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No! Means Know! Talking About Sex with Your Significant Other

Sex is a wonderful, enjoyable part of human relationships and the human experience. However, making the choice to have sex with a partner is a serious decision.

First, there are the physical questions. In most cases, you’ll need to use birth control (and be prepared for the possibility that it could fail). You also need to protect each other from sexually transmitted infections. Then, there are the emotional questions.

What Sex Can Mean

For most of us, entering into a sexual relationship with another person will change the way we feel about that relationship. For one, having sex tends to make us feel closer and more committed to that person. This may sound like a good thing--but if the relationship is new, if you don’t know the person well, or if you see a few red flags, having sex could get you more deeply involved than you’d really prefer. It then may be harder to end things if they don’t work out.

What’s Your Focus?

A relationship that becomes sexual quickly may also be focused more on sex and sexual chemistry than other important parts of a relationship, like trust, companionship, and emotional intimacy. Sex is great, but it can only get us so far. For a relationship to last, it needs to have more to it than chemistry between the sheets.

Delaying May Have Benefits

In fact, some studies suggest that delaying sex may lead to better outcomes for couples, such as more committed relationships, more emotional and physical satisfaction, a lower risk of cheating, and (if you end up tying the knot) better marriages. If you’re looking for more than a “hook-up” (and most of us are), this is definitely something to consider.

When Someone Wants to Wait

So, let’s say you don’t yet feel ready to have sex, but your partner is interested. Or, flip the situation on its head: you’re interested, but your partner wants to hold off. How can couples know how to handle these different feelings?

If you want to wait:

If your partner wants to hold off:

Remember, sex is great, but it definitely isn’t everything. While it’s important to have a physical connection and an attraction to a partner, you’re not likely to regret spending time with your date getting to know each other and developing your nonphysical relationship. Communicate with your partner when it comes to decisions about sex, and make sure your choice is intentional. Your relationship will benefit if you do.

Looking for ways to connect and get closer with your partner? Want to know more about healthy relationships? The SMART Couples project is offering ELEVATE, a free, research-backed relationship enhancement class for couples, in Florida counties across the state. All our programs are taught by trained professionals and are welcoming to all. Sign up today!

By Carol Church, lead writer, SMART Couples, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of Florida


Busby, D.M., Carroll, J.S., & Willoughby, B. J. (2010). Compatibility or restraint? The effects of sexual timing on marriage relationships. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(6), 766-74.

Carroll, J.S. (2014). Slow but sure: Does the timing of sex during dating matter? Retrieved from

Paik, A. (2010). “Hookups,” dating, and relationship quality: Does the type of sexual involvement matter? Social Science Research, 39(5), 739-753.

Van Epp Cutlip, M. (2013). A qualitative examination of the relationship attachment model (RAM) with married individuals. Doctoral thesis. Retrieved from

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