The Third Date Rule- Is this a thing?

I once had a woman ask a question at one of my talks about dating. She said: “If a guy wants sex on the 3rd date, and I don’t want it until the 10th date, where’s the middle ground?”

I once had a woman ask a question at one of my talks about dating. She said: “If a guy wants sex on the 3rd date, and I don’t want it until the 10th date, where’s the middle ground?” “Date six and a half” was my answer. It may seem like I’m oversimplifying, but the idea is that where there is communication, there is room for compromise.

Communicating about sex is really really hard. Most people only discuss sex with a select few friends and often those friends are single too. So there’s a case of the blind leading the blind when it comes to negotiating sex. I recently heard a panel of sex bloggers answer unanimously that the number one question they get from readers is: “Is this normal?”

Add to that the fact that communication between men and women around sex is basically cross-cultural communication. So when I coach women who want to date men, I give very specific advice on how to navigate sexual momentum in dating, date-by-date.

NOTE: Please excuse the stereotypes that do not always fall on gender lines in this way. In the interest of shorthand, I will speak somewhat broadly about men and women, with the understanding that gender can be fluid and many men and women have elements of both genders in their repertoire.

First Date: Sex will be on a guy’s mind from the first 5 minutes on. It’s not that he is expecting sex, that is if he is a relationship-oriented decent guy. It’s that he will be thinking about whether there is chemistry; whether he wants to bang you; whether he feels like kissing you; whether he will get to kiss you at the end of the date; and whether you want him to kiss you. Most of the answers to these questions will be 90% apparent within the first 5 seconds of meeting. I know this sounds harsh to some women but in my experience, this is the way that most men’s brains work. And to be fair to the men, it is highly efficient. If the answer is “No” to most of the aforementioned questions, then he will likely move on. Knowing this will help you understand why he doesn’t text you or ask you out again if that’s what happens.

At the end of the date, the guy will likely be angling to find a quiet moment and spot to have a kiss goodbye, be it outside the bar, in a taxicab, at your doorstep, or in the parking lot. If you are a woman that doesn’t think this way, then it is wise to open your mind and your body language to allow this transaction to take place. Even if you aren’t sure if you are interested, the kiss might tell you something about your own feelings.

Often women are more likely to give a guy a second chance if she’s on the fence about him than vice versa. However, women may not always get a second chance if a guy doesn’t see any chemistry. One insight into this phenomenon is that usually, the guy is paying for the first and second date (We women hope!). So he has more at stake for the second date. I often ask my female clients if they want to go on a second date with a guy they’ve just met, and they say “Sure.” Then I ask: “If you had to pay $100 to go on a second date, would you?” Not so much. I believe in naming that tune in fewer notes. If you kiss on the first date and the guys passes the $100 litmus test in your mind, then go out again. (Let him do the asking out, though, so you know if his actions indicate true interest.)

“Sure.” Then I ask: “If you had to pay $100 to go on a second date, would you?”

Second date: Rule of thumb is that momentum never goes backward. So if you have a kiss at the end of the first date, then things should build momentum from there. As you are saying goodnight at your door or your car, or the cab, you (i.e. the woman in this scenario) should kiss again, this time with feeling, but not much more. It is incumbent upon you to set a boundary but also to explain why. You should say something like “I would invite you up, and I am very tempted, but I’m not quite ready for that.” He will know what that means. Then wait for his follow-up.

If you make it to the third date, and the scheduling is consistent and within a week of the previous date, then momentum is working its magic, and this is a good sign for relationship potential. So in my humble opinion, the third date is the right time to be in one or the other’s apartment or house. I am assuming that you are using your best assessment skills to identify red flags vs. signs of trustworthiness.

Being in someone’s home, however, does not mean that you are going to have sex. But it does mean that it’s fair game to be on the guy’s mind. It should be on both of your minds at this point. If you are someone who is not ready for sex at that point, then it is your responsibility to bring up the topic, as hard as that is (no pun intended). You should proactively initiate the conversation, preferably at a time early in the evening before things get too hot and heavy, and while clothes are still on. This conversation is designed to manage expectations and to make your needs clear. You say something like this:

“I don’t want to have sex yet because I only do that when I’m in an exclusive relationship, and I didn’t think we were there yet.”

This statement has two effects:
1. Reverse psychology- i.e. it gets him to want to be there
2. Explains in detail where you are coming from – most guys don’t understand what “I want to take it slow” means. They are thinking of hours or minutes.

After you make this statement, a conversation should ensue and you can explain that you are interested in monogamy but you weren’t sure if he was. He may tell you that he does feel like he is there too, which is great. But it is VERY important that you do not have sex that night. You need to give the conversation some breathing room and see what he does in a few days afterward. If the ghosts you, then you avoided a train wreck and the emotional attachment that often goes along with sex for women. If he follows up the next day and sets up another date, you are golden. You can read his actions that way. Anyone can say, “I’m not sleeping with anyone else right now.” But they can be lying. Or they can mean, “I’m not sleeping with anyone right now, in the next few hours.” That’s why you don’t want to rely on words only.

I know that a conversation like this can be difficult but be brave. It is much better to push yourself to have a difficult conversation than to enter into a sexual relationship with deluded expectations. It’s a wonderful goal to be in a relationship where you are both on the same page. But it doesn’t go without saying that it will happen. Anyone who really likes you will wait for date six and a half if that’s what you need. And you might figure things out a lot faster than that if the communication is clear.


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