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"Will you still respect me in the morning?" is just one of the questions to consider when dating and sex meet at the crossroads. In today's dating culture, dating and sex often go hand in hand. The more socially acceptable nature of premarital, or even casual, sex presents a large forum of questions for singles. For some, sex doesn't convey the same message as it does for others. Learning to interpret the signals as to when sex is an appropriate expectation, while understanding the ramifications of taking a relationship to such a level, is now all part of the contemporary dating game.

About Dating and Sex

Dating and sex seem to go hand in hand. At some point, sex becomes an issue in any new dating relationship; it's really just a question of when. Should you or shouldn't you? Everyone seems to have an opinion, from doctors and psychologists, to parents and clergy, to friends and passersby. But the only two people in the world who know when the time is right are the two people who are dating, and even then the decision is still a tricky one.

How Long to Wait Before Having Sex When Dating

How do you know when it's the right time to take the relationship to a deeper level of intimacy? There are no hard and fast rules for dating and sex, but there are a few signs to help you figure out when the timing is right. Here are a few questions to ask yourself, and maybe your partner too.

How well do you really know each other? While sex can deepen a couple's sense of fulfillment and intimacy, it can also create a false sense of intimacy if you combine dating and sex too soon in a relationship. Translation: It will take longer to discover how you really feel about each other once sex gets in the way. Jumping into bed too soon can also cause some mixed feelings on the part of both partners. Women may wonder if they gave in too easily, and if their partner still respects them. Men may wonder if their girlfriend always "puts out" so quickly, and they may indeed begin to back away from an otherwise compatible relationship. Better to take enough time to really get to know each other, so the relationship can withstand those morning after doubts and regrets.

How comfortable are you with each other really? If you're dating each other but you're not really sure where the relationship is going, or just how much you trust each other yet, it's a good idea to put off sexual intimacy for a bit longer. Sex can't fix things that aren't quite right in a relationship, and combining dating and sex may wind up squelching a budding romance that might have survived with a little more patience and nurturing.

Why do you want sex? Don't laugh, the answer isn't as obvious as it seems on the surface. Sex for pleasure and as a means to express affection is terrific, but that's not everyone's motivation. Some people use sex as a means to gain some control over their partner and the relationship. Beware of this kind of behavior; you can't build a permanent relationship on it, not a good one anyway.

Are you both ready? This isn't a silly question either. If you both aren't in the same emotional place, moving on to sex is a mistake. One partner shouldn't feel pressured to make love just because the other says it's now or never. That's a basic sign of insensitivity and immaturity. Walk away from a partner who insists on sex for the relationship to continue.

The Double Standard

You'd have to live under a rock not to know that when it comes to sex, there has traditionally been one standard for men and another for women.

Men are expected to make a play for sex at every opportunity. It's just the way they're wired, right? And guys who get a lot of action are "players" and "studs," aren't they?

Women who act on those same sexual impulses don't get the old "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" treatment. They usually get labeled as "loose" or worse, and often those labels are applied by the very guys who get lucky with them.

At least these are the images the media would like us to believe, and unfortunately, many people still do. Before you jump into a sexual relationship, you need to consider how these preconceptions will affect you and your relationship. Talking to your date about sex before things get too hot may go a long way toward ensuring your first encounter ends on a positive note.

Learn more about sex.

Safety First

If you do make the decision to embark on a sexual relationship, use common sense and protect yourself. We've all heard about practicing safe sex for so long that perhaps we're becoming a bit immune to the message, but ignoring that message could cost you your health, and maybe even your life.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) are disgusting to think about, to say the least, with unpleasant symptoms for the infected person. While some STD's are treatable, others are permanent. Herpes and genital warts are two conditions you may be able to live with, but HIV is another story. To date, the virus is incurable even though modern medicine seems to have found a "cocktail" of drugs that prolongs an infected person's life.

Using a condom is effective for warding off most STD's. Really getting to know your partner and making a joint appointment for health exams can relieve your worries about other health issues that can't always be seen by the naked eye. And of course, if you're not having sex, then you don't have to worry about any of it.

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