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The New Relationship Timeline

Cosmo taps experts and dating veterans for advice on how to have timing that's just right.

Back when dating with chaperones was the norm, couples lived by the strict “the more you wait, the more you love” time frame. Fortunately, times have changed—but that doesn’t mean we’re now better at deciding when the right time is to do anything in a relationship. Many women conduct a poll among their friends to ask, “Sasagutin ko na ba s’ya?” and many men, over beer with their buddies, ask, “Aamin na ba ako?” 

Though we’d all like to take action when our hearts tell us to, there are instances when the things we do or don’t do kill the relationship’s momentum. Even irreverent sex columnists Emma Taylor and Lorelei Sharkey, authors of Nerve’s Guide to Sex Etiquette, agree that, for every generation, there is some sort of relationship timeline one must follow, “with some exceptions to the rules.”

Cosmo asks fearless women and more than a few good men to weigh in on how fast or how slow they think a relationship should go. We also surveyed some feisty Cosmo chicks who agree on certain time frames in today’s dating world. May this help you decide on the timing that’s perfect for your own relationship.

WHEN IS THE FIRST DATE? 
2 WEEKS

Cosmo Chick  Consensus:

“After meeting an interesting potential partner, you don’t have to wait too long to date [him or her]. This is one of the few instances where you can speed things up,” says marital counselor Maribel Sison Dionisio, who co-authored I’ve Been Dating…Now What? with Mike H. Asis, PhD, of the Ateneo de Manila University’s Theology department. “You should enjoy dating as many people as you want. If he or she is someone you just met and you have some apprehensions, then make your first date a group date.”  

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But, no matter how much you’re into someone, Dr. Kate M. Wachs, a psychologist specializing in matchmaking and author of Relationships for Dummies, cautions: “Don’t jump into bed on the first date. Lurching full speed ahead in lust mode is one of the more common mistakes—becoming sexually intimate too soon.”

WHEN DO YOU GET COMFY?  
6 WEEKS

Cosmo Chick Consensus:

By the time you’ve dated a person for more than four times, you should be comfortable enough to let him or her see you wearing your favorite pambahay getup. 

“It’s not realistic if you present a perfect image of yourself all the time,” states Vim Nadera, clinical psychologist. As Mia, 26, a graphic designer states: “To test his sincerity, I’d show him ‘the real me’ after a few weeks. If he can take me looking like hell, then he’s definitely got a chance at winning my heart.” 

“This move elevates your budding relationship to the next level—specifically the ‘experimenting stage,’ when a [couple] attempts to reduce their uncertainty about one another,” explain communications experts Mark Knapp and Anita Vangelisti in Interpersonal Communication and Human Relationships.

WHEN IS THE FIRST KISS?  
2 MONTHS

Cosmo Chick Consensus:

Kissing on the first date is fine—as long as it’s a kiss on the cheek or a smack on the lips,” Taylor and Sharkey say. “No tongue, please.” Kelly, 23, an interior decorator, agrees: “I want to wait before French kissing someone. For me, that kind of kiss is already so intimate.”

WHEN DO YOU BECOME A COUPLE?  
3 MONTHS

 Cosmo Chick Consensus:

“You can become committed to someone in a span of six weeks,” states Wesson. This is especially true for people who are in their late 20s or older.

“After a couple of months, you can make the relationship official,” estimates law student Ira Pozon, 27. “You shouldn’t play games. By this time you’re already done [putting] on ‘masks.’  A relationship would have little chance of going the distance if it’s weighed down by those ‘Bakit dati ganun ka pero ngayon ganyan ka na?’ arguments as it progresses.” 

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“Two to three months is enough time for you to decide to be an exclusive couple,” says Sheila, 28, a project manager. “But it could happen just like that,” Cosmo hunk Alfred Vargas claims. “If the feeling is mutual, then there’s no need to procrastinate. Love should always be the determining factor of every move you make.”

WHEN DO YOU MEET EACH OTHER’S FRIENDS?            
3  MONTHS

Cosmo Chick  Consensus:

“You can introduce your prospective boyfriend or girlfriend right away,” Dionisio encourages. “Your friends may point out certain things that you can’t see because you’re already so attracted to this person.”

“Introduce the guy to your group after you’ve already gone on several solo dates with him. This way, with the help of your friends, you can check if your own assessment of him is accurate,” says TV personality Miriam Quiambao.

Nadera likewise advises to hold off on introductions. “You could wait until you’ve been a couple for six months before you formally introduce your partner to your friend,” he says. “It’s best to do it when you’re already a solid couple. Dealing with your respective friends’ initial impressions of you and your guy could only place unnecessary strain on the relationship,” agrees actress-turned-psychologist Tetchie Agbayani, 46.

WHEN IS IT OKAY TO DISCUSS THE EX?    
4 MONTHS

Cosmo Chick  Consensus:

“I talk about my exes on first dates. I tell my dates exactly what happened,” reveals, Grace, 26, a stylist. “Maybe that’s why I haven’t ever gotten asked out for a second date.”

And, indeed, Grace’s analogy is swak-na-swak. “When individuals first meet, they discuss relatively innocuous things [such as the weather or their job]. They don’t discuss highly-charged personal matters such as their fears, anxieties, or fantasies,” declare social psychologists Charles Berger and Richard Calabrese in Toward a Developmental Theory of Interpersonal Communication.

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“It’s okay for you to talk about your ex on the first date,” Quiambao counsels those who want to get the ex talk out of the way early on. “But don’t spill too many details. Just be honest about where you’re coming from and then move on to other topics. You can discuss the ex at length—if you choose to—later on in the relationship.”

WHEN DO YOU GIVE EACH OTHER CUTESY NICKNAMES?     
4 MONTHS

Cosmo-Chick Consensus:

“The use of pet names indicates that you’re already in the ‘intensifying stage’ of your relationship,” state Knapp and Vangelisti. “At this time, couples develop routines, [acquire] private symbols, and give each other [special names],” they explain.

Missy, 27, a computer programmer, who “baptizes” every guy she dates with nicknames like “Chinito Cutie” and Gerry, 30, an account executive who uses terms of endearment as early as the first date, have only recently realized that this was probably why their dates cringed each time they used the nicknames.

“You get to come up with nicknames after you’ve already been with a person for some time. Nicknames get coined only when a couple is truly comfortable with each other. Giving a guy a nickname too early on might make you seem presumptuous,” Quiambao states.

WHEN DO YOU SAY “I LOVE YOU” FOR REAL?   
5 MONTHS

Cosmo Chick  Consensus:

“These days, people have become more daring when it comes to physical intimacy,” observes Dionisio, “but they’re still afraid of revealing their true emotions. It takes some time for them to express how they really feel.”

Proving that not all men are afraid to say the L-word, another Cosmo Centerfold, model Luke Jickain, 23, states, “You can say it whenever you want. Why do you have to wait when you’re already in love?”

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However, Jane, 27, a call center agent, argues: “I don’t think I’d believe it if the guy says ‘I love you’ to me after just a few weeks! I’d think na nambobola lang talaga s’ya. I’d believe it if kami na talaga and he says it. Maybe after five to six months, it will be more believable.”

Likewise, Wachs warns that you have to take note of the declaration’s timing: “If it’s a holiday like Christmas or Valentine’s Day and you feel alone and needy, avoid making any grand statements.” “In case you say ‘I love you’ for the first time during sex,” advise Taylor and Sharkey, “it’s good to repeat the [declaration when you’re out of bed] to reassure your partner that you’re sincere.

WHEN CAN YOU SEND A NAUGHTY TEXT MESSAGE?  
5 MONTHS

Cosmo Chick Consensus:

“The older she is, the sooner you can send it,” says Bobby, 30, a doctor. “If you’re both of age,” he qualifies, “there’s no sense in playing coy.”

“Flirtation is important in any relationship. Being ‘naughty’ through text could be an ‘opening,’ but it must be done with caution,” says Quiambao. Vargas also states: “You can send it some time after you’ve become a couple—as long as you know the girl can take it and doesn’t misinterpret it as a disrespectful act that makes her feel cheap.”

Still, Janet, 25, a nurse, feels that sending steamy SMS is too risky—especially if you’re not yet married to the guy. “What happens if you break up and, out of spite, he shows the message to everyone?” she asks.

WHEN DO YOU SLEEP TOGETHER?  
7 MONTHS

 Cosmo-Chick Consensus:

“Call me conservative or a hopeless romantic—but I view sleeping together as a very intimate act which should be done only when the foundation of your relationship is already established,” declares Pozon. Indeed, Nadera advises: “The degree of trust you have for each other dictates the best time to get intimate.”

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“A woman’s readiness could range from the second date to a year later,” Quiambao states. “However, I do feel it is best to delay physical intimacy until you’ve already become intimate with a man emotionally.”

Honey, 28, an accountant, thinks otherwise. “Although I want to make my mom proud and say that I’d wait until after I’m married to do it,” she confesses, “magpapakatotoo na ako sa sarili ko. I think after a few months of being with someone I truly love, I’d be okay with sleeping with him.”

WHEN DO YOU MEET THE PARENTS?  
8 MONTHS

 Cosmo Chick Consensus:

“Getting to know your partner’s parents immediately is fine, but it could get awkward if the relationship isn’t in the serious stage yet,” Agbayani states. “Besides, most people put their best foot forward in the beginning—so neither you nor your parents would be able to see his flaws anyway.”

“I hold off meeting a girl’s parents for a few months because there have been numerous times when parents have placed me on the hot seat right away. It’s traumatic,” Jickain reveals. 

Like Jickain, Anni, 20, an associate consultant for a job search firm, is also quite apprehensive about having a boyfriend meet her parents. “Unless you’re already engaged, hold off from introducing him to your family,” she says. “Mahirap na if you break up and your parents will still keep asking you about him later on. Nakakainis ’yun!

WHEN DO YOU SAY “I DO”?      

1 YEAR AND 4 MONTHS

Cosmo Chick Consensus:

While Dionisio recommends that it would be “ideal to be in an exclusive relationship for three years” before you consider marriage, Pozon estimates that he would “probably be able to ask the question after one year.” “But I don’t think there’s a specific time to think about marriage,” he continues. “I have friends who waited for years before they decided to get married and those who took the plunge after just a few months. They’re all still together.”

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Meanwhile, Vargas is willing to wait for however long it takes to find The One. “I’m okay with waiting several years to get married,” he says. “I want to be sure when it comes to the woman who will be the mother of my children.”