So you find yourself back being single and interested in the possibility of dating again.  You are either arriving back into the dating scene, or you may already be in a dating relationship.  Sooner or later, the question will pop into your head, what about sex and intimacy while dating?  What is acceptable behavior verses not and how can you gauge the difference?  Using a set of guidelines may be helpful when trying to navigate through the ropes of being sexual while dating again.

First off, have a plan.  There is no right or wrong way when it comes to sex, intimacy and dating.  What is “normal” behavior and feels good for one person may not feel good for the next person.  Really, the first idea is to take some inventory on your own sexual self to identify what would feel like a good pace for you while dating.  For example, would you be comfortable kissing on a first date?  How about inviting your date inside your house to talk?  How about having sex on a first date?  The idea is to have a plan going into the date of what would feel good for you and how you visualize the date ending.  By beginning with the end in mind, you will be confident going forward into the situation.

Secondly, be smart and don’t compromise your vales.  Be honest, when was the last time you really sat down and took inventory on what your sexual values and attitudes were?  Sexual values and attitudes are often shaped during our upbringing and can be defined as how we feel about sex, being sexual and our own sexuality.  Knowing this, you can then sit down and ask yourself how your values and attitudes contribute both positively and negatively to your dating life.  You may find that having a negative sexual attitude holds you back or that having a very generous attitude about sex has you getting hurt in dating relationships. 

For example, asking yourself how did you learn about sex?  Did the individual who taught you about sex have a healthy sexual attitude about it?  Were they correct in what they explained to you?  Was masturbation frowned upon or forbidden during your upbringing?  Did a strict religious background influence your feelings about being sexual that have carried on into your adult life?  If your sexual attitude has you fearful or anxious about intimacy, perhaps it is wise to seek out the help of a sex therapist who can walk you through identifying your sexual values and answering your questions about sex and dating.  You can’t be conscious of an attitude you are not aware you have.  Increasing your own awareness of you sexual values and attitudes will be helpful when making choices about being sexual, or not, while dating.

Third, discuss expectations regarding sex and intimacy with your partner.   For some, being sexual must wait until marriage.  If this is a personal value of yours, you need to discuss this right away so that the expectations are clear.  Without being clear up front, you run the risk of getting emotionally involved and being hurt by differing ideas of sexual expectations for the relationship.  Questions such as “How do you feel about premarital sexual relationships?” or “What makes you the most comfortable vs. uncomfortable about sex?” can assist you in figuring out if your dating mate is a good match for you, value wise.   Always remember to be honest and never to compromise your own sense of self and comfort level while dating.  Presenting yourself in a skewed fashion will only lead to hurt feelings in the end.

Finally, be safe.  If you do choose to be sexual while dating you must protect yourself by using condoms and practicing safe sex.  If you are too embarrassed to ask your partner to use protection then you are not at a point in the relationship where it is time to be sexual.  Having a discussion about using condoms needs to happen at a neutral time, not in the bedroom.  This sets the expectation and everyone can then be on the same page with a plan and feel confident knowing we have agreed to practice safe sex together.

In closing, having a plan, knowing your own sexual values and attitudes, discussing expectations and being safe are all helpful guidelines when trying to navigate through the choice of being sexual while dating.  Enjoy this time, good luck and have fun!    

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