Everybody knows that the beginning of a relationship comes with a set of unwritten rules that both genders follow. The instant a woman sits across from a man at a candlelit dinner, there may as well be a sports announcer bellowing in the background, “Let the games begin!”
Unfortunately, the game being played is more of a tug-of-war than it is a collaborative effort. It's not that men and women are competing against each other. Rather, it's that they have different answers to that one pesky question: “when, oh when, should we first have sex?”
The Views on Sex—His and Hers
Views on sex are like decorative towels hanging on a rack in a polished bathroom—there are his and there are hers. These different views are no more apparent than at the beginning of a relationship.
From the first time they meet, most men want sex, largely because they always want it (all the time), no matter what they're doing—working, showering, or cleaning their nails. This impels them to try to get sex, whether or not they are in a committed relationship.
On the other hand, most women don't want to sleep with the men they are dating right away. There are typically two reasons why. First of all, they don't want to compromise their values (or those that society has imposed on them). Second of all, they don't want to sleep with a man until they are committed. To do so leaves women feeling vulnerable, as if they are setting themselves up to be both hurt and used. Thus, they “just say no” to sex until the man they are seeing gives them some sort of sign that he's serious about a future.
How These Different Views Impact a Relationship
The his-and-hers views on sex often cause relationship complications, and understandably so. Usually, the script goes one of two ways. The woman gives into the man's desire to have sex and has it, regretting her decision, especially if the man proves that her fears were warranted and disappears like a mob informant immediately after he gets what he's after, or continues on the path of wanting only casual sex, causing her to wonder, “where is this going?” Alternatively, the woman tells the man that, until he can commit, her legs are closed.
Neither scenario is good. The first scenario leaves the woman hurt; ultimately more protected and closed off going into her next relationship. The second scenario leaves the man feeling trapped, as though he needs to carry his date over some relationship threshold before their physicality can progress. This also leaves the man feeling as though he is being duped into giving up his freedom and entering a serious relationship before he is ready, which in turn secretly sabotages trust between the pair. Both scenarios are lousy and anything but conducive to a happily ever after.
Substituting Commitment for Connection
Acquiescing to sex too early and forced commitment are roads that are bumpy and potholed, but they are often taken nonetheless. Still, there has to be a better way, a way that allows women to maintain their values without bartering for commitment. This way involves kicking commitment to the curb, and putting connection in its place.
Women often focus on commitment because of safety. They believe that a man who is serious about them (and only them) is much less likely to break their heart than a man who is dating every woman who is breathing (and possibly a few who aren't). They don't necessarily focus on getting an engagement ring. Beyoncé isn't usually blaring in the background, at least not at the start.
Rather, they focus on a man giving them a sense of security and the knowledge that they aren't wasting their time and setting themselves up to fall in love, only to fall apart when he says he's no longer interested. In that sense, commitment is like a safety net: it gives women the ability to walk that tight rope with just a little more confidence.
But, as great as commitment can be, asking a man to commit before he is ready is like pushing a chick out of its nest before it knows how to fly—it's not good for the man, the woman, or the bird.
If we look just beyond the surface, we'll see that both parties are actually asking for the same thing: connection. A woman may feel that a connection will automatically arise as a product of having commitment from a man. However, that's putting the cart before the horse.
It also may subtly thwart a natural connection from arising due to the impact of bartering for sex.
On the other hand, striving for connection first can help give women security without leaving the man feeling as though he is trapped.
A woman who puts aside her need for commitment and focuses on having a meaningful connection with the man she is dating (and then sleeps with him after that connection is established) helps herself by not compromising her values (she's having sex with someone she cares about and who cares about her—nothing wrong with that), and by not turning the man off by demanding a commitment before there is any connection present to truly commit to.
So, what does it look for a woman to focus on connection with a man rather than asking for commitment prematurely?
1. A Focus on Values—
If the core things that are most important to you in life aren't shared by your prospective partner, there will be a glass ceiling on your growth your together.
Opposites do attract, but when it comes to the core driving principles you live by that make you happy, there has to be overlap.
If Allison wants a simple life in the woods off the grid and Matt is a tech mogul city slicker, the incompatibility is blatantly obvious.
More discernment is required in partner value, looking good over growth, or values changing more than certainty and security. These types of mismatch can still work, but it's best to be aware of them upfront, and how they impact your connection and understanding of each other.
2. Frequency of Time Together—
Generally speaking, if you're only seeing your prospective partner less than three evenings a week, the dynamic will stay a slow casual simmer.
Time together is a powerful bonding agent and if either party can't commit to more than twice a week, they're either too busy for any deep meaningful connection, or they're still on the market.
3. Stating Clearly What You Need —
The woman resolves in her mind and, in some cases, may declare to the man if asked, “I don't sleep with someone until I feel a deep connection with them.” This is very different than saying, “I don't sleep with someone if I'm not in a relationship.”
The former takes all pressure off the man to sign any contracts or enter into agreements before he's ready. It gives him flexibility and the woman provides a road map leading him to what's really most important: connection.
Instead of a man being asked to give up something (as he would if he was being asked to give up his freedom and commit before he is ready), he's being asked to work towards something he deeply wants as well. He's being asked to work towards forming a bond and figuring out if there could be a future.
Asking this of a man aligns both of you toward a vision of what you ultimately want and allows a woman to rid herself of anyone who isn't willing to put forth any effort.
If the man isn't going to connect with you mentally and emotionally, then you know what you're getting into. This also allows a woman to weed out the ones that won't be “boyfriend material,” because any man who can't commit to connection reveals immediately his true motivations for hanging out with you as well as what you can expect moving forward with him.
This article was originally published on YourTango.