Today’s cultural era of instant gratification has shaped our expectations of just about everything, including our personal relationships. The question of when to have sex in a new relationship continues to perplex many of us. Why? Most of us have learned the hard way, that sex has a way of complicating relationships, and never more so than when it is with a new person.
Joan Allen, a relationship expert and author of Celebrating Single and Getting Love Right: From Stalemate to Soulmate says “wait as long as you can.” Her rationale for this statement may seem like obvious and sound advice to some of us, but to others it may sound old-fashioned. It also seems the younger you are, the more likely you are to “go with the heat of the moment” by allowing physical attraction to be the leading factor in deciding when to have sex. Not surprisingly, as we gain age and experience many of us have had too-soon sexual encounters that have lead to undesirable consequences or unhealthy relationships. “You might find that you don’t even like the person,” says Allen. When sex occurs too soon “It becomes much more difficult to objectively see each other’s character traits” says Susanne Alexander, a relationship coach and author of Can We Dance? Learning the Steps for a Fulfilling Relationship. “Some couples then slide into engagement and marriage only to discover they have missed seeing major aspects of each other.”
Practically speaking, many people desire casual sexual relationships only, with no implied or intended commitment to their sexual partner. Regardless of the level of commitment, sexual partners can only benefit from talking about where they see their relationship going and how sex might change things — before they begin engaging in sexual acts with each other.
“There needs to be a conversation up front. The woman may assume sex implies a commitment; the man may not see it that way,” says Allen. “If you just want a one-night stand, you owe it to your partner to tell them ‘it’s just sex I’m after,'” says Cheryl McClary, PhD, JD, professor of women’s health at University of North Carolina-Asheville. A sexual partner may not be happy to hear this, but hopefully it will minimize the misunderstandings and conflicts that are inevitable without this conversation.
Just as important is an up-front conversation about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). “The risks of STDS have got to be discussed and prevented from spreading,” says relationship expert Joan Allen. “I say definitely use condoms, even if you’re in a committed relationship,” she adds.
US HIV/AIDS statistics:
* Roughly one million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States.
* Since the start of the AIDS epidemic, 1.5 million Americans have been infected with HIV and more than 524,000 have died of AIDS.
* At least 40,000 people are infected each year.
* African Americans account for 48% of new HIV infections.
* AIDS is the leading cause of death for African American women aged 25 to 34 and HIV rates among Hispanic women are increasing.
* The number of women living with HIV has tripled in the last two decades.
* At least half of all new infections are among people under the age of 25.
* Washington, DC has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the United States – one in 20 people are living with HIV or AIDS.