I Did It On The First Date!

Oops—you hit the sheets before you learned your date’s middle name? Here’s how to recover and forge a relationship.

By Adrian Brune

ast spring, after trading a few emails with a new woman online, Alex, a Brooklyn-based lesbian, met the woman for a happy-hour drink. Alex figured she would find her date, a successful writer and marketing manager, cute. What she didn’t anticipate was waking up in bed the next morning after a wild night. Welcome to that awkward space of figuring out how to date after sleeping together on the first one.

Can you segue to a solid relationship?
First-date sleepovers don’t have to wind up one-night stands. In fact, many
First-date sleepovers don’t have to wind up one-night stands.
successful relationships have launched after a first-night tryst. “We just jumped right in,” says Melissa, a lawyer from Boston, of her now-wife, Jessica.

“Having sex with someone on the first date doesn’t necessarily ruin your chances at a real relationship,” agrees Linda Anderson, a Yale-affiliated counselor with a private practice in New Haven. But you do need to take three crucial steps to get your bond back on track.

Step One: Be Honest
If the person still seems interested after you sleep together (that is, doesn’t say, “Omigod, what was I thinking!”), it’s tempting to just not address the hookup and see where things go, right? Wrong. The truth is, if you got busy that soon, your partner very well may think that you’re fine with a no-strings situation… unless you tell him or her otherwise.

“Continuing to sleep with someone backfires,” Anderson says, if you don’t talk about it. “If the sex is good, we think we have a ‘relationship’ with that person. Only later do we realize we don’t know the other person at all, and we are faced with a mess.” It's especially painful when you expect a bond to grow, only to discover down the line that your partner thought of it as a hookup-only arrangement.

Don’t launch a huge “Where are we going?” conversation after just one date—even if you’re both looking for a relationship, that can seem like jumping the gun. There are more casual ways to convey that you’re not looking for an instant replay of your intimate encounter. Whether it’s the next morning, in response to a late-night text message the next week, or just an email you send, address what happened and offer a follow-up idea that’s more your speed. “Wow, that was fun, but not my usual M.O. How would you feel about dinner next week—clothes on this time?” If your date is interested in exploring a relationship beyond the bedroom, he or she will say so.

Step Two: Avoid Erotic Zones
Yes, you’re attracted to the person—if you weren’t, you wouldn’t have slept
“If you’re willing to cool it, you’ll get to know one another better.”
together already. But if it’s a relationship you’re looking for, it’s best to wait a few dates before hitting the sheets again. “It can be very difficult to backtrack, especially if the first-date sex was hot and exciting,” says Anderson. “But if you’re willing to cool it, you’ll get to know one another better.”

The topic of applying the booty brakes to a new relationship isn’t always the most comfortable conversation, but once you’ve made it through, your real potential to be a couple will be revealed. James, a gay man from Kentucky, found this out when he came out of his date’s bathroom naked on their second date, expecting it would be as sexually successful as the first, only to find out that his date had another approach in mind. “He just said he wanted to hold off on the sex for a few weeks,” Searing says. “He wanted to get to know me.” Once that awkward moment was over, the relationship lasted three non-awkward years.

Avoid the temptation to land in bed again by forgoing the nightcap at your date’s place. Keeping things PG-rated is easier to do when you’re in public. If you do find yourself in a hot-and-heavy danger zone, simply take your date’s hands, move them back to neutral territory, and say something like, “This is so hot, but I’d like to wait to do this again until I know you better.” Then make as graceful an exit as you can before you get too turned-on to resist again.

Step Three: Find Real Intimacy
Truly getting to know the person better takes more than just staying out of bed, says Anderson. Choose dates where you can actually talk (dinner over a loud concert, mini-golf over a movie). And be creative with your encounters. Breaking out of cookie-cutter date scenarios will let you see how the person really acts, not just when they’re on small-talk autopilot. The sooner you get to know your date as a person, the stronger your connection will be when and if you decide to bed back down again.

Freelance writer Adrian Brune has contributed to The Hartford Courant, The Nation, The Chicago Tribune, and The Boston Globe, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.
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