As a Portland relationship counselor, I like to try to keep an eye on the ever-evolving world of dating and relationships, and I know that it’s common today for people to rush and fall into situations without thinking too much about them.

Instead of dating, people “hook up” and dive into the meatier parts of the relationship before they really have time to decide whether it’s a good idea or not. I’m talking, of course, about having sex too soon, and why—from a completely scientific point of view—it’s often better to wait.

Portland Relationship Counselor: This is Your Brain on Sex

You’ve likely heard people say that men and women react to sex differently and been told that waiting is better, but most people who make that argument take a moralistic stand. It’s “wrong” to have sex outside of marriage or to do it too soon—before you’re sure that you love the other person.

Those are valid opinions for people to have but it’s just as reasonable to decide that path isn’t right for you. However, there are other reasons not to have sex too soon into a new relationship that have nothing to do with your morals or beliefs, and ignoring them can cause relationship issues and, eventually marriage problems if you manage to stay together.

When we engage in sexual intimacy with another person, something happens to the chemicals in our brains—and just like you’ve always been told, men and women really do react differently. The chemicals that affect men after sex make them want to panic and pull away lest they become too entangled. In contrast, women are flooded with chemicals that cause them to become more emotionally attached to their partner and have unrealistic expectations about what the act means in terms of their long term prospects with the person.

Portland Relationship Counselor: Sex Too Early Confuses Everything

Basically, the point is that the chemicals triggered by sex confuse us. They make us feel things in the extreme—sometimes even things that may not even be real without the rush of chemicals brought on by the act.

The manufactured closeness of sex can drive people apart or pull them closer together, and neither decision is necessarily the right one if you’re at the beginning of a relationship. Instead of being forced to get to know each other through more traditional means, you have a strong level of physical intimacy that can mask how far apart you are in other ways.

If you do stay together, this can cause marriage problems down the road since you never really got to know your partner the way you should have. That doesn’t mean you have to break up but couples who simply can’t get over their differences may wish to work with a professional in Portland relationship counseling.