How long should you wait before having sex with someone? This is one of the most commonly asked and hotly debated questions when it comes to the subject of love and relationships.

Most people are taught to frame the decision of when to become sexually intimate as a matter of time, whether months, weeks, days or even hours. Just about everyone is familiar with the “90-Day Rule” popularized by the Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man book and movie franchise. Others believe that the decision should be driven by a combination of both time and money invested in a relationship. For example, on an edition of the OWN TV relationships talk show It’s Not You, It’s Men, Co-host Tyrese Gibson inferred that sex is expected after he’s paid for 15 dinner dates. (In response, Co-host Joseph “Reverend Run” Simmons, informed the women in their audience that they were worth more than 15 dinners.)

However, the question misses the point entirely: It’s not about how long you should know a person before having sex, but what you should know about him or her before doing so, no matter how long it takes. In other words, it’s not about how much time we’ve spent together, but how well do we know each other? These are not the same!

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The point of dating people is to get to know who they are, with the first and primary goal of determining whether or not they are safe for you. Instead of checking weeks on a calendar, you need to focus on learning the specifics of who a person is, what lifestyle they are committed to, what their values are and how they conduct themselves (i.e., their behavior patterns), beginning with these “Things You Should Know Before Opening Your Legs, Checkbook, Home or Heart” to anyone.

You put yourself at risk whenever you make confirming sexual compatibility a higher priority than determining a person’s capacity to engage in a healthy relationship with you. Unfortunately, too many people (including many self-proclaimed relationship experts) preach the opposite, urging people to have sex as a prerequisite to deciding whether or not to pursue a relationship. Many people passionately defend this approach of “sex first, ask questions later.” As a result, people routinely expose themselves sexually (and otherwise) to strangers—sexy, funny, well-dressed, cute and otherwise attractive strangers, perhaps, but strangers nonetheless. People don’t stop being strangers merely because you are dating them. And you can’t entertain strangers without risking stranger danger.

Throwing caution to the wind and risking all for the love of a sexy stranger is among the many romantic notions we urge you to reject for your own good to truly operate in the Grown Zone. “Loving” someone you don’t completely know is not love, because it is not self-loving; it’s an ego-driven, dangerous and self-indulgent attempt at fantasy fulfillment. Choosing to trust someone you have not taken the time to know is volunteering to be victimized. Trust easily granted is easily betrayed. Sex with strangers is literally playing Russian roulette with your body, money, and safety. Choosing to “go with your feelings” without standards, boundaries and an agenda for self-protection is a great way to get, among other things:

  1. Ripped off
  2. Abused
  3. Unexpectedly obligated to parent
  4. Unhappily married
  5. Infected
  6. Murdered

How much fodder for adult-and-messy television franchises such as Fatal Attraction, Snapped and Paternity Court must we collectively provide before rejecting the idea that the pursuit of “love” and sexual release justifies putting our bodies, finances, loved ones, security, emotional health and our very lives at risk?

The key to not being fuquitable—vulnerable to deceit and manipulation—is to not just trust, but to verify. What you don’t know will hurt you. Focus on what you need to know to determine that a person is safe for you. Bypass or release anyone who resents or resists your efforts to learn what you need to know about them to protect yourself. Do not take people’s word for who they say they are. Trust only what you learn for yourself, by observation, or through reliable, independent sources.

This is what Zara means when she refers to dating as a process of “sifting and sorting” based on the self-loving standards (what you do want) and boundaries (what you don’t want) you must establish to determine who is safe and qualified for intimacy with you. It doesn’t mean you can’t go out and enjoy the company of prospective relationship candidates. In fact, multiple dating partners is a good thing, as long as you bypass and reject those who believe that the mere act of dating obligates you to have sex. (Even if it’s Tyrese Gibson.) Anyone who believes that—including you—is not Grown, and therefore not qualified for sex in a healthy relationship.

Forget timetables such as the “90-day rule.” Stop marking calendars and tracking spending, and focus on learning as much as you can about the people you choose to date. It’s not about how long you should know a person before having sex, but what you should know about him or her before doing so, no matter how long it takes—even if it ultimately means never. Always remember: The right person is worth the wait; the wrong person is never worth the risk.