OK, so this week I got to be a facilitator between a man and a woman in a relationship. I got to hear a bit about what they thought was appropriate in the area of physical touching. These two had made great decisions, and it protected them both. Anyway, thinking about them caused me to think about the studies I had posted about boundaries in sexual matters a few years back. So I’m going to re-post them to remind everyone not to be in a rush to say yes to premarital sex.
The first article from the UK Daily Mail is about study showing the benefits of abstinence for relationship quality.
People who lose their virginity later than their teenage years are more likely to enjoy satisfying relationships later in life, according to a new study.
Researchers found that people who didn’t have sex until they turned 20 or even later are more likely to end up in a happy relationship.
[…]Previous research suggests that there may be cause for concern, as timing of sexual development can have significant immediate consequences for adolescents’ physical and mental health.
However, until now little had been done to study long-term outcomes, and how early sexual initiation might affect romantic relationships in adulthood.
Psychological scientist Paige Harden, of the University of Texas in the United States, set about changing this.
She wanted to investigate whether the timing of sexual initiation in adolescence might predict romantic outcomes – such as whether people get married or live with their partners, how many romantic partners they’ve had, and whether they’re satisfied with their relationship – later in adulthood.
Doctor Harden used data from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health to look at 1,659 same-sex sibling pairs who were followed from around the age of 16 to about the age of 29.
Each sibling was classified as having an ‘early’ (younger than 15), ‘on-time’ (age 15 to 19), or ‘late’ (older than 19) first experience with sexual intercourse.
Those who lost their virginity later on in life were more likely to have a well-paid job.
They found, as expected, later timing of first sexual experience was associated with higher educational attainment and higher household income in adulthood when compared with the early and on-time groups.
People who had a later first sexual experience were also less likely to be married and they had fewer romantic partners in adulthood.
Among the participants who were married or living with a partner, later sexual initiation was linked with significantly lower levels of relationship dissatisfaction in adulthood.
This sounds a lot like the results from the previous studies that were featured in this UK Daily Mail article.
“Courtship is a time for exploration and decision-making about the relationship, when partners assess compatibility, make commitments and build on emotional and physical intimacy.”
“The rapid entry into sexual relationships may, however, cut short this process, setting the stage for “sliding” rather than “deciding” to enter co-habiting unions.”
“Around a third of the men and women said they’d had sex within the first month of dating, while about 28 per cent waited at least six months, the Journal of Marriage and Family reported.”
“Analysis of the data clearly showed the women who had waited to have sex to be happier. And those who waited at least six months scored more highly in every category measured than those who got intimate within the first month. Even their sex lives were better.”
“The link was weaker for men. However, those who waited to get physically involved had fewer rows.
[…]‘A strong sexual desire may thwart the development of other key ingredients of a healthy relationship such as commitment, mutual understanding or shared values,’ the report said. ‘Good sex is sometimes confused with love; some couples overlook problematic aspects of their relationship that ultimately matter more in the long run.’”
So, it looks like you lose some stability if you push too hard on the premarital sex. Is stability important to you? Well, divorce is a financial disaster for men and women – so that’s one reason to care about stability. If your plan for marriage is to provide a stable environment for your kids, then that’s another good reason to care about stability. If you are getting married in part to advance your cause through effective children, then you have to control yourself now in order to be the person who can give them what they need later. This is not out of your control, this is not unpredictable. There are best practices.
If you keep rushing into things and experiencing painful break-ups, you will naturally stop the behaviors that allow you commit out of self-preservation. You will begin to resent having to care for that other person, except maybe when it makes you feel good. When you invest a lot and break up, you become less willing to invest in that other person. You retreat into your shell. You resent having responsibilities and obligations to that other person. You expect things to work on their own, apart from your efforts to make them work, because that’s how you avoid getting hurt. You try not to invest too much, because you imagine that things will fall apart and you’ll get hurt again. You focus on just feeling good now, so that when the relationship fails, you come out “ahead”. But this is not the way to make a stable marriage.
Marriage requires you to give 100% and regardless of how you feel. That’s what a commitment is – it’s a decision to perform regardless of feelings. To get stability, you want to be comfortable with investing in that other person – taking on responsibilities, satisfying expectations, performing obligations. Both of you have to be comfortable with the selflessness of commitment, and be ruled by your own decisions, instead of your feelings. And your goal here is not to find someone who gives you good feelings right now. Your goal is to find someone who will not hurt you the more that you give of yourself, up to an including marriage. It’s not good feelings that you are looking for, it’s the safety to commit everything you have to this other person, and not get hurt. The real joy of a relationship is not fun and thrills, it’s giving everything you have to another person, and knowing that if you fall, they will catch you.
If you choose candidates carefully, involve wise mentors, and set proper boundaries, you’ll find that relationships are a lot less painful, and that when you really want to commit, then you will be able to commit with your whole heart, and to be content with the commitment. There are plenty of ways to love and serve another person other than sex, as you both get to know each other and size each other up for a life-long commitment. Premarital sex is counterproductive… it’s speaking in a language that is designed for two people who have already made a lifelong commitment to have a common plan and a common purpose. Sex makes sense when you have that commitment, but it undermines communication and objective evaluation if it’s done before that commitment commitment is in place.