Two Reasons Why Premarital Sex Increases the Risk of Divorce

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Nearly all adults in America have sex before marriage. According to the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, “by age 44, 95% of respondents had had premarital sex.”1 Although sex can increase your feelings of love for your partner, research shows that premarital sex also increases the risk of divorce. Couples are more likely to neglect other aspects of relationship development, and to misjudge their compatibility for marriage.

Sex has the power to create an emotional bond between a man and a woman, resulting in increased feelings of love and intimacy. Jim Pfaus, a professor at Concordia University, published a study that showed “love and desire activate specific but related areas in the brain.”2 According to Pfaus, “Love is… a habit that is formed from sexual desire as desire is rewarded.”3 In other words, if you have sex with someone you are physically attracted to, the more likely your feelings of love for that person will grow.

Although sex is a “love drug” that can create an emotional bond with your partner, research shows that premarital sex does not lead to better marital outcomes. A 2010 study, which surveyed over 2,000 married individuals, found that “the longer a couple waited to become sexually involved, the better their sexual quality, relationship communication, relationship satisfaction, and perceived relationship stability was in marriage…”4 Couples who waited to have sex until their wedding night had the best marital outcomes with relationship stability rated 22% higher, sexual satisfaction 15% higher, and communication 12% better.5 The higher scores for couples who delayed having sex suggest that they put more time and effort into developing their personal relationship.

A 2016 study by the Institute for Family Studies found that women who marry as virgins have a much lower divorce rate than women who have had multiple sexual partners. Female virgins who married in the 2000s had a 6% divorce rate after five years, while women who had two sexual partners before marriage had a 30% divorce rate.6 Women with 10 or more sexual partners had the highest divorce rate at 33%.7 The percentage dipped slightly for women with three to nine partners,8 but the overall result is clear: Having one or more sexual partners before marriage increases the risk of divorce.

One reason is, couples who have premarital sex may place greater focus on the physical and sexual aspects of their relationship, and put less effort into other aspects of relationship development like communication. As a result, their future marriage will be less stable. In contrast, couples who abstain from premarital sex are likely to place greater focus on their personal relationship, making them better prepared for marriage. Further, by building a relationship on a foundation other than sex, both partners can better judge their compatibility.

Many people today believe that premarital sex is essential so both partners in a relationship can determine if they have sexual chemistry: the “mysterious, physical, emotional and sexual state that when present in a relationship creates something unique and explosive.”9 They reason that if marriage is a car you might want to purchase, then you need to take a test-drive first. However, if sexual chemistry is a prerequisite for a successful marriage, couples who have premarital sex should have lower divorce rates than couples who abstain. The results of the two aforementioned studies indicate that the opposite is true.

The second reason premarital sex increases the risk of divorce is the experience of sexual chemistry can cause a couple to misjudge their compatibility. Due to the increased feelings of love and intimacy that follow sex, a couple can become “prematurely entangled”10 and later get married. In other words, if you have a great sexual relationship with your partner, it can create the illusion that you are soul mates. Tragically, years later, when the flames of sexual passion have died down, many people realize they married the wrong person.

Sex is a vital aspect of marriage, strengthening the emotional bond between a husband and wife, but great sex is not what makes a marriage last. True love endures when a man and a woman are loving companions: two people who enjoy each other’s conversation and have shared interests and values. Engaging in premarital sex doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful marriage. (The Institute for Family Studies found that 75% of women who had six to nine sexual partners did not divorce after five years.11) However, by delaying sex until marriage, and building a relationship on the foundation of companionship, you have a greater chance of choosing the right partner, and being together until death do you part.

Notes

  1. Lawrence B. Finer, “Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States, 1954­2003,” Public Health Reports 122, no. 1: 73. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17236611
  2. “I want to know where love is,” Concordia University, June 19, 2012, http://www.concordia.ca/cunews/main/releases/2012/06/19/i-want-to-know-where-love-is.html
  3. Ibid.
  4. Dean M. Busby et al., “Compatibility or Restraint? The Effects of Sexual Timing on Marriage Relationships,” Journal of Family Psychology24, no. 6 (2010): 772. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21171775
  5. Brigham Young University, “Couples who delay having sex get benefits later, study suggests,” Science Daily, December 29, 2010, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101222112102.htm
  6. Nicholas H. Wolfinger, “Counterintuitive Trends in the Link Between Premarital Sex and Marital Stability,” Institute for Family Studies, June 6, 2016, https://ifstudies.org/blog/counterintuitive-trends-in-the-link-between-premarital-sex-and-marital-stability/
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Busby, “Compatibility or Restraint?”, 767.
  10. Busby, “Compatibility or Restraint?”, 772.
  11. Wolfinger, “Counterintuitive Trends,” https://ifstudies.org/blog/counterintuitive-trends-in-the-link-between-premarital-sex-and-marital-stability/
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Three Reasons to Delay Sex Until Marriage: The Other Boleyn Girl (2003)

003486_dvd_the_other_boleyn_girl_bbcIn Philippa Lowthorpe’s The Other Boleyn Girl (2003), Anne Boleyn (Jodhi May) wants to marry King Henry VIII (Jared Harris) and become Queen of England. Although Henry wants to have sex with Anne before they are married, she refuses for three reasons: to avoid a pregnancy, to increase Henry’s desire for her, and to give him an incentive to marry her.

Anne’s refusal to sleep with Henry is not because of any moral objections. She previously had sex with Lord Henry Percy (Oliver Chris) when he promised to marry her. Rather, her concern is the risk of a pregnancy, which would prevent her from becoming queen. A year earlier, her sister Mary (Natascha McElhone), a married woman, was Henry’s mistress, but after she became pregnant he abandoned her. Anne tells Mary: “I do not intend to be the king’s whore. I will be his queen.” In 16th century England, a king could never marry a woman who had a child out of wedlock.

A second reason Anne refuses to have sex with Henry is to increase his desire for her. She also flirts with him, kisses him, and dresses provocatively to entice him. Her refusal to have sex is a risk because Henry could move on and pursue another woman; however, Anne’s gambit pays off: Henry desires her even more and falls in love with her.

Anne’s actions show how a woman can test a man’s love for her. If she doesn’t want to have sex before marriage, and the man she loves leaves her, it proves that sex was more important to him than a relationship. If he loved her unconditionally, he would be willing to wait.

Anne is unable to make Henry wait until their wedding night to make love, but she does make him wait over two years, just prior to their wedding. This shows how delaying sex can give a man an incentive to get married. Anne’s decision to remain chaste motivates Henry to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon (Yolanda Vazquez). If Anne had slept with Henry right away, he would have had no reason to annul his marriage. She would have been his mistress but never his wife.

In the end, Anne’s marriage to Henry implodes because it wasn’t founded on companionship. She married him because of her ambition to be queen, and Henry married her so she could bear him a son. He claimed he loved Anne, but he was not faithful to her. Anne should have known that a man who would have an affair with her sister would also cheat on her. Needless to say, Henry was not a good choice for a husband. When Anne could not bear him a son, he had her executed.

Why a Woman Won’t Marry an Idle Man: Hands Across the Table (1935)

hands-across-the-tableIdleness is “an inclination not to do work…”1 Synonyms include laziness, indolence, and sloth.In Mitchell Leisen’s Hands Across the Table (1935), Theodore Drew III (Fred MacMurray) is an idle man who has never worked to earn a living. An important theme in the film is that a woman will not marry a man who refuses to get a job.

One reason why Theodore doesn’t want to work is he is a man-child. When Regi Allen (Carole Lombard) first meets him, he is playing hopscotch in the hallway. Later, when she lets him stay in her apartment, he asks to be tucked into bed. Years earlier, he joined the navy, but his father pulled him out. Theodore is a man-child because his father never taught him to be responsible for his own financial needs.

Theodore’s refusal to work forces him to choose between marrying for money or marrying for love. Before he met Regi, he planned to marry Vivian Snowden (Astrid Allwyn) and live off of her wealth. However, when he falls in love with Regi, he wants to break off his engagement, and be with her, but she refuses.

There are two unstated reasons why Regi sends Theodore away. As a manicurist, she is a low-income earner, and doesn’t want to remain poor by marrying a man with limited job prospects. She tells him he’ll have to “scratch for a living.” Secondly, she may fear that she will have to support him financially.

In the end, Regi agrees to marry Theodore because she realizes how much she loves him, and he promises her that he will find work. The film suggests that a man must take financial responsibility for his own life if he wants to attract a wife. This was true in 1935 and is still true today.

According to a 2011 survey by ForbesWoman and YourTango, 75% of female respondents said they would never marry a man who was unemployed.3 Women today may not want a man to financially provide for them, but they are reluctant to marry a man they will have to provide for, especially if he is healthy and able to work.

While there are valid reasons for a man being unemployed including health issues, raising children, and the need to retrain for a career, if a healthy, able-bodied man refuses to work, he may ruin his chances of getting married. Women (on average) earn less money than men do,4 and hence are less likely to want to financially support a husband. Therefore, if an idle man wants a wife, he should start looking for a job.

Notes

  1. Merriam Webster, s.v. “Idleness,” accessed February 12, 2017, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/idleness
  2. Ibid.
  3. Megan Gibson, “Study: 75% of Women Wouldn’t Marry A Man Who Was Unemployed,” Time, June 23, 2011, http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/06/23/study-75-of-women-wouldnt-marry-a-man-who-was-unemployed/
  4. “Women’s earnings 83 percent of men’s, but vary by occupation,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 15, 2016, https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2016/womens-earnings-83-percent-of-mens-but-vary-by-occupation.htm

Love, But Not Marriage: A Short Story

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It was July 1st, 1989, and Johnny was at Skaha Lake. The beach was a hot spot for single people in Penticton, and like a lot of other young men his age, Johnny went there to meet women. The manager of a gym, he had a muscular body, and women were attracted to him, sometimes even older women.

Johnny was about to go for a swim when he saw a young girl crying and screaming, “Mommy! Where are you?!”

He spotted a woman at the other end of the crowded beach, looking around in distress. He hurried to the girl, picked her up, and pointed. “Is that your mother?”

“That’s my Mommy!” the girl cried. She was four years old.

Johnny put the girl down, waved to the mother, and she ran across the sand.

“Thank you,” she said as soon as she reached them. “I fell asleep, and she wandered off.” The girl wrapped her arms around her mother’s waist.

“She’s a beautiful girl,” Johnny said with a smile. “Just like her mother.”

The woman smiled back, and Johnny couldn’t keep his eyes from drifting down. She was in her mid 30s, wore a yellow bikini, and it revealed much more than it concealed.

Johnny asked the girl, “Would you like an ice cream?”

“Yes!” she said excitedly.

“No; we need to go home,” the mother said to her daughter. Then she looked at Johnny. “Thank you though.” And she walked away with her daughter in her arms.

“Out of my league,” Johnny sighed. “Probably married.”

Johnny went for a swim, and he met another woman, smacking into her while she was doing the backstroke. Slim and attractive, with shoulder-length dark hair, she was wearing a red, one-piece bathing suit. She was 25, two years older than him.

“Ow!” she yelled when they collided.

“I’m so sorry!” Johnny said when his blonde head came up from the water. “I’m not the greatest swimmer.”

Johnny could do the front crawl, yet despite his strength, he could only swim 10 minutes at a time, and had to stop to catch his breath. There was something wrong with his stroke.

“No, it’s my fault,” the young woman said, wincing. “I should have seen you.” They were both treading water, near the yellow buoys that marked the area where it was safe to swim.

“Are you a good swimmer?” Johnny asked.

The young woman smiled. “I’m a lifeguard.”

Johnny grinned. “Maybe you could… teach me a lesson. What’s your name?”

“Samantha.”

“I’m Johnny.”

Samantha tried to teach him, but it was no use. He couldn’t improve his stroke. But that didn’t matter to Johnny. After that lesson, they never spent a day apart.

They worked out every day. On weekends, they swam at Skaha Lake, and went hiking in the mountains. After the first snowfall in December, they went skiing at Apex. They both loved to be outdoors, and do things that challenged them physically.

Samantha had been hurt by a lot of guys, some who cheated on her, others who left her for no reason. “I have a hard time trusting guys,” she confessed.

Johnny promised her, “I’ll never cheat on you, and I’ll always be honest in our relationship.”

Samantha wasn’t like the other women Johnny had been with. She made him wait a month before they made love, and insisted that he go see a doctor first. Johnny’s previous girlfriends were wild, often irresponsible, but Samantha didn’t drink much, and when she discovered that Johnny liked to smoke pot, she made him stop.

Johnny felt free with Samantha, to tell her things he had never told anyone. When he was 12, his father came into his bedroom and said, “I have to leave, son, and I don’t know when I’ll be back.” Johnny’s father never came back, and he never sent any money to pay the bills.

Six months went by with Samantha, and Johnny had never been happier. He had everything he wanted in a relationship: They had sex all the time; Samantha was an amazing cook; they never had a fight. But Samantha started to wonder about their future together.

It was New Year’s Day 1990, and Johnny had slept over at Samantha’s apartment the night before. He woke up at 10, and made breakfast for both of them: coffee, scrambled eggs, ham, and toast.

When Samantha sat at the kitchen table, Johnny, playing the role of a waiter, brought her a plate. “Would you like anything else, Miss?” he asked.

“Well, maybe a good morning kiss,” Samantha said, smiling.

Johnny kissed her, and whispered in her ear, “I’m expecting a large tip—later.”

This made Samantha blush. Johnny sat down, and started wolfing down his breakfast.

After taking a bite from her toast, Samantha asked, “What do you think about marriage?” Her parents were happily married, as were her three sisters.

Johnny’s toast got stuck in his throat, and he coughed repeatedly. “I don’t believe in it. You don’t have to get married to prove you love someone.”

Samantha had heard this before, from her previous boyfriends. “You get married to show your commitment to the person you love,” she argued. “If you make a vow to each other, you’re more likely to stay together.”

Johnny scoffed. “It doesn’t mean anything. My father cheated on my mother all the time.”

Samantha knew about Johnny’s childhood, and tried to be sensitive. When his father left, Johnny had to get a part-time job to help his mother pay the bills. He knew more about divorce than marriage.

“I know that many marriages end badly,” she admitted. “But on average, people who get married stay together longer than people who don’t.”

Johnny reached and held Samantha’s hand. “I don’t want to argue about this. I love you, and I’m not going anywhere. Isn’t that enough?”

Samantha didn’t know what else to say, so life went on as before.

But in the spring, to Samantha’s surprise, Johnny made her a proposal.

On Easter weekend, they went out for dinner, and while they were waiting for dessert, Johnny had a big grin on his face.

“What are you smiling about?” Samantha asked.

“I’ve been thinking… Why don’t we move in together? In my trailer.”

“No!” Samantha said, raising her voice. “Definitely not!”

“Why not?” Johnny frowned. “We’ll see each other more, you’ll have more space, and you won’t have to pay rent.”

Samantha shook her head. “I’m not going to live with you until we get married.”

“I told you,” Johnny said, raising his voice. “I don’t want to get married.”

Samantha didn’t know what to say to change his mind, but she knew what she had to do.

After dinner, they did what they always did on Saturday night. They went to Samantha’s apartment, and after watching a movie, Johnny took her by the hand, and led her into the bedroom. Sitting on the bed, Johnny kissed her, but Samantha pulled back and pressed two fingers on his lips.

“I’ve… decided something,” she said with hesitation in her voice. “We’re not making love anymore.”

Johnny was in shock. “What! Why?”

“I’m like a sports car to you.”

“No,” Johnny said, shaking his head. “You’re not an object to me. You’re a beautiful woman.”

“And for ten months, you’ve taken me for a test drive, but I’m not a free ride anymore.”

Johnny pleaded and begged, but it was no use. Samantha wasn’t going to change her mind.

Not having sex was like a drug withdrawal for both of them, but they made it through the spring. On Canada Day—their one-year anniversary—they went to Skaha Lake, and had a picnic on the beach. They sat together on a blanket, ate sandwiches, and drank lemonade. Since they stopped having sex, they no longer saw each other every day. There was a growing distance between them, but they never talked about it.

After a long silence, Johnny said, “I’m not sure about us anymore—if this is working.”

Samantha took a deep breath, and tried to stay calm. “Are you… breaking up with me?”

“I don’t know,” Johnny answered vaguely. “But maybe we need some time apart.”

Samantha felt her throat tighten; she couldn’t speak. She got up and walked into the water.

Johnny stood up and started kicking the sand. He really did care for Samantha, but he was frustrated that she wouldn’t sleep with him. He walked into the water after her. “I was just being honest, OK? Maybe we can work it out.”

Samantha turned to Johnny and said, “I know why you don’t want to marry me.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because you’re waiting for the perfect person!” Samantha said, distraught. “Someone better than me!” Then she swam away.

Johnny swam after her, but Samantha, not wanting to be near him, kept on swimming—beyond the buoys—thinking he would turn back.

Johnny knew it wasn’t safe to swim out that far, and he wanted to stop, but he saw Samantha struggling in the water. Beyond the buoys, there was an undertow from a small river that spilled into the lake, and it was pulling her under.

Johnny swam as fast as he could. When he reached her, he was out of breath and had stomach cramps, and couldn’t keep up his stroke. He took hold of her, swam back a short distance, but they were both sinking, and Johnny went under. Samantha’s head was barely above the surface.

A man in a boat saw them struggling, and came to their rescue. He reached and pulled Samantha out of the water. But Johnny was floating face-down, a hundred feet away.

Kneeling at the edge of the boat, Samantha spotted him and screamed, “Johnny!”

The man took the boat closer, and then he and Samantha lifted Johnny out of the water. He wasn’t breathing, so she performed CPR. She did multiple chest compressions, tilted his forehead back, lifted his chin, pinched his nose, and gave him two rescue breaths. He didn’t respond, so she tried again. He still wasn’t breathing. But on the third attempt, Johnny coughed, water spilling out of his mouth.

When Johnny sat up, Samantha held him, and with tears streaming down her face, she said, “I’m so sorry. It’s my fault this happened.”

Johnny didn’t answer her. He just stared across the lake. Seeing that Johnny was OK, the man in the boat took them back to the beach.

Samantha and Johnny both thanked the man, got out of the boat, and returned to their picnic.

While Samantha was packing up their things, she said, “I won’t talk about marriage again. I promise.”

Johnny was silent for a moment. Then he said, “I was a coward.”

Samantha took his hand and squeezed it. “Johnny, no. You risked your life to save me. You were very brave.”

“When you were drowning,” Johnny said, looking away, “I realized I was afraid … of marrying the wrong person.”

“Because of your mother and father?”

Johnny nodded. After a long pause, he turned to her. “But when I was drowning, I realized what a fool I was. In that moment, I knew—if I lived, I wanted to spend my life with you.”

Johnny held her hands, and got down on one knee. “I really do love you, Samantha… Will you marry me?”

Samantha put her hand on her chest and took a deep breath. “Yes!” she cried, pulling him to his feet. “Yes!”

Johnny kissed her, and they held each other.

A minute later, Samantha spoke softly in his ear: “The reason I planned the picnic today, was to tell you—I’m pregnant.”

Johnny’s eyes opened wide; his jaw dropped; he couldn’t speak. He stepped back.

Finally, he said, “Wow… I’m going to be a Dad.”

Samantha nodded her head, “Yes! You are.”

Then Johnny said, “So, I guess we can start having sex again?”

Samantha shook her head. “No! Not until our wedding night.”

Johnny sighed, opened his mouth to say something, but he didn’t.

Six weeks later, they got married.