The "three-date rule" is stupid. So's the five-date rule, the six-month rule and any other rule that someone's told you should govern the time in your relationship that you choose to engage in physical intimacy. The problem is that, in sorting through all the messages of when you should or should not submit to what the other person apparently wants from the get-go, not enough people get around to considering what feels right to them.
And, as Jaclyn wrote at Feministe this week, sometimes what feels right for you isn't what those social messages tell you ought to feel right—and some times it changes based on the person and the situation.
For some people, engaging in physical intimacy is a well-worn road to emotional attachment; for others, it's a result of emotional attachment; and for yet others, it can be unrelated. And for many of us, it changes based on the person, the time and our own individual situations. Rules—especially ones other people make up and promote—don't take any of that individuality into account.
When it comes to sex or relationships, I simply try not to do something that I'll regret later, or something that will get me hurt with little pay-off (eagle-eyed readers may note that this is a working theory I've implemented with middling success at times). But if I kiss someone and wonder if he'll actually be interested in talking to me tomorrow if I sleep with him tonight—and, moreso, if that will really upset me—I head to bed, just me and my vibe. When I've been unwilling to engage in physical intimacy, or go beyond certain actions, I say no, and I mean it: I don't much care for being pressured, or for people that pressure me, and anyone who tries rarely earns another date, let alone a pass to continue with what he was trying to start.
The key to all of this, of course, is a willingness both to talk to your potential partner, and to listen to yourself. If you ask for what you want and need—sex, space, time, understanding—and you don't get it, then you sort of already know that the person isn't worth sleeping with, let alone liking or really falling for. And if you aren't sure what you want, or what you need, or how you'll react or what you can handle gracefully without causing yourself untoward grief, then it's long past time to step back, look at your history, listen to your feelings and figure it out—before the next person tries to convince you to do something you're unsure about doing, but unsure about why.
[Image via Yellow.Cat on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]