Experts discuss the consequences of not playing by your own dating rules.
WebMD archives content after Two years to ensure our readers can lightly find the most timely content.
“>From the WebMD Archives
Whether you’re fresh to the dating scene, a regular player, or hopping back into the game after a long hiatus, the same questions about dating rules apply: How soon do you lean over for that very first smooch? Is it too early for a steamy make-out session? And last — but by no means least — how do you know when the time is right for lovemaking?
“There’s indeed no formula that I’ve encountered,” says 28-year-old Andrew Reymer, a single resident of Baltimore, Maryland. “It depends on how rapidly or leisurely things progress.”
Joan Allen, a relationship pro, finds that baby boomers are far more likely to wait to have hook-up than junior daters.
“Especially among older people who went through the sexual revolution, with maturity they realize there are emotional consequences for getting involved in a sexual relationship,” says Allen, author of Celebrating Single and Getting Love Right: From Stalemate to Soulmate.
According to the singles whom Allen has encountered, boomers generally play by far different dating rules than youthful, 20-something daters.
“I spoke with a youthful man in his early to mid-20s who told me that if he didn’t have hookup on the very first or 2nd night, he’d budge on to the next person,” she recalls.
While you can’t apply a one-size-fits-all response to sexual dating rules regardless of age or practice, professionals who have studied the topic say it is a good idea to develop a set of prudent dating rules – before the big date.
Dating Rules: Why Wait?
By and large, Allen and other relationship experts endorse a cautious treatment to the dating rules of hook-up.
“My advice is this: wait as long as you can,” Allen says.
Her rationale for these dating rules may seem visible, but many people tend to leave behind in the warmth of the moment. “You might find that you don’t even like the person,” Allen tells WebMD.
Other experts agree that hook-up too-soon can lead to undesirable consequences.
“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 detect they have missed eyeing major aspects of each other.”
Dating Rules: Talk Very first, Act Later
While not every dating script that involves hook-up leads to marriage or even a serious relationship, couples do owe it to themselves to talk about where they see their relationship going and how hookup might switch the relationship — before they get in bed together.
“There needs to be a conversation up front. The woman may assume hook-up implies a commitment, the man may not see it that way,” Allen tells WebMD.
Dating Rules: Talk It Over with Yourself Very first
Having an fair conversation with yourself about hookup is just as significant as discussing it with your playmate, experts say.
“Every woman and man should know their boundaries before they begin dating, and most of us don’t,” says Cheryl McClary, PhD, JD, professor of women’s health at University of North Carolina-Asheville.
When McClary refers to boundaries, she’s not talking just about the physical boundaries that come with sexual territory. She’s also referring to emotional boundaries.
“Emotional wholeness is crucial to the decision process of whether or not to have hookup,” McClary tells WebMD.
To that end, McClary often tells women, “If you value a committed relationship, ask yourself, ‘What do I need to do to stay emotionally entire?'”
When directing her advice on dating rules to a masculine audience, McClary puts things a little differently. “Make sure your brain, heart, and penis are in conjunction — they should all be in a straight line before you have lovemaking,” she says.
McClary believes all daters should invest the same amount of time conducting these ‘self’ conversations about private dating rules as they do primping before a big date. She also says the conversation, like the primping, should happen at the same time — before that big date.
“Think about your sexual boundaries before you’ve had that very first drink,” McClary advises.
Dating Rules: Practical Matters
Once you’ve determined what you want out of a date, say experts, you should make it part of your regular dating rules to tell your fucking partner.
“If you just want a one-night stand, you owe it to your fucking partner to tell them ‘it’s just lovemaking I’m after,'” McClary tells WebMD. While a dating playmate may not welcome this news, it at least can minimize later disappointments.
“The risks of STDS have got to be discussed and prevented from spreading,” Allen tells WebMD. “I say undoubtedly use condoms, even if you’re in a committed relationship,” she adds.
Concern about STDs and unwanted pregnancies can help create sexual boundaries, believes McClary. If, for example, you’re on the fence about whether or not to take sexual activity to the next level, a healthy dose of fear may cause you to pause, particularly if you’re not ready to take the necessary precautions. Plus, not having adequately ready for these practical aspects of hookup may signal an overall non-readiness to engage in it.
At some point during their courtship, many dating couples determine its time to break down initial boundaries — be they emotional, physical, or both — and engage in a sexual relationship. If both people are playing by the same dating rules, lovemaking can serve as the gateway to a consensual, committed relationship.
“I thought there were differences inbetween dudes and women and how they felt about relationships. But overall, I have found that very often they want the same thing,” Allen says.
Published Feb. 1, 2007.
SOURCES: Joan Allen, author, Celebrating Single and Getting Love Right: From Stalemate to Soulmate. Susanne Alexander, relationship coach, author, Can We Dance? Learning the Steps for a Fulfilling Relationship. Cheryl McClary, PhD, JD, professor of women’s health, the University of North Carolina-Asheville.
Today on WebMD
13 sex-driver killers,
Fact or Fiction?
See how much you know about lovemaking.
Is your hookup life aging well?
Hookup and Your Brain
Why do orgasms feel good?
Recommended for You
Top Myths About HIV
Symptoms of STDs
Find the Right Birth Control
Vaccine to Prevent Genital Herpes
Romance and Dating: 6 Tips for Teenagers
What Guys Wish You Knew
Dating Challenges? Check Your ADHD Symptoms
Diabetes & Guys: Sexual Issues
Instruments & Resources
More from WebMD
©, 2005 – 2017 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.