Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

His Take: “Should I Withhold Sex Until our Relationship is Official?”

New readers, welcome to Dear Wendy, a relationship advice blog. If you don’t find the info you need in this column, please visit the Dear Wendy archives or the forums (you can even start your own thread), or submit a question for advice.

When is the right time to have the DTR (Define the Relationship) talk? Who should initiate it? How have your previous relationships evolved from the dating phase to the exclusive phase? I like to be pursued, so I’d rather he initiate it, but what are the chances that he waiting for me to initiate it? I’ve heard that the woman usually brings it up. Are there any ways one should/should not initiate this talk? Is it true that withholding sex until having “official” status might make him more likely to bring it up? Are there signs that he is/isn’t ready to make it official? — Ready to Make it Official


JMAGIC: Before I answer your main question, I need you to realize something… don’t ever and I mean ever try to use sex as a bargaining chip. Well… I guess if you’re dating the kind of person whose actions are based solely on the amount of physical intimacy he does or doesn’t get, your strategy might work. But I have a feeling that it’ll get pretty old pretty quick having to keep everything ‘locked up’ just to get him to cut the grass or take out the garbage. Or tell you that your eyes are pretty. See where I’m going here?

Back to the issue at hand — how to initiate “the talk.” I’d say just do it. You like to be pursued, but I think you should know that we, as guys, aren’t always in touch with those things called “feelings” so while we may be on the same page, we (guys) really don’t know how to bring this up besides agreeing with every single word you say when YOU bring it up. Signs that he’s not into it? You’ve never met his friends. He doesn’t respond to your calls/texts/e-mails with as much enthusiasm as you respond to his. The more you push to spend time with him, the more he has to ‘work’ or responds with “ummm” or “ohh, uhhh”… which translates into “I thought we were just hanging out?”

As for my personal experience? It all just kinda worked out.

BITTER GAY MARK: Eh, I think far too many women out there try to define their relationships far too early. (How long have you been dating? Gee, that would sure be helpful to know…) My gut reaction is that if you are worrying it might be too early to have this conversation — then it probably is. I would also hazard a guess that no, he is NOT just waiting for you to initiate this. While it may be true that women DO tend to bring this up first, all too often it’s simply because they are jumping the gun. Unless you’ve been seeing each other a ridiculously long time, like several months, my suggestion is to sit back and wait. But whatever you do, be sure you approach this in a non-confrontational way. Think “I really, really like you” versus “So, do you like me or what?”

As far as withholding sex — newsflash, it would seem to me that a guy could then just as easily lie to you — to make it “official” solely to get what he wants. Besides, do you really want to become somebody’s “official” girlfriend because you twisted his arm? Talk about a hollow victory. Look, if a guy hasn’t already made it official — that’s a pretty good sign that he isn’t ready to make it official. Or maybe he simply feels that the relationship isn’t ready to be made official. These things should naturally happen. My suggestion? Let it.

JOE: Every decent relationship I’ve been in or known of that has become exclusive has done so regardless of when, where, how, or even if there was a talk about it. If the two of you are a good match, if the chemistry and interest are there, and if you’re both at a point in your lives where you want a relationship, then things will naturally move to exclusivity fairly quickly. I think it’s a good idea (but not absolutely necessary) to confirm it, but I think such a talk will occur naturally when it “feels right” – if you’re having the discussion with someone with whom you really should be exclusive. If you find yourself anxious and worried about whether to discuss it, and if there’s any resistance at all to the idea once it’s discussed, then it’s either not the right person or not the right time.

Withholding sex isn’t going to make someone decide to commit… or, rather, it shouldn’t. If that’s all that would cause them to tell you you’re exclusive, then there’s not enough to keep them around once sex starts, and it’s more than likely they’ll agree to be exclusive purely to have sex with you… but such an agreement isn’t one I’d have high hopes for being kept. If you ever need to convince someone to be only with you, then you absolutely should not want to be only with them.

JAREK: Defining the relationship is not a calculated talk as if it is straight from a handbook. You’re going to have to use a little discretion based on your actual relationship with the guy. Guys tend to speak a lot louder with actions rather than words, so how he treats you should be pretty indicative of what he won’t mind calling you. If he treats you like a girlfriend, he probably won’t mind referring to you as his girlfriend. If he treats you like a booty call, chances are he refers to you as “some chick.” In my relationships, it was never up in the air on what we were. We connected to the point that eventually it was just assumed. The whole label thing is just so others can gauge your commitment to each other, not yourselves. Don’t play games like withholding sex just because you don’t have the will power or self-respect to bring up this issue on your own. That is quite possibly the worst way to go about it, next to kidnapping his puppy and using your “official status” as ransom. Also, and I’ve mentioned this before, it is 2011. The whole delegation of responsibilities between genders no longer exists, so if you want something go after it. It is no one person’s “job” to bring up issues. But you’ll both know when you two are there; it will just come down to a matter of confirming with each other.

ART: If you read nothing else in this response, read this: there is only one rule in dating, and that’s when something about the relationship is on your mind, you talk about it out loud with your partner. How should you time the DTR talk? When you decide you want to date the guy exclusively, bring it up. If he doesn’t want to be exclusive at that point — at one week, two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, three months, whatever — that isn’t a dealbreaker. Ask again later. There is no magic time when a man decides he’s going to be exclusive; we are all dealing with our own baggage, and therefore we all have our own timelines. Respect that. But respect yourself as well and don’t wait longer than you care to.

And don’t bullshit around with withholding sex as a strategy. If you’re not comfortable having sex with a guy unless he calls himself your boyfriend (which seems very arbitrary, but whatever gives you your jollies, I guess), then respect that about yourself. You don’t owe him sex and he doesn’t owe you sex, so this whole “withholding” idea is a nonstarter. Have all the sex you want. How he reacts to it — or the lack of it — will tell you about the kind of man he is and whether he’s worth keeping around.

And as for the sign he’s ready to make it official: it’s when he says he is. Goddamnit, just ask him already. Look, the one thing I see over and over again on this site and in life is women trying to find a secret, nonverbal code to understand men. Yes, there is a code for each person — like when my fiancee found out I will be way more likely to eat fruits and vegetables as a snack out of the refrigerator if she cuts them up as opposed to leaving them whole — but that takes months and years to decipher, and is unique to each person, which makes it a pretty shitty code. The code you’re looking for is called the English language, and it works on just about every guy.

* If you’d like to ask the guys a question, simply email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with “His Take” in the subject line and I’ll pass your question along to them.

69 comments… add one
  • avatar

    MissDre May 16, 2011, 12:12 pm

    “The code you’re looking for is called the English language, and it works on just about every guy.”

    This. So true. Something I need to work on myself. 2 weeks ago I ended up in tears over something that had been bothering me with my bf for a while. When he found me crying he said to me, “Why the hell didn’t you say something? You need to TALK to me, otherwise how am I supposed to know that something is bothering you?”

    And he was right. I needed to say something rather than let it get to me until I had to cry about it. And that goes for ANYTHING, whether it’s something you’re unsure of, something that’s bothering you, and especially when it comes to the positive stuff too.

    So, LW, if you’re not sure, just ASK! At least then you’ll know where he’s at. For the record, I brought up the DTR talk with my bf after only 4 weeks of dating and it all worked out, so just go for it.

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      MsMisery May 16, 2011, 1:28 pm

      I dunno if anyone out there is as much a “Sex and the City” fan as me, but this post reminds me of something Miranda said. She and Carrie were listening to one of Big’s answering machine messages over and over for clues and hints and tones, etc. Miranda said “We could analyze this for YEARS and not know.” I think a lot of women have this tendency in ALL our relationships. I know I do. I am always in my head, overanalyzing, replaying stuff, thinking about shit. I need to try to remember that it almost never helps and it never makes me feel better.

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        MissDre May 16, 2011, 1:32 pm

        I totally know what you mean. I still go to my girlfriends saying “My bf said this, what do you think it means”? In reality, he probably means exactly what he said.

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        MissDre May 16, 2011, 1:36 pm

        But to be fair, I’m not trying to dissect some secret code I think he’s speaking… I usually take random comments he makes and try to figure out how they fit into my plans for our future… ridiculous, I know 😛 And yes, I am aware that I just said MY plans for OUR future…. I am the type of person who plans everything out in my head for the next 5 years!

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        Emsz May 16, 2011, 4:18 pm

        Yes, but that’s probably because we’re used to dealing with girls, and girls can be very snarky/fake sometimes. We forget that some people actually speak with only one layer of meaning, that which they mean to say.
        I think also insecurities make us read something into nothing. I know mine do.

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      SpyGlassez May 17, 2011, 4:06 am

      One benefit of dating a self-proclaimed ginger: I knew going into the relationship that he had no secret code. He has no brain-mouth filter, and everything he says is what he means. It does mean sometimes he thoughtlessly says something that hurts my feelings, but it also means that when I point that out, he hurries to fix it.

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  • avatar

    silver_dragon_girl May 16, 2011, 12:27 pm

    @ Art: Love your one rule!

    I have to say to the LW, though: Every time a guy has gotten “official” with me, he’s brought it up within 4 weeks, or by the 4th or 5th date. Does this go for every guy? Not at all. But, as we commenters like to repeat ad nauseum, “a guy who wants to be your boyfriend won’t spend much time acting like anything else.”

    Also, have sex when you’re ready, not before. If you want to wait for exclusivity, you have every right to do so. But you should probably mention that to guys fairly early on. You can do that WITHOUT holding it over their head like a carrot.

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    • avatar

      HM May 16, 2011, 5:54 pm

      Its funny because I’m sitting here and relating all the comments to my own relationships and it occurs to me that women generally want to establish exclusivity because of the idea that if it isn’t exclusive then we are somehow wasting our time.

      Yet, looking back, the only relationships that I feel I wasted time on are those where I over-analyzed everything and tried to convince myself that he really did care for me when his actions (or words) said otherwise. And not because I’m reading into things. But because he stopped calling, or said he starting dating someone else, or he lied to my face and made excuses for it.

      So anyway, it seems like having fun and letting things evolve naturally was a great use of my time. Holding onto something that I wasn’t really happy with or trying to convince some dude I’m worth his time has wasted years of my life.

      Sorry, all of that came from our DW motto in your comment: a guy who wants to be your boyfriend won’t spend much time acting like anything else.

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  • avatar

    BoomChakaLaka May 16, 2011, 12:30 pm

    All the answers were pretty good this time around and are pretty much all on the same wavelength.

    I think you need to definitely do some thinking, LW. Do you feel that you’re ready to be in a relationship? Do you feel like he is ready to be in a relationship? Does it feel like you guys already are in a relationship? If all three of those answers are “YES,” I don’t see why you can’t bring it up and ask. Good luck!

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  • avatar

    Amber May 16, 2011, 12:32 pm

    If you are withholding sex because you do not feel that it is right to have sex unless you are in a committed relationship, then that’s what you should do.

    if you are withholding sex to manipulate him into having a relationship with you, that is bad and will not lead to a satisfying relationship.

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  • avatar

    Amber May 16, 2011, 12:35 pm

    And also – if the relationship is meant to be, it will become a relationship, whether you have the ‘talk’ or not.

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    • avatar

      TheOtherMe May 16, 2011, 1:27 pm

      Exactly. I have never really had “the talk”, usually the relationship would shape itself into a exclusive relationship naturally.

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  • avatar

    LennyBee May 16, 2011, 12:36 pm

    “Don’t play games like withholding sex just because you don’t have the will power or self-respect to bring up this issue on your own. That is quite possibly the worst way to go about it, next to kidnapping his puppy and using your “official status” as ransom.”

    This.

    No part of your relationship should be used as a pawn in a game. And withholding anything without saying why (i.e. “FYI, I don’t do sex outside of a monogamous relationship”), is game playing. And it’s probably not a game that’s going to end well. Forget tradition, what everyone else does, how the internet told you relationships work, if you want something from your partner, tell him. Men (like women) are not mind readers. And we’re typically really bad at getting subtle hints.

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      honeybeenicki May 16, 2011, 1:13 pm

      Completely agree. By “withholding” (not just choosing not to, but actively attempting to get something in return like a “committed relationship) sex or using any other part of your relationship as a pawn, it essentially equals an ultimatum. Most people don’t respond well to ultimatums. And even if the desired outcome happens to be reached, it doesn’t make it permanent. I have found that threats and ultimatums might get me what I want, but only temporarily. Instead, I go with explanations and personal expectations such as yours above (I don’t do sex outside of a monogamous relationship, etc) and then everyone is on the same page.

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  • Budj

    Budjer May 16, 2011, 1:00 pm

    If you have been hanging out frequently and consistently, it feels right to you, and you are concerned that he still may want to spend time with other women (even though he spends most of his free time with you) then it is probably safe to have that exclusivity talk.

    As far as being persued is concerned…. I think that’s a moot point once you’ve made the decision that you want him to be your boy friend…apparently he already did a good job at the whole persuing thing.

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  • avatar

    Laurel May 16, 2011, 1:07 pm

    I don’t think bringing up how you see each other and your relationship keeps him from being the “pursuer”. Honestly that sounds like a bit of immaturity / game playing. I understand wanting a more dominant partner, and it’s always flattering to be pursued but this guy is a person too, just like you, and it’s not his manly job to chase after you forever proving over and over that he wants you. I’m of the opinion that if you really want someone, you should be pursuing *each other*. He should plan dates, he should call first, he should tell you how awesome and fun you are, but you should do all those things too!

    As far at the “DTR” talk, telling him how much you like him, that you aren’t interested in dating anyone else right now, and (if this is truly the case) that you aren’t comfortable with sex outside an exclusive/committed relationship, that shouldn’t take the wind out of his sails.

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  • avatar

    SGMcG May 16, 2011, 1:22 pm

    There’s nothing wrong with letting him know when you want to define the relationship. If it scares him away, take it as a blessing. He’s not worth it if talking about committment makes him run.

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    MsMisery May 16, 2011, 1:24 pm

    I always love Art’s responses to these. Or at least his tone 🙂

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  • avatar

    spaceboy761 May 16, 2011, 1:27 pm

    To any question that begins with the phrase ‘Should I withhold sex until…’, the answer is always no. To quote Tori Amos:

    “You can lead your man around by the penis and it will work. It just doesn’t speak very well for you as a person.”

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    • avatar

      Britannia May 17, 2011, 1:29 am

      I love, love, love that Tori Amos quote! It’s too true.

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  • becboo84

    BecBoo84 May 16, 2011, 1:30 pm

    Really wish the LW had mentioned how long they’d been dating/hanging out/whatever.

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      HmC May 16, 2011, 1:34 pm

      Yeah, that’s the thing with relationship advice I think- the details/context are so important! Good advice is generally nuanced, not black and white rules that don’t fluctuate at all depending on the situation.

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    • avatar

      LW May 16, 2011, 3:36 pm

      FYI, we’ve been dating for almost 3 months. We met online and he deleted his account after the 5th date, but we’ve never actually discussed our “status.” it’s not that i want to manipulate him with sex, it’s that i don’t want to have sex with someone who i’m not going to be in a relationship with

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      • avatar

        demoiselle May 16, 2011, 3:59 pm

        And are you already having sex?

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        silver_dragon_girl May 16, 2011, 4:12 pm

        After three months? I’d just flat out ask.
        “Hey, just out of curiosity, are you dating/sleeping with anyone else? I’m wondering where we’re at on the monogamy continuum.”

        But then, I’m a little blunt 😉

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        Britannia May 17, 2011, 1:31 am

        Actually, silver_dragon_girl, I think that question is perfect.

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  • avatar

    HmC May 16, 2011, 1:32 pm

    If someone who wasn’t otherwise interested in committing to you suddenly commits simply because you are actively withholding sex as part of some intricate mind game, then that’s not going to be a very lasting, genuine commitment. No single magic conversation is going to infuse an otherwise dull connection with staying power.

    That said, I personally don’t feel comfortable with intimacy before an exclusivity talk has occurred. But as JSW pointed out, genuine exclusivity is more about the context of that particular situation and couple than it is about black and white indicators. I think that there are some general guidelines that are true most of the time in relationships, but you can’t stick to rules to the detriment of listening to your own gut. And, like I always tell myself, I’d rather make a mistake and later blame my gut, than make a mistake and blame some arbitrary rule.

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  • avatar

    LTC039 May 16, 2011, 1:41 pm

    I haven’t read any of the comments, so solely from reading the LW’s letter my advice is, it’s different for everyone. I don’t think there’s a standard timeframe as to when people should be exclusive…
    I slept w/ my bf a week into dating him, we “talked” for four months & then became exclusive…We’ve been together for over 2 yrs…
    My friend dated a guy exclusively for 8 months, but he never wanted to become “her bf”…It’s weird bc they were exclusive which kind of means the same thing, but he didn’t see it that way…
    I don’t know how long you’ve been together but if you can usually tell if a guy really wants to commit to you or not…If you want to have a talk with him go ahead, but don’t withhold sex, I really don’t think it makes a difference unless your guy is a total douche bag who only cares about getting in your pants & then in that case he’d leave you anyway…

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    • avatar

      HmC May 16, 2011, 1:50 pm

      All excellent points. But, I would argue that if someone is a total douche bag who only cares about getting in your pants, I would rather not have slept with them. So, holding off on sex won’t scare away the good guys (so long as you are doing it because of personal comfort and not trying to be manipulative), but it may make the bad guys drift away. In my experience, waiting for a commitment first tends to work out well. I’m sensitive and having sex with someone who then drops me like a bad habit hurts me much more than not sleeping with some douche who then slithers away because they’re not interested enough to commit.

      So yes, it’s definitely different for everyone. I’ve known lots of couples that started as a one night stand and went on to real relationships- even marriages. But I wouldn’t necessarily *advocate* that path, or take it myself.

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        LTC039 May 16, 2011, 2:01 pm

        Oh I completely agree with you. & even though it doesn’t sound like it, I am pretty conservative when it comes to sex. I’ve never had a one night stand or anything like that. I guess I kind of felt that it was right w/ my bf, as cliche as that may sound. But you are right, not having sex would be a great way to ward the douche’s off, it’s def. been my case several times… I guess answering her would be a lot easier if we knew how long they’ve been seeing each other. I just meant that regardless of whether or not you sleep with him, if he doesn’t want to commit, he won’t & if he does, he does, it may just take him a little longer, that’s what happened with my bf & I never had the talk with him, he did it on his own.

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        missarissa May 16, 2011, 3:11 pm

        I don’t think it sounds cliche. I really believe that there are “real” guys and “real” relationships, and not-real guys and relationships, and when its “real”, its comes easily. I don’t think the relationship IS easy, but i think that it establishes itself easily because the two people like each other and want to be together. This does not mean that stupidity doesn’t almost get in the way though.

        I met this amazing guy one night when I was in town for the weekend. We exchanged numbers and then then next day had the most amazing 27 hour first date. And the next night. And the next night. Then I had to go home, 4 hours away, but I knew I had to come back the next weekend, to take a test administered in his city that I had registered for a year earlier (interesting timing). My friends had only couches to lend me, so he offered to let me stay with him. I was nervous, a little desperate for a comfortable sleeping arrangement, and totally swooning over the guy. After that second weekend, I was a little dumb and left an envelope with condoms on his pillow with a note that said “please use me.” I meant this to mean “if you’re going to have sex while I’m gone, please be safe, because I want to sleep with you again.” In retrospect, it turns out leaving condoms on a guy’s pillow, and telling him to use them, can have multiple interpretations. He was quite confused, and more than a little hurt, I later learned. When I came back two weeks later to visit, it was clear we were on the same page and that this was a “real” relationship. I think we had a GF/BF talk, which I had to initiate, as I had created so much confusion with my subtle messaging. When I left that weekend, I put an evelope with condoms on his pillow, with a note that said “Please do NOT use me.” That time, the message was clear.

        In conclusion, if the relationship is “real”, the way the talk happens doesn’t matter. We are moving into our second apartment together on Friday, a year and a half after I accidentally told him to sleep with other people when I left, because I liked him.

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        HmC May 16, 2011, 3:33 pm

        Ha, I can see why he was confused! But your story illustrates a great point- that if two people both really want to be together, the relationship occurs pretty naturally and effortlessly, in spite of maybe some less-than-perfect choices. It’s really pretty hard to scare away someone who is the right one for you, if the connection and timing are both there.

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        LTC039 May 16, 2011, 5:27 pm

        That’s a great story! You’re right…when a relationship is real its pretty effortless in the beginning…That’s how I felt, & obv. you as well…Glad things worked out for you even after that confusion! haha

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  • sobriquet

    sobriquet May 16, 2011, 2:15 pm

    There is absolutely NO TIMELINE when it comes to being official, so don’t get caught up in what’s “supposed” to happen. I’ve had the “official” talk after the first date, 3 weeks, 3 months… it completely depends on your relationship. I initiated one of those conversations, but I find it’s best for me to let the guy bring it up when he realizes he’s in it for the long-haul. Having a boyfriend is a Big Deal for me, so I want to make sure we’re both on the same page.

    You can’t show him your awesome, kick-ass self when you’re busy analyzing his intentions and trying to decipher a proper relationship timeline.

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  • avatar

    demoiselle May 16, 2011, 2:52 pm

    To be frank about wanting to be in a relationship before having sex is not withholding, and there’s nothing wrong with it (boy, are some of the guys’ responses above judgmental about this…). Not having sex until you’ve defined your relationship =/= witholding sex.

    If you don’t feel comfortable having sex unless you’re in an official, exclusive relationship then don’t have sex until you’re at this point. That might require you to make some explanation when it looks like he is starting to expect sex, but you have not yet gone exclusive. Of course, that means you will probably end up being the person who brings up exclusivity. This may be an area in which you can’t have both things you want.

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    • avatar

      HmC May 16, 2011, 2:58 pm

      “Not having sex until you’ve defined your relationship =/= witholding sex.”

      Thank you for articulating that distinction! Girls do not owe guys sex. Ever. They can either be ok with that and wait, or leave.

      Forgive me for this generalization but, I wonder if the judgmental nature of some guys on this topic has to do with the idea that girls get more emotionally involved with sex. It’s more of a trip wire for us. With men, it tends to be more full speed ahead, with less emotional consequences. So men project and think that if they’re horny, we must be too, so if we’re not doing it with them we must be trying to manipulate them. Just some thoughts…

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      • Budj

        Budjer May 16, 2011, 4:21 pm

        I’m a guy that has a hard time being intimate with women until there is a committed relationship. It really rushes feelings of attachment and can get me in some crappy relationship situations as a result… so I can empathize with the women that don’t like to “give it up” without a commitment.

        I think it has more to do with people being selfish and inconsiderate rather than projecting their feelings on sexuality. They just don’t care if someone wants to wait for a commitment because they don’t view sex as emotionally as some people do. A lot of people have differing “casualness” with sex (in both genders)…but anybody worth your time would wait for you or not be a jerk about it if they didn’t feel the same way. I do second the notion that the LW should be upfront about this aspect. It isn’t like you have to announce it to every guy you meet, but just be honest where you are at when he starts moving further than you are comfortable with.

        I’d also like to give my brethren some credit and say it’s not too difficult to see that when you do things and get sex and don’t do things and don’t get sex that there is a correlation. Most guys just decide if they like the girl enough to deal with that type of business transaction.

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        HmC May 16, 2011, 4:25 pm

        Those are some great points- and I have definitely known my share of men that took sex seriously and didn’t feel comfortable doing it unless they were emotionally involved as well.

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      SpaceySteph May 16, 2011, 3:11 pm

      Generally agree.
      It might have been helpful to know if this was a situation where they had already been having sex and now she wants to stop or whether they have not had sex and she wants to wait.

      In the first case, I think this could be withholding sex however it could also be you changing your mind/values which is totally allowed. Having sex with a guy once does not imply automatic consent to it for the rest of your life/relationship/20’s/etc. I wonder if maybe the LW categorizes all refusal to have sex as withholding sex.
      I agree with all the responses that withholding sex is not a good idea- you don’t want to use sex to get what you want and you don’t want a guy to give you what you want just to have sex with you. But if you simply don’t want to have sex with someone until you are in a committed, exclusive relationship then I think that is a completely acceptable position… and this is true whether you have already had sex with him or anyone else in a less-than-exclusive situation.

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    • avatar

      Lindsay May 16, 2011, 3:24 pm

      Exactly! Obviously, if they’ve already been having sex or she wants to withhold it in order to persuade him, then it’s not a good idea. It’s manipulative and could get him to commit for the wrong reasons. But if she’d prefer not to have sex with him until she knows where the relationship is going, that’s her business.

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        demoiselle May 16, 2011, 3:37 pm

        And if they are already having sex and she’s feeling uncomfortable with that because she feels that it’s important to be in a committed relationship when you’re having sex with someone, she is totally within her rights to stop having sex with him. She should explain why, and not pressure him to commit immediately.

        Of course, that situation is not ideal, and could be interpreted as “withholding”–but we’re not talking about a situation where she’s saying “I won’t sleep with you until you clean the toilet and put up the dishes,” she’s talking about her personal comfort with her/their sex life.

        The word “withholding” in the post and post title really colors the conversation. I understand that the idea of “withholding” sex as punishment or coercion is upsetting, but I think the baggage of the terminology has clouded the situation.

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      Don Dieo July 15, 2012, 8:34 pm

      Then women should bring it up. It’s all about communication. If you want something say it. Good guys will stick around if you tell them straight up, “I don’t have sex unless I’m in a committed relationship.” But it’s less likely, because of our egos, that we’ll stick around date after date if you continually refuse our advances with no explanation. Because without any explanation, we’re left to guess why you don’t want to have sex with us and the reasons we come up with are not likely to make you attractive.

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    TJ May 16, 2011, 2:55 pm

    “let’s talk about sex baby/let’s talk about you and me”

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      SpyGlassez May 17, 2011, 4:16 am

      Welcome back, awkward car rides with guy friends!

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    sarolabelle May 16, 2011, 2:23 pm

    guys seem to have no problems acting like your bf and then when you bring it up they are like “well I’m not really looking for a relationship” Pfh! Girls if you want a relationship then speak up and kick the non relationship dudes to the curb!

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    WatersEdge May 16, 2011, 3:25 pm

    I was surprised that these guys all seemed so entitled to have sex without any commitment. Like how dare a woman prefer sexual exclusivity. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I read a book called “Unhooked” and it was about young women’s sexuality. One of the big points that the book makes is that feminism made a lot of men believe that they didn’t need to do anything at all to have sex with a woman other than spend a little time with her: not be exclusive, not be emotionally supportive, not help her with her responsibilities or be a partner to her in any way… We “leveled the playing field and gave women the right to sleep around”, which came with the unfortunate side effect of young men sleeping around with women without ever thinking that they should try to be in a relationship. What kind of a world is it where men see women as being game-players for requiring sexual exclusivity? Jeez.

    Young women are brainwashed into believing that we don’t deserve a commitment and we won’t ever get one because young guys are incapable of them. If you want to wait for a relationship to have sex, then just don’t present the opportunity for sex to happen! It’s amazing how simple this is but we often overlook it. Don’t go to his house at night and don’t let him come to your house at night. Go out in public places and do stuff together.

    To answer your theoretical question about withholding sex to get exclusivity, yes, this will work. HEAR ME OUT READERS! If he likes you and wants to see where this is going, then he will agree to be exclusive. If he sure he doesn’t want to be exclusive, then he will tell you so and you’ll have your answer. True, he may lie to you, but then he was going to lie to you and use you anyway and giving him sex sooner than you otherwise would by not requesting exclusivity will not change his poor character.

    I think your question is really, “Will withholding sex make a man who is unsure about me commit?” This is the real wild card. Probably, but do you really want that, others will say? Maybe you do, and I honestly think that’s ok. If he has to stop seeing other people to sleep with you and figure out if he likes you enough to continue seeing you long-term, that is NOT A FATE WORSE THAN DEATH. HE WILL SURVIVE THE ORDEAL. You two can stop seeing each other when things fizzle out.

    As for the practical aspect of your question, here’s what I did in my single days. When things got hot and heavy after dating for a while I’d just say “listen, if we sleep together then we stop sleeping with other people”. You can handle the physical exclusivity as the physical side progresses, then get into the relationship talks as the emotional side progresses. If he balks, you have your answer. No need for a big discussion.

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      justpeachy May 16, 2011, 3:30 pm

      I think you summed it up much better than any of the men. I wish Wendy would do a poll so we could see which man the reader’s agree with most.

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      demoiselle May 16, 2011, 3:39 pm

      Thank you for the well-articulated post. I found the attitude of the men responding quite entitled and upsetting.

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      spaceboy761 May 16, 2011, 3:40 pm

      I think that everything in your last paragraph is terrific advice! The only problem is that if the LW is already banging this guy (which she may or may not be…. it’s not clear), it’s a VERY mixed signal to say, “I know that we’ve been banging and such, but here are my newly minted ground rules if you want to bang again”. I think that she would have to approach the conversation differently if that were the case.

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        demoiselle May 16, 2011, 3:45 pm

        It does make it difficult, but it is well within her rights. She’d need to approach him and explain the situation explicitly, of course. She shouldn’t just stop having sex with him and hope he guesses what’s going on in her head.

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        demoiselle May 17, 2011, 2:33 pm

        What are the thumbs down about?

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        WatersEdge May 16, 2011, 4:28 pm

        ahh Spaceboy, I knew you were coming for me! I’m glad to hear a favorable review 🙂

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark May 16, 2011, 8:29 pm

        I don’t know if it was so much entitled… For me, this was an annoying, no, make that borderline irritating question. Simply because it was wayyyy too vague. I mean, how long had they been dating? Without that knowledge it was very hard to craft any response that made much sense. Instead of giving us any insight into her situation, the LW just went on and on asking more and more complex questions rather than providing any info that I could latch onto and thus give some real advice. In the end, I found myself very annoyed, and I guess that my tone definitely reflected that.

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        WatersEdge May 17, 2011, 8:59 am

        Well it seemed to me that your “let it happen naturally” advice translated into “let the man dictate when you are exclusive, and for God’s sake, don’t even think about withholding sex until you know where you stand because that would make you pathetic”. Women jump the gun, women bring this up way too early, wait several months before asking if you’re exclusive?

        And I didn’t think the question was vague. I thought it was hypothetical.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark May 17, 2011, 12:32 pm

        You know what? If you really want to dangle sex out there as some big prize just to get what you want in a relationship —- commitment —- then go for it. Can’t wait to see how that works out for ya…

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        WatersEdge May 17, 2011, 2:43 pm

        I’m happily married, actually. And I didn’t HAVE to dangle sex as a prize because my husband is a decent human being who was happy to stop seeing- and sleeping with- other people in order to sleep with me. This all happened on our 4th date. I did exactly what I described above- told him if we sleep together, we stop seeing other people. He said “ok” and we never looked back.

        Commitment is not “some big prize”. It’s what people do when they like each other, and there’s no reason to be so scared of it.

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        WatersEdge May 17, 2011, 2:51 pm

        And there’s no reason to be so nasty toward someone just because they have different views on sex and monogamy from yours. It’s just a friendly debate. No need to imply that I’m going to die alone.

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        LW May 18, 2011, 9:10 am

        Don’t be offended WatersEdge, Mark is super bitter and super gay.

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      AKchic May 16, 2011, 3:53 pm

      Totally. A woman can be sexually available and NOT have sex. We have as many options as men do, and we can exercise those options. Believing that men cannot control those urges and options like we can is a crock.

      The feminist movement, while good in theory, really did set us back in some ways. Instead of being completely liberated and seen for strong, independent women, we are now seen as whores. Why? Because no matter what we do, we will always be seen as the weaker sex in the sexual arena. Our male traits will always be seen as negatives.

      Men: woman-chasing, power-hungry, egocentric – we call them ballsy, gutsy, etc. They become politicians. If a woman were to act that way, we would call them bitches, cunts, mannish, ball-busters, etc.

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        LTC039 May 17, 2011, 9:15 am

        I agree with you. Idk why people thumbed down you…it’s common knowledge! Just because *you* don’t see it that way, or want to see it, doesn’t mean that’s not the way it is. It be lovely if things weren’t that way, but sadly things are still this way!

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        AKchic May 17, 2011, 5:43 pm

        Perhaps because I came off as “bitchy”? *laugh*

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        Shaun October 22, 2012, 6:52 pm

        I agree with most people on here. Whenever I’ve felt the need to have the talk usually the other person felt the same way and we were just waiting for the other to bring it up for fear about bringing it up too soon. You almost always have a feel for which direction things are going whether you’re headed for relationship or breakup.

        Breaking up with people sucks even if it’s only been a short while. But if you’re getting to the point where the other person thinks you should be having the talk and you don’t you’re just selfish. Male or Female you should have ended things with that person long before it got to that point it you weren’t feeling it.

        Some people fall hard and fast though. As a guy if I’m not interested I try to end things with the girl sooner rather than later. Some guys are happy they’re getting laid and just decide hey why rock the boat until the girl asks for a commitment. That’s where this angst comes from. I personally can’t do that though. If I get the feel a girl is starting to like me and I don’t feel that way back I feel terrible about myself cause I know what it’s like to be on the other end of that. I think anybody male or female who does that is either heartless or has never experienced being on the other side of that exchange.

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      spanishdoll May 16, 2011, 5:27 pm

      I totally agree with this, though I think it’s the word “withholding” that brought out such a negative response from the guys. It’s kind of a trigger word associated with a manipulative girlfriend or wife…I think if she had said “is it okay to wait on sex until we’ve had a relationship talk?” then they wouldn’t have been so hard on her.

      “Withholding” really implies an act of taunting someone with something they want…this should not be a normal part of a healthy relationship!

      (For any Arrested Development fans, a little Lucille Bluth for you: “Look at me, I’m getting off on being witholding!”)

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      Art May 16, 2011, 8:43 pm

      I’m going to assume you didn’t read my response.

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        demoiselle May 16, 2011, 9:41 pm

        Art, your response was better than others in terms of the “withholding,” though from a quick skim it’s easy to misread since your first sentence in the paragraph is “And don’t bullshit around with withholding sex as a strategy.” Reading further, it becomes clear what you mean….

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    AKchic May 16, 2011, 3:47 pm

    Okay… here’s my take:

    You’re more worried about a status than anything else. Just because you’d be “Official” doesn’t mean you automatically need to have sex. You didn’t mention your ages or how long you’ve been going out. For all we know, you could be 16 and have gone out on 2 dates in 3 weeks where he only touched your shoulder once. That’s not enough for a “talk”.
    I can proclaim a pair of rocks “Official”, but it doesn’t mean the designated “girl” rock needs to start putting out. Sex is a natural progression of feelings and emotions between two people, not a required act because of an arbitrary status like “Official”.

    Slow down and take it easy. Unless he’s putting the moves on you and trying to get into your pants, I don’t think you even need to have any talks on “no sex until I’m ‘Official’ with someone”. I admire your convictions to be in a committed relationship with someone prior to sex. It shows respect for yourself and your health. If he’s a keeper, he will respect that. Just don’t be quick to rush a committment with any old guy just because you want the sex.

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  • eelavocado

    eel avocado May 16, 2011, 10:39 pm

    I firmly believe that the timeline for The Talk differs for each couple. It also depends on your age and dating history. For instance, my high school boyfriend (17 years old) and I were official after just one date. My college boyfriend (20 years old) and I were official after one month. My current boyfriend and I (started dating when he was 24; I was 22) were sleeping with each other after a few dates. I wasn’t looking for anything serious. After two months of dating, we became exclusive. After five months together and an impending vacation abroad, I finally asked him what we were and if we were going to make it official. We’ve now been boyfriend-girlfriend for 2 1/2 years and we’re moving in together soon.

    Although I think there are some benefits to waiting to have sex…withholding it just seems like a game. Don’t expect a guy to ask you to be exclusive just because you’re being hard to get. And don’t expect a guy to NOT want to be exclusive just because you slept with him on one of the first dates. (My boyfriend is proof of that.)

    Also, I could be wrong, but I’m getting the feeling from your letter that you’re in a rush to become exclusive. Don’t buy into Patti Stanger-type relationship advice. Life isn’t a race to get to the altar. Enjoy what you have with your guy in this moment — whether you become exclusive or not.

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    Bekah May 17, 2011, 2:47 am

    I never had the talk with my boyfriend we just were together and one day after 2 months of practically living together he made a joke and in it called me his girlfriend. But that is just me. This best thing I have learned so far is that everyone is different. It’s best to talk to one another about what is on your mind in a reasonable manner with your guy. If he is a decent sort of person he will listen and react in a respectful manner explaining his own thoughts to you. You will get an answer just be prepared for any answer he may give you.
    Personally, I think sex is an entirely separate issue that you have to decide on your own where and when you are comfortable with it and not using it as a manipulation.

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    Becca August 11, 2011, 9:37 pm

    I absolutely love Art’s advice. I want to be his fan.

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