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What a Better Marriage? Stop Touching


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Love

If you’re single and searching for Mr. Right, touching too soon can break your budding romance.

If you’re married or in a committed relationship, touch is vital to your connection. Kissing, holding hands, caressing, and sex bind you and deepen your emotional connection.

But if you’re single and searching for Mr. Right, touching can break your budding romance. Casey can tell you all about that. She’s 32 years old, and a single mom. Recently she met Brandon, 29 years old and cute as heck. Here’s what happened, in her words.

“I started dating this cute guy. The first date was awesome and fun; he spent all week texting and calling. We also went on a second date in the middle of the week because he couldn’t wait to see me. We went out Saturday and had sex and now the texts and the calls are limited. Is that it?”

Before you jump to judgment about Casey, stop and think. When was the last time you saw a move with a romantic storyline in which the couple did NOT have sex on the first date? I’m talking about movies made within the last ten years. Right – me, too. I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie featuring a couple getting to know each other without sex, over a long period of time. Let’s face it – that kind of story is not particularly exciting or dramatic, so don’t hold your breath waiting for Hollywood to give us those kinds of role models.

It’s no surprise that Casey is surprised about the demise of her latest relationship. I don’t see the role modeling in the media for waiting to have sex, let alone for putting off touch. Studies show that both men and women tend to model their dating habits after the information they glean from popular media. But new studies are revealing what we’ve known intuitively for ages: the sooner you touch and the sooner you have sex, the less likely you are to have a good marriage with your partner. That’s assuming that the relationship you accelerated into the bedroom even makes it to marriage. Most of them don’t.

One study, published in the August edition of The Journal of Family and Marriage, looked at couples who are married or live together. Their finding: that women who dated for at least six months before jumping into bed reported higher levels of satisfaction, commitment, and sexual satisfaction in their relationships.

Why is the timing of touch such a critical factor in relationship satisfaction? Because when couples begin touching, intimately and romantically, it sets off a powerful neurological and physiological chain reaction. That’s fancy verbiage for “chemistry.” If you have chemistry with someone, and you start touching them and being touched, it’s almost impossible to prevent your body from reacting to the urge to have sex. In fact, the only sure-fire way to avoid “sex too soon” is to stay in public venues for dates and limit alcohol consumption. But why, you might ask, would you want to avoid touching and having sex with someone you’re attracted to, especially when it feels so good?

If you really want an answer to that, go down to your local courthouse and interview people coming out of divorce court. Ask at least ten people these two questions: 1. Were you sexually attracted to your partner when you dated? If the answer is “yes,” go to: 2. If you knew then what you know now about this person, would you have married him or her? The answers to those questions tell the story: It’s easy to fall in love! You can be powerfully sexually attracted to, and deeply in love, with someone whom you later discover you do not like, respect, or share values with. Here’s why.

The process of falling in love has almost nothing to do with the process of assessing compatibility (including issues such as character). Natalie’s story shows how confusing the two can lead to life-altering mistakes. Natalie is 39 and now a single mom of three children under the age of five. Before she met her current husband, Natalie tattooed the name of her boyfriend Adrian on her upper arm. That’s how sure she was that she would be with him forever, even though they knew each other only a week before moving in together. They broke up nine months later.

Three months after that, Natalie met Lucas, and not having learned her lesson about impulsivity, married him after only six weeks of dating, then promptly got pregnant. Six years and three children later, they are divorcing after the fourth time one of their arguments turned physical. “He threw me on the ground, pinned me down, and screamed at me. I knew then that I couldn’t stay married to him,” said Natalie. In addition to their inability to discuss their issues without an escalation, it turns out they were incompatible in multiple ways, most of which Natalie might have discovered if she had dated Lucas longer.

Would it surprise you to know that Natalie is highly educated? She’s completing a graduate degree even as this story is being written. She’s highly intelligent, which shows how powerful touch can be, bypassing intellectual processes that might have warned her that she was making a mistake. Yes, she had sex with Lucas within the first two weeks of their relationship. And yes, like most women, the choosing was over for her at that point. And that’s the problem.

Most women don’t want to wake up the next morning after having sex with someone to whom they are strongly attracted and acknowledge that it was just sex. The drive to mate is powerful for women, and the bonding that occurs with sex seals the decision. He’s now her boyfriend, with all the unspoken commitment that is wrapped up in that, even though she barely knows him. If he’s a good guy with her best interest at heart, it might work out, although most likely it won’t. Men tend to fall in love with women they have to pursue. A “done deal” on the first, second, or third date isn’t motivating to him, so even if he’s a good guy, the odds are he will move on to a relationship that presents a greater challenge.

Really great relationships are chosen on multiple levels: emotionally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually. By far the weakest of the four choice-makers is the intellectual. The science of the brain tells us that when we make important decisions that impact our lives, we first make them emotionally, and then we explain them logically. In dating relationships, putting off touch and sex empowers the intellectual choice-maker to do its work first, rather than the other way around.

So if you want a great marriage down the road, stop touching – for a while. One researcher at the University of Ottowa, Dr. Martin Rovers, advises putting off touch for three months. I advise putting off sex for three to six months. How do you accomplish that? When he asks you out and offers to pick you up at your home, counter offer to meet him at a public venue. When he invites you over for a home-cooked meal at his place, counter offer a picnic date to which you both contribute food. Meet him at that venue. Minimize alcohol. Keep up that pattern for as long as you have intellectually decided you will avoid sex. Use the time to interview him, asking questions about his past relationships.

And here’s a novel idea: communicate. Tell him that your first priority is getting to know each other really well, minus sex. Tell him that your goal is a committed relationship leading to marriage with the right guy; don’t know if that is you at this point, but that’s why we’re dating. The players will scram and the serious, good guys will view you with increased respect and desire. Try it out for a few months and see what happens.

About the author: Nina Atwood, M.Ed., LPC, is a nationally known psychotherapist, author of five self-help books, and frequent expert media guest. Read the transformational book that will change your life and your relationships with men: Temptations of the Single Girl: The Ten Dating Traps You Must Avoid. To successfully date online, get Nina's $0.99 eBook Internet Dating for the Savvy Single. Learn how to communicate effectively with your mate with Soul Talk: Powerful, Positive Communication for a Loving Partnership. Get loads of free advice and Love Strategies at www.singlescoach.com.

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