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I'm from a conservative culture, but now I'm living in a culture where having sex within the first few dates is a norm. I have been able to cope with that, because the early non-serious stage of relationship doesn't last long, and the alternatives (being alone or dating religious people) are not an option.

But now I've been in a relationship around 5 months, and having sex. I don't want to end it but talking about getting serious hasn't been easy. I don't want to push him too much, but having sex in this uncertain stage this long is starting to affect my self-worth. I want to stop having sex until he wants it to be serious, or otherwise end the relationship.

By serious I mean being generally committed to each other, making an effort for a future together, not necessarily moving together or getting engaged instantly, but both agreeing that those things will happen at some point. We agreed on being monogamous shortly after starting dating, but for me that doesn't indicate serious commitment since talking about the future has been a little of an issue.

Basically I want to say "no sex before you know if you want to be serious", but how do I say that in a productive way and not seem manipulative? If I appear too accusing, maybe he'll think, "If I agree now, will this become a recurring behavior she uses every time we disagree about something?"

Please note that this is a culture-specific question (from a Nordic country, if that matters) and practices from more conservative cultures may not be applicable. E.g. "nobody thinks that, he simply has to agree" is not a productive way to solve this problem.

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    When you say that you are from a conservative culture but live in a place which is not, and then mention Nordic countries - do you mean that you live in that non-conservative Nordic country (coming from elsewhere), or that the Nordic country is conservative (and this is the place you come from). I am asking that because my limited, French perspective on Nordic countries was that they were quite open on sexual activities (certainly Sweden). It won't help in your question but I am curious, culturally speaking. – WoJ Dec 19 '17 at 14:07
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You are allowed to adjust your intimacy permissions anytime you like in a relationship. A respectful partner will not pressure you on this. If they do, perhaps you're better off in a different relationship.

That said, I think you may have either cultural or personality differences with your partner that may be something you need to really discuss - preferably sooner rather than later. The important thing is to be honest. Relationships really, really are about communication and if you don't feel like you can communicate with your partner after being with them for several months, it's something you need to work on or ask yourself why you don't think you can talk with them.

So, my first recommendation is to talk about yourself. Focus on how you feel and what you want. Follow that up with honest, open questions to your partner to give them a chance to respond. So, based on your question, I recommend something that covers the issues you mention in your question:

  • The way I was raised was pretty conservative and I am starting to have self-esteem issues that I feel are related to my upbringing and our sexual intimacy.
  • I want to have a conversation about our future together before we continue that intimacy. These are the boundaries I'd like to set for the time being. [list boundaries]
  • These are the expectations I have as far as a commitment goes and I want to see what you think about it and if you are willing to agree to this. [list of expectations]
    • Do you have a time frame in mind for living together/getting engaged/getting married/etc?
    • Do you want to have serious discussions about having kids/not having kids?
    • Are you interested in me to the degree that you consider me a potential spouse?
  • I am happy to give you time to think about this if you need it. Can we come back to this in a week/month/whatever?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

You need to be clear and honest and open.

Where the personality differences come in is that, honestly, some people very much live in "the now". I don't know how old you are but when my (now) husband and I had been together for two years or so, I started trying to get an idea of where he saw us in five years and his response was simply something along the lines of "I don't really think that far ahead". We were together for eight years before we got married. After about three years, I told him that I wanted to discuss things like getting married and I gave him four months to think about it and after that time we talked it over (we eventually decided to get married long before we actually got officially engaged because my husband isn't fond of being the center of attention and dreaded having a wedding).

If you give your partner the time to think it over (you don't have to give them four months), and let them know that it is something that is important to you, they should make it a priority because it's something you want not because they're not "getting any" until they do.


So, I recommend that you really consider what you want - and why you want it. I'm not telling you to change your mind on things - the way we're conditioned as children can be extremely difficult to change later in life - if possible at all. You feel the way you feel and that's perfectly valid but I find that, sometimes, doing some internal thinking and really picking apart what you're "trained" to believe and deciding how you actually feel can help you feel more comfortable. If you've done this and you still feel you need to put on the brakes, do it! Don't continue intimacy with someone when it makes you feel bad about yourself. It will taint your relationship beyond repair.

Do you expect to be engaged and married after a year and two years respectively because you think that's enough time or because you think that's the "normal" amount of time?

Where are you in your life - are you working/finished with school? - are you even ready for a "serious" relationship at all, regardless of who it is with?

More and more people are getting married later in life, after longer periods of time as a couple - which I think is amazing. More time together (particularly co-habitating) means more time to really get to know the other person and know that they're good for you and you're good for them.


I wish you the best and I hope that you're able to come to an agreement with your partner!

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  • I would have upvoted just for the first paragraph, but the rest of this answer is totally spot on as well. I'm a relationship that was just the opposite. We were "serious" about our relationship only a few months into it, knew we were going to get married after less than a year, got engaged after less than two years, and married after about two and a half years (basically once we graduated college and had time to set up the wedding). But either way this advice is exactly right. Be honest and open, and have important conversations as soon as you feel comfortable doing so – Kevin Wells Apr 14 at 18:34
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As for stopping sex. You have every right to not have sex. At any time. This is no questions asked. So in the following discussion, please do not construe that I am advocating you continue to have sex, I am not, I'm evaluating the situation.

I'm approaching this wholistically to begin with.

Society and sex

The "sexual revolution" did a lot of good in helping to establish equality between the sexes, between sexual preferences and many issues surrounding sexuality. This statement is made with the caveat, that there is a long way to go, but this is coming from the state of the 1950s, it where so much was hidden or else a much larger group of people were branded and socially stigmatised than they are today.

One of the drawbacks of the morality surrounding sex is becoming looser, is that this has a tendency to be coupled with devaluing the intimate nature of it and the value of waiting. The pressure and expectation, in many cultures, for engaging in sexual intercourse are now quite low, as you say a few dates. This does make it difficult when trying to set a standard outside the norm.

For the sexual revolution to have really made headway, then people should not feel they have to have sex early in a relationship to be able to date. This is in many ways as bad as people being demonised for having sex before some societal constraint deems it to be ok (e.g. marriage).

Dating and sex

In terms of dating, per se, it is helpful to know why you are dating.

the alternatives (being alone or dating religious people) are not an option.

These do not sound like the most positive reasons for having sex early in a relationship. Although I'm sure that there's many, many people who do just that. Some good reasons to have sex are:

You want to.
You enjoy it.
To relieve sexual frustration.
You like the person and want to be close to them.

Some not so good reasons:

You feel obliged.
To gain something else from it.

So what are you expecting to get out of dating? To prevent loneliness, the company, the social aspect? Are you trying to find a long term partner?

If you are wanting a long term partner, there is no harm in waiting to have sex, as this may assist in weeding out potential partners. If someone doesn't want to hang around more than a few dates without sex, then they are more interested in having sex than getting to know you. So that's one easy fix in finding a suitable partner.

Now to get to your problem.
The issues with deciding to stop having sex

Step 1 - Monogamy

A 5 month relationship is not long in terms of knowing and making decisions about the future. The most basic and first step towards making a commitment is the agreement for monogamy. That is saying, I care about you and this relationship enough, that I am not needing or wanting to find this intimacy with anyone else, I only want it with you.

However:

I don't want to end it but talking about getting serious hasn't been easy.

.../...

By serious I mean being generally committed to each other, making an effort for a future together, not necessarily moving together or getting engaged instantly, but both agreeing that those things will happen at some point.

After 5 months, this is usually too early for most people. After 12 months, it's reasonable to apply pressure if it hasn't been brought up. It's helpful to play or tease at taking it to the next level. Usually this would begin with divulging each other's feelings. Saying "I love you", admitting that you're in love with the other person.

If this guy is right for you, then allowing the relationship to develop is important, in terms of evolving into a more committed relationship with discussions about the future.

Self-Worth

having sex in this uncertain stage this long is starting to affect my self-worth.

If the sexual relationship is eroding your self worth, then you need to ask yourself why. Are you feeling used? Is it something about your partner or is this to do with your conservative upbringing? It's vital for you to establish this. Because if it's your partner, then you need to also question whether he is right for you sex or no sex. Many relationships will continue out of convenience and the regular sex being a part of that convenience. So you are right to be concerned.

Will stopping sex help the relationship?

If someone truly loves you and wants you in their life, stopping sex should not cause you to lose them. I can say this from experience (in both directions). However, this is still early days and it takes time to develop trust and for him to really know what your motives are.

It will be difficult for your partner and this is something that you'll both need to navigate. Acknowledge it will be difficult. Explain how it's affecting your self worth. This is a huge issue for you. Explain your background to him, as you have done with us.

Ultimatum

how do I say that in a productive way and not seem manipulative?

You cannot stop your partner from feeling like you're giving him an ultimatum, as you are doing that. The best thing you can do is acknowledge just that, so it's not construed as a manipulative ploy.

Acknowledging his perspective and feelings about this decision, while conveying yours. Show him that you understand that it will be difficult for him. If he's still determined to take it that way, after your best efforts, there's not much you can do.

If I appear too accusing, maybe he'll think, "If I agree now, will this become a recurring behavior she uses every time we disagree about something

This is something that may pop into his head and these are things that are difficult to navigate, as his fears can only really be allayed with time and experience, that it indeed hasn't happened again. This is where relationships take time to develop trust to for people to feel comfortable to explore the possibilities of a future together.

Advice moving forward

Do not have sex with anyone unless you really want to, whether it is with this person or anyone else. That is your basic right.

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Even in more liberal countries it isn't uncommon to set physical/sexual boundaries on a relationship. Just be clear about what your boundaries are when the topic is brought up.

Telling a partner that you're not comfortable getting physical outside of a serious relationship is completely reasonable. Regardless of the culture, it's your body and your choice.

It may appear from the outside that people have some specific amount of time or number of dates before sex is expected or required, but I don't think that's the case at all. Some jump in pretty readily, while others wait till they're comfortable and their isn't anything wrong with either approach. It's just a matter of finding a partner who respects you and is comfortable with your approach.

As far as wording goes, something as simple as:

"I would rather get to know you and see where this is going before things get physical."

Or if things have already gotten physical, and you're not comfortable:

"Things are moving a little faster than I'd like. I think we should calm down on the physical part of our relationship until we know where this is going."

Either way, stick to your convictions. It's your choice, and a good partner should respect that.

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Your real question is about commitment.

And commitment is only real when it comes from both sides.
Wanting to tie it down after almost half a year is sensible. It also ties in with you attitude about a relationship and what you feel it should mean.

This is not about applying pressure - at all!
This is about you two defining your relationship. You are ready to commit and look to the future. Good for you! But now comes the hard part. Is you other half in the same boat?

Have that talk!
It definitely is time to sit down. You'll have to open up about how you feel. Ask whether he is in the same stage. He may need more time to think. He may want to keep it casual. But he also may want to take it to the net stage as well.

You will need to know where he stands. Honesty will require courage. For that matter, sharing your life requires honesty and courage every day.

Be warned this may go either way. Good luck! In the sense that you find truth.

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