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3 Tips for a First-Time Sexual Encounter With a New Partner

Disclosing information and focusing on pleasure.

Key points

  • Sex with a new partner can be confusing and uncomfortable, particularly when partners may want sex for different reasons.
  • Given that, partners can get fearful, angry, or sad about a first sexual experience—especially when they are looking for love and commitment.
  • Thus, the best sex happens when partners discuss their sexual motivations and agree on their relationship status, before having sex.

As I discussed in a previous article, people are motivated to have sex for a number of reasons. Nevertheless, those reasons tend to fall within two basic categories. On one hand, individuals with a long-term commitment focus may only want to have sex with someone who they know really loves and cares about them. On the other hand, individuals with a short-term focus might just want to hook-up and share a pleasurable sexual experience with a friend-with-benefits.

Even so, it is less clear how these different motivations actually lead to sexual interactions between partners—especially for the first time. How do they match up? What do new partners say (or avoid saying) to each other? What is the overall sexual experience like for them? To provide further guidance on those points, I took another look at the social science research...

Research on First Sexual Encounters Between Partners

I found an article by Theiss and Solomon (2007), evaluating how different motivations and communication patterns impacted the experience of a first sexual encounter between two new lovers. The researchers asked participants to remember the first time they had sex with their most recent partner. To give a general overview of that experience, participants were then instructed to report their goals and motivations for having sex, as well as how they felt about having sex afterwards.

The initial responses of participants generally matched the two categories of sexual motivation noted by other research. Specifically, some participants reported wanting to feel cared about and believed in establishing a loving connection before having sex. Other participants were more focused on experiencing pleasure and nurturing their partner instead. Beyond that, Theiss and Solomon (2007) also found significant connections between those motivational differences and how partners felt about their sexual experience as well. Curiously, they noted that participants who were motivated by love and care were more likely to feel negative emotions after a first sexual experience, especially fear, anger, and sadness. In contrast, those looking to give and receive pleasure only were more likely to feel positive emotions after sex, particularly happiness and calmness.

Exploring those initial findings further, Theiss and Solomon (2007) found that two additional factors impacted the feelings of participants after sex—their level of communication with the partner before sex and the status of their relationship together. Essentially, all participants had a more positive experience when they clearly communicated their feelings about sex and goals for the relationship with their partner before having sex. In addition, participants who had a more significant relationship status, and who maintained or increased that status, also reported a more positive sexual experience.

Taken together then, the sexual goals and motivations of participants interacted with their level of communication and commitment in the relationship, which shaped how they felt about the first sexual encounter. In other words, when partners were unclear about each other's motivations, were having sex for different reasons, or were not secure in the status of their relationship, they were more likely to feel fearful, angry, or sad about the sexual experience. This was especially true when participants were looking for love, because that goal required a higher level of communication and commitment to satisfy.

Creating an Enjoyable First Sexual Encounter

Given those findings, we can see that partners who have the best first sexual encounters tend to communicate more and make sure they both want the same things from the experience. They are also secure in the status of the relationship with each other. As a result, they are emotionally comfortable and able to fully enjoy the experience with each other, knowing that they will get what they want. Thus, to create the best first sexual encounter with a new lover, it is important to focus on the following points:

1) Share Your Motivations. What is the motivation for both you and your partner to have sex? Are you looking for a loving relationship, or just sexual pleasure? Do you both want the same thing? Remember, only some people enjoy hooking-up, while others are looking for more love and commitment. Therefore, making the effort to have a honest conversation before sex is often easier than dealing with any negative feelings that can arise during sex and afterward (especially when partners do not have the same sexual motivations). So, be sure to talk with your partner about whether you both are interested in long-term plans or just a one-night stand. Using the right words to spark romance can help that discussion go smoothly. Beyond that, if you are nervous, try focusing on being curious about your partner. Remember too, self-disclosure makes a partner more likeable anyway. Thus, whether you ultimately agree on having sex for love or pleasure, talking ahead of time will increase the intimacy and decrease the worry, helping you both relax and enjoy yourselves.

2) Discuss The Relationship Status. While it may be tempting to just 'slide' into having sex without discussing the relationship, the awkwardness that results from leaving things 'undefined' can ruin the sexual experience too. That does not necessarily mean that every new partner will require a serious commitment. Nevertheless, all sexual experiences with a new partner can benefit from you both at least taking the time to build a caring connection with each other. From there, yes, some partners may indeed be ready for a deeper commitment and want the relationship to feel sacred or special for you both too. In any case, openly discussing and agreeing on the relationship status will build trust and help you both focus on having a satisfying sexual experience with each other.

3) Focus on Pleasure. After clearly communicating, even those looking for love will be able to relax and focus on pleasure too. Therefore, you will both be able to enjoy each other and find ways to make the sex itself more satisfying. This can include making things more emotionally rewarding, by sharing enthusiasm and affection with each other during the experience. It can also include focusing on the physically rewarding aspects of the experience, particularly kissing and touching each other. Beyond that, with the increased intimacy and trust, you might even begin to be able to share some of your fantasies and fetishes with each other too. Overall then, the comfort and intimacy created by honestly talking ahead of time makes for the best sex with a new lover—no matter whether you agree on simply being friends-with-benefits or working on a long-term loving relationship.

© Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D.


Theiss, J. A., & Solomon, D. H. (2007). Communication and the emotional, cognitive, and relational consequences of first sexual encounters between partners. Communication Quarterly, 55(2), 179-206.

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