"My advice is this: wait as long as you can," Allen says.
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If both people are playing by the same dating rules, sex can serve as the gateway to a consensual, committed relationship.
"I thought there were differences between men and women and how they felt about relationships.
To that end, Mc Clary often tells women, "If you value a committed relationship, ask yourself, 'What do I need to do to stay emotionally whole?
'" When directing her advice on dating rules to a male audience, Mc Clary puts things a little differently.
Whether you're new to the dating scene, a regular player, or jumping back into the game after a long hiatus, the same questions about dating rules apply: How soon do you lean over for that first kiss? And last -- but by no means least -- how do you know when the time is right for sex?
"There's really no formula that I've encountered," says 28-year-old Andrew Reymer, a single resident of Baltimore, Maryland.
But overall, I have found that very often they want the same thing," Allen says.
Fifteen years ago, I was running an ad agency, and we were asked to pitch for an online dating site.
"Every woman and man should know their boundaries before they start dating, and most of us don't," says Cheryl Mc Clary, Ph D, JD, professor of women's health at University of North Carolina-Asheville.
When Mc Clary refers to boundaries, she's not talking just about the physical boundaries that come with sexual territory. "Emotional wholeness is crucial to the decision process of whether or not to have sex," Mc Clary tells Web MD.
"It becomes much more difficult to objectively see each other's character traits" says Susanne Alexander, a relationship coach and author of Can We Dance? "Some couples then slide into engagement and marriage only to discover they have missed seeing major aspects of each other." While not every dating scenario that involves sex leads to marriage or even a serious relationship, couples do owe it to themselves to talk about where they see their relationship going and how sex might change the relationship -- before they get in bed together. The woman may assume sex implies a commitment; the man may not see it that way," Allen tells Web MD.