Sex advice for a better chance at love

Why are women—especially those over 40—finding it so difficult to find a committed relationship? In my role as coach, I hear that they feel overwhelmed, scared and disappointed by a world of Tinder and Match.com. So what is the cause? Are we women too accessible? 

Some women practice the “three date rule,” which is a widely accepted number of dates that people go on before sex. British writer Kira Cochrane, writes about this rule after she moved to the U.S: “I also learned of the third-date rule - the most central and widely recognized of all dating rules - which decrees that there should be no sex until the third date, however much you might actually desire sex before this point.”

So, how many dates are women going on before they have sex with their new partners?

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About Christophe

Christophe Sauerwein – Academic Director of iCAAD holds an MBA and MSC in Psychology, is a practicing psychotherapist in London and a practitioner in Europe specializing in the treatment of childhood traumatic experiences, and complex multiple addictive and attachment disorders. Christophe has conducted several clinical studies highlighting their links. He is one of the few French therapists to have culturally transposed Anglo-Saxon therapeutic models. To contact him, you can email sauerwein.therapy@gmail.com

Statistics show that it’s not just the Americans who accept the three dates as a rule. Time Out’s Global Dating Survey 2015 states the average is 3.53. But, the Brits may be more conservative. According to a 2014 Daily Mail survey, women are opting for five dates instead of the traditional three. A survey by yougov.co.uk found that “one in five (18%) people would take the plunge after seeing someone for the first time and one in eight (12%) follow the classic ‘three date rule.’” So one third of people have sex on or before the third date.

So how long should women wait before sex?

Over the past years, I have asked therapists this question but few are willing to give me a number. They say it depends how you feel about it. My friend Christophe Sauerwein, a London-based psychotherapist—with whom I have been having an ongoing conversation about this—has a straightforward answer.

“I would stick to 10 dates, especially if you are middle-aged,” he says, “10-12 dates is the suggestion for people in recovery. Everyone struggles with vulnerability as it concerns attachment. If the aim is to build a long-term relationship, the aim is to connect and bond emotionally first. If sex is in the equation and it happens too early, there is a risk. The problem with sex is that it creates a very strong bond, but it is not enough to make the relationship exist. It’s not a proof of the relationship. It’s one-dimensional only.”

This bond is something he calls “the sexlock”, comparable to wedlock or the state of being married. Once you have offered something of yourself--the symbolism of giving of the body, the close proximity, the hormones, the pheromones--it is very difficult to undo the bonding.

Furthermore, sex is a blinder.

“We fool ourselves,” he says. “We convince ourselves the relationship will work and feel compelled to continue, but it’s the wrong assumption. If we decide to break up, it’s easier to do so before than after sex.”

“From a woman’s perspective, she is offering her body. From a psychoanalytic perspective, there is a defloration that takes place, much like the original first act. It should be handled with care. Only have sex once you are sure that the person in front of you is suitable. It’s all about intimacy.”

Contrary to how people use the word today, intimacy needs to include the mind, the emotions and the soul. 

“We are not speaking of one-night-stands,” he says. “If these fit into your value system, then fine, but know that the risk is huge. People pretend to themselves that they don’t want a long-term partnership, but on the basis of that one experience, they start to obsess about someone they barely know. The chance of disappointment is immense.”

But, hasn’t everyone had an obsessive crush on someone? Does this mean we are all love addicts?

“We speak a lot about sex and love addiction and this has to be handled with care,” he says. “Just because you were obsessed with a boy at 18 doesn’t mean you’re an addict. But if you are 30 years old and still repeating this, then there’s a problem. Everyone is on the spectrum, much like an eating disorder.”

Our conversation led to what constitutes sex.

“What is sex?” Sauerwein asks. “Sex is surely more complex than penetrative sex. It’s the aim, but that’s not when it starts. There is a lot that happens beforehand. It’s a very individual experience. It’s important to discover ourselves in that respect.”

A recent UK-based study shows that there exists a different understanding between men and women of when sex starts. For men, sex corresponds more to penetration and is focused on the penis; for women, however, the French kiss is often just as important to create that physical bonding. Her neuro-system or her entire body is involved.

 “So when a man kisses a woman without her permission, he may not realize that what he’s doing could be abusive. She may not have wanted it. If he forces the kiss after the date, he may see it as a preliminary, not as a sexual act. But for the woman there is a sexual component. The kiss is penetrative. There’s pleasure. The woman has the right to be clear about that and to voice her consent.”

So, based on my own experience, what I have read and learned from the experts, here are some tips:

1.  Waiting produces better sex – When we wait, we have a better sexual experience, experiencing less shame and less fear.

“We feel safe, we don’t feel exposed, and the first experience goes better,” Sauerwein says. “We know the other person so well, we feel comfortable.”

The inverse--sex too early--will negatively impact on the quality of the experience. Many people report that when they have sex with people they have just met, they bring their past into the act. The brain realizes it doesn’t know this new partner and starts to contrast or compare.

“If I do this, I’m inviting too many ex-lovers into the room: this guy is not as good as this other guy… The only answer is to get to know the partner you are touching.”

2.  Bond with the right person - Waiting 10 dates will allow you to get to know the other person and any lurking red flags and turn offs. If he stops seeing you before you get to 10, you will know he was most likely only after sex.  

Sauerwein says to be careful about love at first sight. The charming prince fairy tale is just that… a fairy tale. “Feeling passion for someone doesn’t mean you have to sleep together tonight,” he says.

3. Waiting preserves friendship - If at the end of 10 dates, you see him more as a friend than as a life partner, you still have the option of keeping him as a friend.  The chance is higher than if you had slept with him. Some of my best friends were initially dates that never went further.

4.   Ask yourself some questions – Be honest with yourself and ask yourself what you are trying to achieve.  If you have a strong belief that sex is the answer, then what is the underlying question? Am I lovable? Am I seeking love? Am I attractive? If validation is what I am looking for, then are there other ways of getting this? Why should I agree on sex without knowing the other well enough?

“Do we need to be sexual to feel loved?  If so, this could be an indicator of insecurity, fear, or low self-esteem,” Sauerwein says.

5. Beware of online dating – “It’s hugely dangerous,” says Sauerwein. “We don’t have enough information. We just have a narrative. It’s highly subjective. I had a client who found that the person she had been exchanging hundreds of emails with had lied about everything. The photo was 10 years old. People lie online. They are wearing masks. Our job before we get into sex… is to pull down the mask.”

If you do meet someone online, know that texting and exchanging emails don’t count as dates.

6. Beware of long-distance relationships – “Long-distance relationships are also dangerous,” Sauerwein says. “We make it really nice when we see each other. It’s easy to show your good side once a month. Aim for seeing each other once or twice per week. Plan to have entire days together. Go to the museum, out to lunch, out to dinner. Get to know the person over a test period.”

7. Aim for intimacy but be careful with the word – “We narrow the word intimacy too much to the physical. It’s about emotional, intellectual, spiritual, physical and sexual intimacy. Will you allow the other to see into you? It’s important to talk about sex before sex.”

For more information on intimacy, read the Intimacy Factor by Pia Melody, a therapist and author of books on codependency and sexual addiction.

Intimacy leads to pleasure.

“How do we make sex pleasurable? When we give and receive pleasure. It’s hugely interacting. We need to have enough trust, as in love trust. I know that this woman cares enough about me to say no. I can share without fear what I would prefer and not prefer about sex.”

There are many ways to express our personal preferences regarding position, oral sex, anal sex, lights or no lights, etc...  How do we say it to our partner?

“Many give pleasure but struggle to receive it,” Sauerwein says. “Take the 69. It’s a very difficult thing for many to handle. We have to hold the give and take. Many people don’t like it. It requires a lot of intimacy, being able to give and take at the same time. Joint climax is the ultimate in give and take, but it takes a lot of time and mutual understanding.”

8. If a man becomes distant after the act, run away. “Such a man will hardly change,” Sauerwein says.

9. Practice loving a man without sex as much as with sex – This addresses the spiritual self.

“It’s similar to the tantric approach, without giving it an immediate sexual dynamic. There’s a great potential for growth there.”