Is the “Three-Date Rule” Extinct?

Women's Dating

Is the “Three-Date Rule” Extinct?

Dr. Wendy Walsh
Dr. Wendy Walsh Updated:

Remember the ‘80s? Shoulder pads, Duran Duran and the rule if you went on a third date with someone, sex was expected? That cultural trend saturated the 20-something generation during that decade. It was almost spoken as gospel.

Where is the three-date rule today?

Are we even more liberal?

One might think if American culture has continued to become more open, then the three-date rule might now be the first-date rule. It is, but only with a small minority of daters.

Instead, by becoming even more sexually liberal, our culture is more accepting of a wider range of sexual attitudes and behaviors.

Yes, the three-date rule is clearly extinct, but it has been replaced with a range of sexual startups.

Some people are proudly retaining their virginity well into their 20s, others have sex only when they have an emotional connection and trust, and others prefer a commitment of exclusivity before having sex. And plenty of people have sex on the first, second or third date.

What’s more important than any cultural standard is the meaning of our sexual attitudes.

Are we behaving in a way that clearly comes from inside us, or are we parroting our peer group or a sexualized media? And do our sexual strategies match our goals?


“Growing a committed relationship

must be done with a very slow cooker.”

Research is pretty clear.

The longer one delays the onset of sexual activity in a relationship, the more positive the relationship outcome.

The reason is this: The skills one needs to have a short-term relationship are very different from the skills one needs for a long-term relationship.

For a short-term relationship, partners must be hot, fun and flexible. For a long-term relationship, partners need conflict resolution skills, communication skills and compassion.

Growing a sustainable, committed relationship that moves through the necessary stages of sexual attraction, romantic love, intellectual commitment and mature companion love must be done with a very slow cooker.

Simply put, unwrapping the layers of defenses that protect a vulnerable human psyche and exposing them to a trusted attachment figure takes time. And there is clearly no app for that.

So, is the three-date rule extinct? Only among conscious daters who have a long-term relationship as their ultimate goal.

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