Sex.  Men want it…and yes, women want it too.  But the reality is that you can seriously damage the long-term potential of a relationship if you do it too soon.  And this isn’t just because of the unspoken Man Rule of Fast Women, which is that you’ll end up being shoved into jump off territory if you sleep with him quickly.  Having sex too soon is problematic to the building of a healthy relationship because it’s difficult to establish a union of the heart (which is at the root of all good intimate relationships) when you’re leading with your groins.  Nothing is more crazy making than dating someone whose actions aren’t in alignment with the level of sexual intimacy being shared.

From the dawn of time there has been an ongoing debate about the “appropriate” timing of initiating a sexual relationship. Traditional folks will cite various fire and brimstone reasons why we need to avoid sex outside of marriage.  More modern types claim that as long as you engage in medically safe sex that it’s okay to do it.  And there are a variety of philosophies in between.

Obviously we can have consensual sex with anyone we want whenever we want it.  But as the saying goes, “Just ‘cause you can, don’t mean you should.”  It really depends upon your end game.  If you’re only looking to fulfill a physical urge then it really doesn’t matter when you do it so long as you make sure to wear a raincoat before you get wet. It gets trickier when you’re actually looking to build a healthy long-term intimate relationship with a partner.

The reality is that healthy relationships don’t just “happen.” They require honesty, maturity, awareness and a real commitment from both partners.  Dead end sexual relationships don’t just “happen either.  They start off that way because one or both parties decided to take the “let’s just see where this goes” approach to dating.  This approach while, while streamlined and efficient, usually brings a relationship to a very messy, inefficient and dramatic end.

Sexual attraction is one of the most powerful things on the planet and one of the primary reasons why we date is to mate.  It’s incredibly exciting to desire someone and for the feeling to be reciprocal.  But you know what’s absolutely NOT sexy?  Having to ask yourself “Did that mean anything to him?” or “Is she sleeping with someone else too?” after an intensely passionate sexual encounter with a new partner.  Human beings are spiritual, emotional and physical beings.  And as much as we try at times to relegate sex to simply being a physical act, it’s far more significant.  Not just because of the physical impact, but especially the emotional and spiritual.  If you’re regularly havin’ a lil’ bump and grind with a person, you’re going to bond with them. Period.

All too often I hear women complaining that the man they’ve been sleeping with refuses to give up other women or make any sort of real commitment to a future together. Sex is physically driven, commitment is emotional.  If you want a commitment, you negotiate it up front BEFORE you sleep with them.  Having non-committed sex while saying you want a commitment is deceptive and fantasy driven.  It’s projecting compatibility and continuity for a possible future with someone we don’t know very well…which allows us to justify acting on our sexual desires.  In simpler terms:  you just want to have sex and are willing to sacrifice better judgment in order to get it.

Combined with too much uncertainty and fear, sexual attraction can kill a potential new relationship before it even begins.  It’s natural to feel doubt or uncertainty when in a new relationship, but one of the ways you can minimize your fear is to make sure that the two of you have the 3 C’s of Compatibility, Communication, and Chemistry… BEFORE you have sex:

Communication:  Developing a friendship and having the ability to openly share your thoughts and feelings is an integral part of a healthy sexual relationship.  Do you know your new potential lover’s life goals? Are they seeing anyone else currently?  Are they available to see you exclusively if they choose to do so? Or are they even interested in monogamy? If you don’t feel comfortable enough to ask these basic questions, it’s too soon.

Chemistry:  Chemistry is an unexplainable, animalistic attraction to another person.  You may share interests and be able to really talk with a person, but if they don’t inspire you to want to take off your clothes-leave them alone.  Unlike a Hollywood star, chemistry can’t be manufactured.

Compatibility:  In order to build a healthy relationship you need to be compatible.  It doesn’t matter how much they turn you on:  you’ll never feel safe enough with them to let down your guard and let them in if your life goals, values and interests aren’t in sync.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be your mirror, but at the very least they must be complementary.

In my experience, a lot of sexual and relationship drama can be avoided if you make sure to have the three C’s firmly in place before sleeping with a new partner.  All this fact finding can be a sexual buzz kill, but a buzz kill upfront is easier to deal with than the emotional crash that follows a sexual tryst with unfulfilled emotional expectations.  It’s much easier to ask questions up front than having to extricate yourself from a painful and complicated sexual relationship after the fact.

Delayed sexual gratification may in some cases eliminate a potential new sex partner, but what you’ll gain is an increase in the probability of getting the love you really need.

Sil Lai Abrams is’s Relationship Expert and the author of No More Drama: 9 Simple Steps to Transforming a Breakdown into a Breakthrough and a board member of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.  Follow her on Twitter: @sil_lai and connect with her on Facebook. Want Sil Lai’s advice? Email [email protected] to have your love questions answered in a future column!