Why early sex wrecks dating relationships
When we become someone's sexual partner, we are on guard.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Do you know someone who enjoys fast intimacy? She starts dating someone on Monday. By Friday, she's moving in with her new boyfriend.
The only problem with early sex in a relationship, however, is that it usually injures the relationship.
What is this?
Quick sex almost totally cuts off the opportunity to form a healthy friendship. Why? Because when we become someone's sexual partner, we are on guard.
If you're having sex with a new love interest, you aren't going to mention the fact you're behind on two car payments or you need dental work.
"There's too much at stake once you're sleeping together," says a woman we'll call Darla. "If you're having sex, you're afraid to talk about past lovers, bad debts or cranky relatives."
Darla is right. Friends open up to each other. But, once they are lovers, there is a lot of conversation that is suddenly off the table.
Darla has just ended a relationship that never took off. She had sex with her boyfriend, Tony, on the sixth date. Three years later, they were still trying to form some kind of intimacy.
"Jabbering about hurts, fears and emotional mumbo jumbo is one of the great privileges of two friends talking," Darla emphasizes. "Tony and I couldn't become friends once we'd become lovers."
Friendship is the foundation of any great love relationship. It provides the trust needed to work through problems. It provides the language of intimacy.
If you're already sleeping with someone, and your relationship isn't growing, maybe it's time to back off a little bit. Facing the fact that the friendship component is missing might be a good starting point.
"I jumped into bed with a guy two weeks after my divorce," says Ellen, a teacher from Miami. "Boy, did I ever mess things up! I seduced him. This man is fabulous, but after a few nights at a local hotel, we had nothing to talk about. That was two years ago."
Ellen ran into this "fabulous man" again at a fairly recent business trade show. We'll call him Dave.
The attraction is still there, but Ellen knew the early sex had killed the period of getting to know each other.
"I pulled Dave off to the side near the sign-in table," says Ellen. "I asked him if we could discuss the way I'd flubbed things up. He laughed at my confession that I'd seduced him. But, he understood what I was talking about in terms of needing to be friends first."
It's been two months since Ellen starting going out with Dave again. Ellen is committed to getting to know Dave for a year before they sleep together again.
"It's working a lot better," says Ellen. "We are spending time having real conversations. We are working on the friendship piece of the relationship with a sound agreement that we will not sleep together for a long time."
Will refraining from sex with someone, once you've engaged in intimacy, work? Can you do this?
"It's hell," laughs Ellen. "But, staying out of bed changes everything around. For one thing, you realize that working on a friendship is a way to figure out how much of a relationship you can have. Maybe you've got something great, and maybe you haven't. Only time will tell.
"I'm learning," says Ellen, "that sex is the icing on the relationship cake. But sex is never the cake itself."
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