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I met Alice, Gary and their three kids on vacation. When I asked how the couple met, they turned to each other with sparkles in their eyes.

Alice said, “We met in a bar, went into the alley, and well, sort of never left.”

Their story always serves to remind me that when it comes to love, there are no hard and fast rules or formulas. Even so, it is very rare that a one-night stand evolves into a healthy, long lasting relationship. More often than not, physical intimacy in the very early stages of a relationship diminishes the potential for loving and lasting.

Do you or someone you know who is looking for a serious relationship, have affair after affair that lasts anywhere from three days to three months, and can’t figure out why? It is possible that the issue is one of pacing. If you are trying to be like Alice and Gary – jumping into the sac and hoping that a true relationship will come of it, you’re probably finding that the “sac” has plenty of holes.

As a culture, we have forgotten the power of physical intimacy and the vulnerability it evokes. Getting physical before a relationship can handle the intensity is like flooding a circuit with too much electricity – you will likely blow a fuse.

This was certainly the case with a young male client who felt discouraged by his performance in the bedroom with his girlfriend of five days. He liked her so much, but didn’t know her well enough to talk about the awkward feeling he was left with, and so he stopped talking to her completely.

Ann, a woman in her sixties who recently started dating after a divorce, was shocked and hurt that it took a recent suitor three days after physical intimacy to send a brief and vague text message. She said wistfully, “I never imagined he wouldn’t call the very next day. I guess that’s just the way things are these days.” That relationship fizzled as well.

Ann started dating in a more “old-fashioned” era of courtship; a time when the expectation of a prolonged period of dating – in which physical intimacy increased in stages – was the status quo. While there are benefits to the modern approach to dating, such as the freedom to explore physical pleasure without having to take on the journey that committed relationships require, the old notions of taking it slow protected those looking for love from these kinds of blunders.

In the Wild West culture of today’s dating world, each person looking to establish a meaningful romantic connection must create his or her own pacing. This is super challenging, especially if you are facing pressure from a partner to get it on, and managing your own desire in the heat of the moment. Some people want to get physical sooner rather than later to make sure the chemistry of dating translates to the bedroom.

If you really enjoy someone’s company but the relationship isn’t ready to handle sexual intimacy, is the risk of destroying it worth it?

How does one pace intimacy in a relationship so that it has a better chance of lasting?

Couples who are looking for long term relationships and who are caught up in the magic of early romance can’t always tell when they are “ready” for sexual intimacy. There is the famous “third date” rule, but that’s often too soon. Some relationship experts demand  “no sex until monogamy.” Others recommend waiting three or even six months to develop a real connection. Some, especially religious people, still believe in waiting until marriage.

I don’t subscribe to a chronological boundary; I prefer a behavioral one.

Want a great shot at a lasting love? Wait until you’ve had your first genuine fight.

Does it seem a little strange? When people first meet, the idea that they have differences of opinions, needs and beliefs can be threatening. They will often unconsciously hide their differences from each other to keep the good feelings of togetherness alive.

Having a real disagreement– or at least encountering a conflict — means there is a high degree of comfort with each other. The ability to meet each other in difference, to come up against an opposing idea, value or desire in your partner, and get through it without destroying the connection will show you if true teamwork and compatibility are possible. Since, as a couple you’ve made it through something a little scary and risky, and survived, it means you have a much stronger foundation and a better chance of handling the incredible intensity of physical intimacy.

If you want a real relationship with long lasting potential — roll around in the ring a bit before the bedroom. It will be hard to hold back, but if you take the time to learn something essential about your partner and the potential for partnership, the feelings of romantic connection have a chance to blossom from mere physical attraction into actual care. And then, ironically, you’ll have a much better chance of ending up like Alice and Gary.

Blair Glaser

Blair Glaser, MA, LCAT, RDT is a writer, therapist, consultant and leadership mentor who fixes broken teams: the ones people have inside themselves, in their relationships and at the office. She teaches people how to excel in leadership and relationship via private sessions, live and online courses, custom trainings and retreats. She works in NYC and in Woodstock, NY, where she lives with her dog-ter. Visit Blair at, or on Twitter at @blairglaser.

What Do You Think?

2 Comments | Join the discussion

  • LizzyLou Mar 24, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    As a woman with a strong independent streak and a very healthy libido I’ve often bristled in the face of admonitions to “wait,” and railed even more at the Madonna-whore dichotomy that pegs women who feel sexually desirous and confident as the kind of girl you f#*k, not the kind of girl you take seriously. I’ve often said I wouldn’t want a guy who holds those views. It often feels artificial to wait– like holding myself back because of others’ hang ups. But yours is the first argument I’ve seen than puts forth a rationale I can live with. Wait until you’ve proven that you’re intimate enough to handle conflict. Right!


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