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Spring mating rituals -The sex rule

How many dates are you supposed to have before you have sex with someone? Sound like a question an adolescent might ask or a teasing ploy for reeling in a mate? The fact is that many intelligent single-adults are asking how long they should wait before they get physically intimate with their dates.

Philippa Courtney, advice columnist and author of 4 Steps to bring the Right Person into your life Right Now! says dating rules don't work because everyone and every circumstance is different. "Beyond health, morality, and religious reasons, we want rules about premarital sex because we know that sex has the power to change a relationship and we want to protect ourselves," she says.

Courtney offers these tips to help single adults make the when-to-get-intimate decision:

Don't shop when you're hungry.

Decide before you're dating why it is you want sexual intimacy with someone and avoid the morning after regrets that can result from lust at first sight.

Be clear about your intentions.

Be honest with yourself and seek out someone with the same needs. Whether that's for a fun fling, waiting until you're married, or waiting until you feel secure that you're both headed in the same direction.

Don't use sex as a bargaining chip.

There is nothing wrong with wanting a level of commitment before sharing sexual intimacy. But sex should never be used to gain that commitment.

Try talking.

Sex is not the only way we can get closer to someone. Balanced relationships develop intimacy through many sources, like communication and sharing support, not just the physical.

Trust your instincts.

Listen to your heart and keep in touch with your feelings and you won't need rules to tell you how many dates you need to have before you should have sex. You'll know when it's right for you.

Focus on what you want -- not what might go wrong.

Stop worrying about what the other person might think of you. Clear your mind of performance or respect concerns and focus on how you want to feel with someone.

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