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.

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