This research by a team at Cornell University, New York, found couples benefited from taking things slowly, as they learnt exactly how compatible they were and also when they did eventually have sex, it was better because of the wait.
“A strong sexual desire may thwart the development of other key ingredients of a healthy relationship such as commitment, mutual understanding or shared values,” the authors of the study advise.
“Good sex is sometimes confused with love; some couples overlook problematic aspects of their relationship that ultimately matter more in the long run.’’
However, despite these findings, it also appears some women over 30 could be more likely to have sex on the first date, than any other age group.
According to British website DateWithaMate.com, 34% of women aged 30 and over, who took their survey, would sleep with their partner on the first date, compared to 14% of women aged 20 to 23, and 12% of 24 to 29-year-olds.
So are single women over 30 ruining their chances of finding happiness within a longterm relationship by jumping into bed too soon? David Kavanagh, a couples counsellor who runs the Avalon pre-marriage courses, believes this could be the case.
“I do think people make the mistake of thinking sex early on in a relationship is a positive thing as it shows there is chemistry. But often what you will find is that you will then go out for dinner and it is very uncomfortable and awkward. You then feel strange even holding hands, yet you have had a very intimate relationship with that person,’’ he says.
So when should you have sex with a new partner? “Only when you both feel that it is a loving expression of your relationship, then and only then should you think about having sex,” says Kavanagh.
However, Kavanagh is not surprised that women in their 30s are more likely to have sex on the first date — he believes it illustrates their sexual confidence and assertiveness. “Women in their early 20s don’t need to have sex to experience their sexual power. They can have sexual power over a man just by being well-dressed, looking good and knowing that men find them attractive.
“But when you are in your 30s, a woman might be thinking, ‘I am not as attractive as a 21-year-old, but look I still have got it’, and maybe by having sex that is a reinforcement of their sexual power,’’ he says.
Dr Ronni Greenwood, a social psychologist lecturer at the University of Limerick, agrees, adding that as women age, they start to become ‘invisible’ which can also bring a certain freedom.
“The gaze is on the younger women and not on you anymore, but our confidence levels change,’’ says Greenwood. “Even though we are more beautiful and youthful at 25 rather than 35, we now know who we are, what we want, what pleases us and how to go and get it.’’
Perhaps not surprisingly, the decline of the Catholic Church’s influence over our sex lives and the availability of contraception have also impacted women’s lives. “It is not that long ago that contraception was illegal in Ireland, so a lot of things have moved forward very, very fast,’’ says Greenwood.
Teresa Bergin, a sex therapist at Mind and Body Works in Dublin, says women need to feel free and comfortable’ to make their own choices in their relationship whatever their age. “Women are educating themselves about their own health and sexuality. They are doing their internet research and probably feel freer to make decisions themselves and healthier choices without being influenced by any particular body, like the Catholic church,’’ she says.
Although Bergin stresses there is nothing wrong with having sex on the first date, she hopes women are not being pressurised into it. “I think it is very important for women to speak their minds and say what they want and don’t want.
“They should be honest and not get caught up in what the partner wants, but to be assertive about their own needs. I think women are better at doing that now, than they might have been historically,’’ she says.
“Sex is better if it is done in an intimate, caring relationship. The more you get to know somebody, the better the sex will be.’’
It’s all very well to consider when it’s best to start having sex but for women in their 30s the problem can be meeting a man in the first place.
Bill Phelan, co-founder of the dating agency Two’s Company, says that the over-30s age group is the fastest growing at his agency and he believes the women are joining because they are fed-up with the pub/club dating scene.
He always tells couples to wait, as sex on a first date is “not at all conducive” to a long-term relationship.
“The problem with sex too early in a relationship is it changes the dynamic and the emotional balance in the relationship. The reality of life is unless you are friends, you will not have longevity. It won’t happen and it can’t happen.
“You can have lust on first sight, and that does happen, but a relationship based on sexual attraction will burn out very quickly, unless you are friends too,’’ he says.
Instead, Phelan advises couples to wait until they are really comfortable with each other and there is a strong element of trust. “This could take weeks or even months, before having sex,” he says. “One of the complaints we get from women about meeting men out at night is that they are only interested in a three-hour relationship, not a long term one.
“So when they come to us they know the men we would introduce them to are open and available for a longterm relationship which would certainly for women in their 30s include marriage and children,’’ he says.
Kavanagh, however, disagrees, claiming it is a myth to say that most men are only interested in a one-night stand.
“I have surveyed a lot of men and 75% of them said they were more interested in a long-term relationship than immediate gratification and the size of her cleavage. I think it is a myth to say that men are only interested in having sex immediately they meet a woman,’’ he argues.
Instead, Kavanagh suggests men and women should relax and not be too judgmental about each other.
“My advice to women is don’t give yourself a hard time, life is tough enough. If you meet someone and have sex that night or later on in the relationship, wonderful. Life is too short, so relax,’’ he says.