Does premarital sex increase the chances of divorce?

I’ve posted before about how premarital sex wrecks the stability of marriages by making divorce more likely. And I wanted to begin this post by showing that this is not a controversial point in the research.

Here another good study on relationship tempo and relationship quality.

Abstract:

Rapid sexual involvement may have adverse long-term implications for relationship quality. This study examined the tempo of sexual intimacy and subsequent relationship quality in a sample of married and cohabiting men and women. Data come from the Marital and Relationship Survey, which provides information on nearly 600 low- to moderate-income couples living with minor children. Over one third of respondents became sexually involved within the first month of the relationship. Bivariate results suggested that delaying sexual involvement was associated with higher relationship quality across several dimensions. The multivariate results indicated that the speed of entry into sexual relationships was negatively associated with marital quality, but only among women. The association between relationship tempo and relationship quality was largely driven by cohabitation. Cohabiting may result in poorer quality relationship because rapid sexual involvement early in the romantic relationship is associated with entrance into shared living.

The authors are from Cornell University and University of Wisconsin – Madison. Hardly bastions of conservatism! This is not complicated, this is black and white.

Here’s another recent study that shows that if a woman has more than her husband as a premarital sex partner, her risk of divorce increases.

His findings:

Using nationally representative data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, I estimate the association between intimate premarital relationships (premarital sex and premarital cohabitation) and subsequent marital dissolution. I extend previous research by considering relationship histories pertaining to both premarital sex and premarital cohabitation. I find that premarital sex or premarital cohabitation that is limited to a woman’s husband is not associated with an elevated risk of marital disruption. However, women who have more than one intimate premarital relationship have an increased risk of marital dissolution.

Here’s another study that makes it even more clear.

Findings:

Data from the 1988 US National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) were utilized to assess the impact of premarital sexual activity on subsequent marital stability. Among white NSFG subjects first married in 1965-85, virgin brides were significantly less to have become separated or divorced (25%) than women who had not been virgins at marriage (35%).

[…]The lower risk of divorce on the part of white women with no premarital sexual experience persisted even after numerous intervening and background variables were controlled.

This study supports what the Bible says about chastity and premarital sex:

1 Cor. 7:8-9:

8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to stay single as I am.

9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

The idea of “burning” here has to do with sexual desire. Here Paul tells all unmarried people that if they cannot control their sexual desires, they need to get married. Why? Because Paul assumes that one cannot fulfill this sexual desire outside of the marital bed. While Paul would love for them to remain single (1 Cor. 7:7), he believes that sex outside of marriage is a destructive sin and cannot be used as a gratifying release of our sexual passions.

Now despite studies supporting the Biblical prohibition on premarital sex, Christians are actually embracing it. Why is that? Well, church pastors are very, very set in the idea that the Bible is assumed to be inerrant in church, and they feel that supporting what the Bible says with actual evidence is “putting evidence at the same level as the Bible”. That’s their approach – don’t confirm the Bible with evidence, just tell people to assume that the Bible is true, and tell them to believe it, in the face of mounting culture pressure, secular policies and a resurgence of atheism. 

What about “The Bible Says”?

Take a look at this review by a pious pastor of a recent apologetics book, if you don’t believe me.

Excerpt:

Cold-Case Christianity places far too much emphasis on the role of extrabiblical sources. No doubt there is a legitimate role for biblical archaeology and extrabiblical writing from antiquity. Christianity is, after all, a faith firmly rooted in human history. But there is a grave danger when truth is suspended because of an apparent lack of corroboration from extrabiblical sources. And Wallace, I’m afraid, wanders too close to this dark side of apologetics.

All of chapter 12, for instance, is devoted to proving the Gospels have external corroborative evidence—“evidence that are independent of the Gospel documents yet verify the claims of the text” (183). Wallace then addresses the historicity of the pool of Bethesda and makes another worrying statement: “For many years, there was no evidence for such a place outside of John’s Gospel. Because Christianity makes historical claims, archaeology ought to be a tool we can use to see if these claims are, in fact, true” (201-202, emphasis added).

In other words, Wallace seems to suggest we cannot affirm the truth of the Gospel accounts without the stamp of approval from archaeology and other extrabiblical sources. Such reasoning is dangerous, not least because it cannot affirm the inerrancy of the Bible. But also, it places the final court of appeal in the realm of extrabiblical sources rather than of God’s all-sufficient, all-powerful Word.

So does the approach of Bible-thumping church pastors work? Are young people really convinced by proclamations and assertions, piously expressed?

Majority of Christians embrace premarital sex

Consider this article that Dina tweeted from the Christian Post.

Excerpt:

[A] new Christian Mingle study suggests that it is increasingly commonplace for Christians to sleep together outside of a marital context.

In a survey of 716 Christians released in January, only 11 percent said they save sex exclusively for marriage. Instead, 60 percent said they would be willing to have sex without any strings attached, while 23 percent said they would have to be “in love.” Five percent said they would wait to get engaged.

This data supports a 2011 Relevant Magazine poll that revealed that 80 percent of “young, unmarried Christians have had sex” and that “two-thirds have been sexually active in the last year.”

While the findings of a 2012 National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and Grey Matter Research poll did not show outcomes as high as the two previous polls, according to its research, 44 percent of unmarried evangelicals between ages 18-29 said that they had sex, including 25 percent who said they had had sex in the last three months.

You know, if just invoking the Bible piously, and asserting that it’s without error, were enough, then that’s what you’d see people like William Lane Craig doing in debates at the top universities when he faces off against atheists. But he doesn’t do that. Dr. Craig appeals to evidence outside the Bible in order to explain why the Bible ought to be respected when we make our decisions. There is no such thing as pious fideism when you are in front of a crowd of students at a major secular university. Young people, no matter how “nice” they behave in church, are not going to behave like Christians outside of church.

When the kids get to college, they are going to face a tsunami of propaganda from the pro-sexual-immmorality crowd. (WARNING: that link describes what happens during “Sex Week” on college campuses. Reader discretion is advised!) They need to be able to explain their views using something other Bible verse memorization, or they are going to fall away under peer pressure and shaming by secular leftist professors. And they need to have that information BEFORE they get inundated with alcohol and peer pressure.

By the way, another great book on the topic of premarital sex is “Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children” by Joe S. McIlhaney Jr., M.D. and Freda McKissic Bush, M.D. Again – look at the research and be persuaded, and be persuasive with others. Don’t try to use appeals to piety when evidence works better.

5 thoughts on “Does premarital sex increase the chances of divorce?”

  1. I am confused by what you think of J Warner Wallace. Do you like what he says or not? I remember an article about a week ago where it seemed like you supported him and at first reading of today’s post I felt like you were cautioning about his approach. Rereading today’s entry makes me wonder more. Now I am not sure where you stand. Please clarify.

    Richard Palmer Greenville SC

    >

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    1. I really really like J. Warner Wallace. I don’t like that anti-evidence pastor. The point of my post is to encourage people to use evidence in every area, like Wallace does, even when discussing sexual morality.

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  2. I don’t believe that premarital sex causes divorce necessarily. Rather they have the same root causes: a lack of self control and justification through emotionalism (a belief in “chemistry” or lack thereof). Or to state it positively, self control and commitment before marriage leads to the same in marriage.

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    1. It is certainly true that premarital sex and divorce have some of the same root causes. However, I do think premarital sex can be a causative factor for divorce as well. Premarital sex, especially when engaged in with multiple partners, trains people to guard themselves emotionally, even while engaging in sex with them, lest they be hurt by an uncommitted sex partner leaving again. This makes it much harder for them to have the vulnerability and connection that helps hold them together in marriage. They’ve largely separated sex from it’s natural bonding ability and now have trouble bonding when they ought to.

      Not only that, but having sex outside marriage is often (especially for women) a way to try to manipulate a partner into staying in the relationship. But once people learn to use sex as a manipulation tool, they continue those patterns into marriage. Sex becomes, not the giving of self, but a reward to be given or withheld in response to the other person’s behavior. This is detrimental to a marriage because it’s not only manipulative, but prevents real intimacy.

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      1. Yep. When I was reading my Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, I was surprised at the number of women callers who had used sex to keep a man in a relationship or to get a man in the first place, and then gave it up after marriage. I actually see that attitude in women who have had premarital sex. They don’t see showing themselves to a man and touching him as something to do because HE likes it and it causes him to engage more in the relationship. It’s something they do to a man to manipulate him, but only if they want attention from him. It’s nothing like “this is a good man, and my contribution to the good that he does is to approve and affirm him in the way he understands. It’s all about them. It sounds so strange to me but this what PCF Husbands says and I have seen it affirmed in every case I’ve experienced except one, where the woman has had premarital sex.

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