We live in a world of immediate gratification. We want to watch the next episode now, we want our package delivered today, we get antsy if we have to wait in line for more than a few seconds. I understand the feeling; there’s always so much to do that waiting can feel like a waste. But when it comes to love and sex, there are real advantages to waiting.
Sex seems to have sped up as much as everything else. Where people once spent months if not years dating before having sex, it’s become common jump into the sack on a first date (or, with hookups, instead of a first date). Since sex feels good, why wait?
Well, there are good reasons you might choose to slow down. The most important is that taking time to get to know someone lets you build trust. When the time comes that you do have sex, you feel safe enough with the person that you can let your guard down and be fully present in the experience. You don’t have to worry about what might go wrong, because the two of you are in it together.
The other important reason, and my focus here, is that waiting makes for better sex. It gives you time to anticipate, to look forward, to savor the process—and that makes the sex itself more exciting. This is true at any stage of relationship, from brand-new to long-established.
Here’s how this plays out.
Waiting to have sex for the first time. There are many upsides to sex-positivity; it’s great that there’s less shame and secrecy about something that can be a wonderful, fun experience. But one downside is that in freeing people to say Yes, we’ve somehow lost the ability to say “Let’s slow down.”
Partners may move so quickly to sex that people don’t have a chance to learn what true arousal feels like. Girls, especially, may feel aroused enough that sex doesn’t hurt—but that’s very different from being really hot and bothered, from really wanting. That kind of deep excitement builds over long periods of making out—months, not minutes or hours.
Take the time to learn what feels good to you, what excites you, how your body responds to the touch of another person. Wait not until you think you “should” be ready for sex, but until you really, absolutely are ready, body, heart, mind and spirit. Wait until you’ve learned what it means to feel burning desire.
Waiting to sleep with a new partner. If you’ve had sex before, you may wonder how long you “should” wait to sleep with a new sweetie. Any “should” in your mind means you’re giving someone else’s opinion too much weight. The correct timing of sex in a new relationship depends entirely on the feelings of the people involved.
Some couples choose to wait weeks, months, or longer before having sex—not because they feel they “should” wait, but because they want their physical intimacy to develop in sync with their emotional intimacy. They want get to know each other—and to savor the “making out” stage.
They know that great as intercourse is, kissing, touching, nuzzling, exploring, and all that stuff are equally wonderful in their own right. Thinking of that as “foreplay” devalues all the terrific parts that aren’t “actual sex.” It’s fun to make out. The excitement builds up over time. Relish being playful, passionate, and curious together. When the time comes for sex, you’ll be so ready and know each other so well, it’ll be much more satisfying.
Using anticipation to add fun to an existing relationship. Even couples who’ve been together for years can make anticipation work for them. Rather than letting sex just happen, you can make it a focal point both of you look forward to.
Rekindle a spark by setting aside time to get frisky. Talk about how you’ll have an intimate evening together Saturday night or whenever. (Get a sitter or a hotel room if necessary.) Make that connecting time a priority.
People sometimes object that planning to have sex seems artificial. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to anticipate, the way you would have when you didn’t see each other every day. This isn’t something you have to do; it’s something you get to do.
Build anticipation by talking about what you’ll do on your sexy date. Maybe buy lingerie or a new toy. Give a passionate kiss earlier that day to prime the pump. Send flirty texts. In short, encourage your brains to give energy to the fun things you’ll do when your bodies get together. Build the “I can’t wait.” You’ll both show up with more intensity, making the playtime even more enjoyable.