Can you handle casual sex?
Abstinence isn't a realistic or appealing option for many singles. Even if you're seeking a committed relationship, casual sex is likely to happen along the way. Some people can emotionally handle casual sex and others can't. Still others tell themselves they can handle it, but are really sabotaging their search for something more meaningful.
It's understandable why many singles don't want to give up sex entirely while looking for "The One" -- after all, that might take awhile.
But there is no escaping the fact that sex complicates things. For many of us it complicates things a lot. If you are seeking a committed relationship, sex can be especially complicated. Too often we expect that sex means the same thing to us and our partners, and this is not always the case.
Here's my four part test to determine if casual sex is a bad idea for you. Before you sleep with that guy you're not in a relationship with, ask yourself:
1. If I never hear from this person again, will I be OK with that?
A surefire way to know if you're being honest with yourself about your expectations when it comes to casual sex is to answer this crucial question. If your answer is 'yes,' then you're in the clear emotionally. You are able to separate the act of sex with a deeper emotional attachment.
If your answer is no, don't do it! You are clearly hoping for something more than this person might be able or willing to give you. Engaging in sex with someone you're not in a relationship with is a gamble, and you shouldn't gamble unless you can afford to lose.
One likely scenario is you are hoping that your casual relationship might turn into something more serious. This is not unheard of, but going into it wishing and hoping for that is a bad strategy. You must learn to listen to what people tell you - and if their words and or actions are telling you they want to keep it casual -- believe them.
If the sex in question is with a friend or someone else who is likely going to be a continued presence in your life, modify this question to say: If this person tells me they are no longer willing or available to have sex with me, will I be OK with that?
The same principle applies - if your friend with benefits falls in love with someone else next week, how will that make you feel? If it would make you feel badly, then you are more attached than you have admitted to yourself.
2. Am I able to communicate honestly with this person?
I was recently asked by a woman if it was OK to ask a guy if he was sleeping with anyone else before she had sex with him. My answer?
Hell yes. And if you can't, then do not have sex with him.
I often hear women say they don't want to ask if the relationship is going anywhere before sex for fear of "scaring him off". If asking that question scares a guy off, he is doing you a favor. Better you find out now then after you have slept with him and your feelings are even more pronounced.
You owe it to yourself and to your partner to find out if you're on the same page. The right man for you won't be deterred by your honest desire to have a relationship - he'll be psyched!
If you feel uncomfortable asking about a potential partner's sexual activity, the status of your relationship, or communicating any boundaries or preferences you have, do not do it.
Sex doesn't have to mean everything, but it is an intimate act that can have serious, life-changing consequences (no matter how safe you endeavor to be). Sex deserves respect. You deserve the self-respect to make sure that your sexual partners respect you enough to make you feel heard and respected.
If you can't honestly communicate with this person and you're still willing to have sex with them, it could be a sign of a bigger self-esteem issue that is holding you back from the love you are seeking.
3. Am I able to practice safe sex with this person?
Even with all of the education we have in this day and age about STDs, to say nothing of pregnancy, unprotected sex is still the norm for many.
If you are about to engage in sex with someone who refuses to use protection, do not do it! This is a no-no even if you are a woman on the pill or some other form of birth control and your risk of pregnancy is low.
On the BET show Being Mary Jane, the title character has a stash of rapid at-home STD testing kits. She has any new sex partner take the tests before sex. And they still use condoms. Talk about being able to articulate your boundaries!
You don't have to have an at-home pharmacy if you don't want to, but at a bare minimum you should use condoms with any casual sex partners. Talk to your doctor about appropriate birth control options for you.
Love yourself enough to not succumb to pressure - anyone who is pressuring you to have unprotected sex does not respect you (or themselves) enough to be worthy of sleeping with you.
4. Am I actively dating people who share my relationship goals?
We often focus on the physical risks of sexual activity, but the emotional risks are just as high. For one, if you are using casual partners as a way to feel less lonely or to compensate for the intimacy you are seeking, there is a high likelihood you're holding yourself back.
It is a leap of faith to believe that you can have the love you are seeking. Using casual partners as a crutch is a signal to your unconscious self and to the universe that you are willing to settle for less. If you're willing to settle for less, that's usually what you get.
If you are continually getting involved with people with whom a long-term relationship is not a possibility, you are in a pattern that is not going to lead to the relationship you want. This is one of the biggest hazards of casual sex. It can be a sign your actions are out of alignment with your true desires.
I have no moral objections to consenting adults having as much sex as they like with whomever they choose. However, as a love coach, I work with many singles whose sex lives are in direct conflict with the relationship they're looking for. Nine times out of ten, my clients and I uncover multiple ways in which they're sabotaging themselves with casual sex.
Of course there are no guarantees in romance. Casual sex is not the only pitfall. We all know that not all committed relationships work out, either. But without that commitment -- that mutual desire to try to make it last -- you are taking an even bigger chance with your happiness.
I want to live in a world where everyone who wants a committed, loving relationship has just that. When it comes to your sexual choices, be sure you are taking good care of your body, your heart and your soul!
Francesca is a love and lifestyle coach for singles. You can catch her as a regular expert guest on NBC's The Today Show, and on The Hoda Show on SiriusXM's Today Show Radio channel. Get more dating advice, and even book a free session at www.francescahogi.com!