Building Bridges

Issue # 28 of 43 

David LeClaire
By: David LeClaire

When should SINGLES start having sex?

Obviously there's a myriad of answers to this question with many religious and ethical interpretations. In the past the answer was clean and simple - not until you're married. This was particularly important for our message to youth, as we know many teens are not ready for the responsibility that parenthood demands.

But today many people are waiting much longer to get married, often into their late twenties and early thirties. Expecting the majority of these people to wait that long is not only unrealistic but possibly not in their best interest. Can you imagine how eager people would become to get married so they could experience sex - only to find that they really aren't that compatible and then wind up as another divorce statistic?

Yes, sex is special, and should not be reduced to a simple physical act for pleasure only. It is by far the most personal, sacred thing we can share with another person. And we should choose carefully who we decide to be sexual with. But this convenient answer that we should wait until we're married is outdated and ignored by most, so we might as well address it from the side of reality.

Most divorcees are more interested in taking their time, choosing wisely, and really getting to know someone before they make the marriage leap again. Part of their getting to know someone includes sharing intimacy with each other. After all, these adults are not worried as much about pregnancy and they have already experienced an active sex life in the past.

The same rules of thumb should be able to be applied to all people. Let me ask you, is it not hypocrisy for the older generations who have sex out of wedlock to preach to the younger generations that this is wrong? And even if they do preach this philosophy, usually their message falls upon deaf ears.

The amazing fact is that many of the older folks, who should know better, make the same mistakes as the younger people when it comes to sex. You would think their experience and level of maturity would guide them better, but unfortunately many in their 30's, 40's, and 50's share sex with a partner way too early in the relationship, which has many ramifications.

Every building that is designed for a long life has a foundation. The strength of that foundation is critical for the longevity of the building. The more time and careful preparation that goes into building the foundation of one's relationship before they have sex the better. Once you have sex, the relationship takes on a new shape, you add a significant new dimension. You are without question no longer just friends.

If you don't share a sexual relationship with someone, and you get to know them and find that you are really not interested in a long-term relationship, getting out is much more simple and much less uncomfortable. No-one feels used or under obligation, and people are generally less hurt if they haven't shared that level of intimacy together.

O.K., so not having sex makes getting out easier. More importantly though, if you are serious about finding a long-lasting partnership, then you will want to wait until a foundation is in place before you jump into bed together. Potentially solid partnerships with two good people often get destroyed because they had sex too early, before they really got to know each other, and mentally it just screwed things up.

Once sex happens, often expectations are soon to follow. In a way it is kind of like taking a job without any idea what your pay or duties will be. You get hired, show up, and then start to ask those important questions. And many times you won't like the answers, and will get frustrated that you took the job without enough information up front.

Once you have sex, you are in a relationship. Period! You may not call it that. But you are. It may not be the Ward and June Cleaver relationship, but it is certainly a form of relationship, one much deeper than a non-sexual friendship.

A general rule of thumb that I believe in is to not have sex with someone before you can and do comfortably talk about sex with them. Some people violently oppose this philosophy because they believe that talking about sex before hand will kill the spontaneity. But the spontaneity can still be there, the beauty and natural expression of passion can not only be present, but even deeper, because you won't be as distracted with all of your worries or thoughts about their thoughts as you share those first moments together.

You should be able to talk about what hasn't worked for you in the past in your sexual relationships. Measures you would take for birth control or protection against disease. In the chance a pregnancy occurred, what would you do? In a perfect world you'd talk about what you like and don't like. And you would talk about how you feel about each other, what it is about them that suggests their is at least some possibility for a long-term relationship together.

If you can't articulate much more than "the reason I want to have sex with you is because you have a great ass" and you have sex anyway, then don't be surprised if this relationship doesn't work.

Obviously you want to be able to continue to talk about everything together, including sex, after the initial conversation about it. But the more you can talk about beforehand, the better. Then it is not personal about them. Let's say for example, that you disliked it when your partner was really loud and verbose while your were making love. You don't mention anything about this, and during your first interlude, your new lover ends up doing exactly that. Can you imagine how much harder it will be to tell them you don't like what they just did?

If you don't feel comfortable enough to even have this conversation, chances are having sex together would probably be pre-mature. It really isn't as much about what you cover, what you talk about, as whether or not you can and do talk about it.

Of course there are times in life when you don't want a long-term relationship. But if you have read this far, chances are that is not you. Wait a while. Get to know what their beliefs are, how they react to a wide variety of situations. Get to know how they will treat you over a period of time. And once you can see that your track record together gives you some reason for hope, then moving into a sexual relationship may be appropriate.

There are people I know who are attractive, likable people, who basically could make a good partner for someone. At first glance you'd find it hard to believe they aren't involved, they seem to have so much to offer. One of the most common reasons why these people are single is they jump into sexual relationships way too early. Their drive to be intimate is so strong that they just can't seem to wait long enough and they make love with someone way too early, leaving them both feeling uncomfortable and sometimes even embarrassed, and then it's over before it even began.

Taking your time helps preserve your clarity of what you want, and helps you maintain your sense of direction. Getting involved in pre-mature sexual relationships can lead you down wrong way streets, distract you from your pursuit of a healthy relationship, and put your self-esteem in question when you wake up with someone who is little more than an acquaintance.

David LeClaire has spent much of his time teaching at community college and private school, and lead communications training for Fortune 500 companies. Now a popular and active Seattle area sommelier, this graduate of Central Michigan University led seminars for a wide variety of organizations. LeClaire is the author of "Bridges To A Passionate Partnership." He can be reached at

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Text © 1998, David LeClaire. Part of the original Sideroad.
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