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.

The Dangers of Casual Sex: It Follows (2014)

it-follows-poster-criticaIn David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (2014), Jay (Maika Monroe) goes on a date with Hugh (Jake Weary), and after they have sex, a monster starts following her. Interpreted allegorically, the film is a warning against the dangers of casual and premarital sex with the monster representing a sexually transmitted disease.

The film suggests that if you have sex with the wrong person, it can have devastating consequences. After Jay has sex with Hugh, the shape-shifting monster that was following him comes after her. There is, however, a short-term solution. The monster will stop following Jay if she has sex with someone else, so she has sex with Greg (Daniel Zovatto). Unfortunately, this only delays the inevitable. The monster kills Greg, and then starts following Jay again.

The monster is playing a game. Games have rules, and the monster plays by certain rules: “It” only follows one person at a time, the unlucky individual who had sex with the last person it was following. (The game is similar to the children’s game of tag where the last person touched is “It.”) The monster is playing the long game with its victims: The last person who is “tagged” will be motivated to have sex again, giving the monster a larger number of potential victims.

The film can be interpreted allegorically with the monster representing a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Hugh says “It” started following him after a “one night stand.” Like an STD, the monster can only harm people who have casual or premarital sex. Two virgins who get married would never be in any danger from “It.” The monster punishes people who engage in risky sexual behavior.

Casual sex is risky behavior because you might get an STD. Despite the possible consequences, the percentage of young people engaging in casual sex is increasing. A 2014 study found that “35% of GenX’ers in the late 1980s had sex with a casual date or pickup (44% of men, 19% of women), compared to 45% of Millennials in the 2010s (55% of men, 31% of women).”1 The increase in casual sex has led to STD rates reaching a record high in the United States.2 In 2015, there were over 1.5 million reported cases chlamydia, 395,216 cases of gonorrhea, and 23,872 cases of syphilis, with most of the infections among people ages 15 to 24.3 Millions of Millennials have been infected with STDs because of their sexual promiscuity.

Although STDs can often be prevented through the use of condoms, the only safe sex is between two people who are married or in a monogamous relationship. Unlike casual sex (which is usually spontaneous), you can delay having sex until you both go to a doctor and make sure neither partner has an STD. Making sure your partner has a clean bill of health before having sex is the responsible thing to do. It could save you from a life of suffering, and possibly even death.

In It Follows, Jay nearly dies because she had sex with Hugh. She didn’t know his sexual history, and suffers the consequences of her unlucky choice. In the climax of the film, Jay and her friends try to destroy the monster. Unfortunately, with STDS this is not always possible. While many STDs can be treated and cured, others will never go away.4

Notes

  1. Jean M. Twenge et al., “Changes in American Adults’ Sexual Behavior and Attitudes, 1972-2012,” Archives of Sexual Behavior 44, no. 8 (May 2015): 2278, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25940736
  2. Jacqueline Howard, “STD rates reach record high in United States,” CNN, October 20, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/20/health/std-statistics-record-high/
  3. Ibid.
  4. McKinzie Brocail, “Sexual Healing: Which STDs Can & Cannot Be Cured,” September 11, 2015, STDcheck.com, https://www.stdcheck.com/blog/sexual-healing-which-stds-can-cannot-be-cured/