He has fine character traits. Then you take a test drive and it’s disappointing. You might decide to stop seeing him. But if you’re married to him before you have sex, you’ll try harder because you’ve committed to make the relationship good. You won’t give up so soon, and you’re more likely to communicate in a way that results in sexual pleasure and excitement for both of you.

Should You Have Sex in an Uncommitted Relationship?

Some marriage minded women think there’s no downside to having casual sex with a man who’s not interested in marriage while they look elsewhere for a husband. These women are fooling themselves.

Sex produces more oxytocin, the “love hormone,” in women than in men. The surge of oxytocin will cause you to feel emotionally attached. Consequently, your interest in finding a marriage minded man will become half-hearted. Men who are looking for a wife will pick up on this.

The “high” from sex in an uncommitted relationship is based on fantasy. It’s fueled by the kind of novelty and unpredictability of a rollercoaster ride.  Lasting intimacy requires trust, and trust takes time. It means knowing your partner is truly there for you, in good times and in other times — for life.

True sexual intimacy, ideally, is a physical, emotional, and spiritual experience that reflects and enhances love, trust, and respect. A good marriage provides the foundation for this.  In such a union, spouses feel free to express the totality of their being, knowing their relationship is to be lifelong; no one is going away.  

Sex by the Third Date?

Many women have heard that they must have sex with a man by the third date or the guy will lose interest. If you do it to keep a man around, that’s desperation, not love, and he’ll sense it.

If a man is mature and a good prospect for marriage, he’s likely to be patient and not pressure you. He’ll be more interested in creating a future with you than in his immediate gratification at your possible emotional expense.

Is He Marriage Minded?

If your goal is marriage and he’s asking for sex, you’re entitled to find out whether he’s marriage minded. You can ask him, in a relaxed way, whether he’s looking for marriage or for something else. Assure him that you’re not talking about him committing to anyone in particular; you’re just wondering what his thoughts are in general.    

This sort of direct approach can surprise a man who wants to stay single. But, so what? If he wants sex yet balks at the thought of commitment, shouldn’t you know?  

Ellie’s Story

Ellie tried this approach. After she and Henry had several dates, when he let her know he wanted sex, she asked him, casually, if he wanted to get married. “Sure,” he said in a tone that implied “perhaps someday.” Barely missing a beat, Ellie, said, “When?” Surprised, he sputtered something vague. He got the message and their friendship stayed platonic. Ellie married someone else a year later.  Henry came to the wedding.

How to Say, “I’m Not Ready?”

If he wants sex, and you like him but aren’t ready, you can tell him so with words or nonverbally. If he’s making moves, you can signal a lack of readiness subtly, as by moving away from him slightly while maintaining a friendly manner. This can be much more effective than engaging in a lengthy, and perhaps sexually stimulating or frustrating, discussion. Whether you tell him directly or indirectly, he’ll get the message. A good potential husband will respect your wishes.

Whether or not you agree with the idea of taking a “test drive” in an uncommitted relationship to see if you’re sexually compatible, keep in mind what sex experts Masters and Johnson report: the most important sexual organ is between the ears. How you relate outside the bedroom over time is the best sign of long term sexual compatibility.

Your decision should be based on your physical and emotional readiness, and on your values, comfort level, and common sense. 1

What Does a Test Drive Really Prove?

Although a test drive may confirm that the two of you are sexually fine together, this compatibility is likely to be time limited, especially if you do not really know him all that well. If it turns out that you are not well-matched in other essential ways, you are likely either to get turned off physically or to continue in the relationship because the good sex is blinding you to the red flags.

No one knows what the future will bring. You may also have heard of a woman whose test drive went well. Then, after years of marriage, he tells her he’s gay. Or some other serious deal breaker can emerge.

On the other hand, your trial run could be disappointing. Sex can be awkward at first with someone new. Many married couples will attest that it took time to turn a not so good sex life into a satisfying one. A good man will want you to tell him what pleases you and respond accordingly. He’ll also respond to your encouragement to tell you what he’d like from you. And certainly, he will respect your wishes, needs, and feelings about sex — before and after marriage.

1http://www.healthywomen.org/content/ask-expert/7789/brain-sexual-organ

Sex and Dating — What’s a Woman to Do?


Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW

Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted (New World Library, 2014), has a private psychotherapy practice in San Rafael, California. She offers and workshops for couples and singles, and continuing education classes for therapists at NASW conferences and online. She has taught also at the UCSF School of Medicine, UC Berkeley Extension, and Alliant International University. A former executive director of a family service agency, she earlier held senior level positions in child welfare, alcoholism treatment, and psychiatry.


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APA Reference
Berger, M. (2018). Sex and Dating — What’s a Woman to Do?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 16, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/sex-and-dating-whats-a-woman-to-do/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.