New study: women who have fewer premarital sex partners have lower risk of divorce

Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship
Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship

Brad Wilcox tweeted this article from Family Studies that talks about how the number of pre-marital sex partners that a woman has increases her risk of divorce.

It says:

American sexual behavior is much different than it used to be. Today, most Americans think premarital sex is okay, and will have three or more sexual partners before marrying. What, if anything, does premarital sex have to do with marital stability?

This research brief shows that the relationship between divorce and the number of sexual partners women have prior to marriage is complex. I explore this relationship using data from the three most recent waves of the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) collected in 2002, 2006-2010, and 2011-2013. For women marrying since the start of the new millennium:

  • Women with 10 or more partners were the most likely to divorce, but this only became true in recent years;
  • Women with 3-9 partners were less likely to divorce than women with 2 partners; and,
  • Women with 0-1 partners were the least likely to divorce.

Earlier research found that having multiple sex partners prior to marriage could lead to less happy marriages, and often increased the odds of divorce.

[…]Even more noteworthy has been the decline in the proportion of women who get married having had only one sex partner (in most cases, their future husbands). Forty-three percent of women had just one premarital sex partner in the 1970s.

[…]By the 2010s, only 5 percent of new brides were virgins. At the other end of the distribution, the number of future wives who had ten or more sex partners increased from 2 percent in the 1970s to 14 percent in the 2000s, and then to 18 percent in the 2010s. Overall, American women are far more likely to have had multiple premarital sex partners in recent years (unfortunately, the NSFG doesn’t have full data on men’s premarital sexual behavior, and in any event they recall their own marital histories less reliably than do women).

Here’s the change:

Women have freely chosen to dismiss the Bible and the moral law
Women have freely chosen to dismiss the Bible and the moral law

And the problem with this, of course, is that more premarital sex partners means a higher risk of divorce:

Even one non-husband premarital sex partner raises risk of divorce
Even one non-husband premarital sex partner raises risk of divorce

Why is the 2-partner number so high?

In most cases, a woman’s two premarital sex partners include her future husband and one other man. That second sex partner is first-hand proof of a sexual alternative to one’s husband. These sexual experiences convince women that sex outside of wedlock is indeed a possibility. The man involved was likely to have become a partner in the course of a serious relationship—women inclined to hook up will have had more than two premarital partners—thereby emphasizing the seriousness of the alternative.

The woman has an alternative, the woman makes comparisons, the woman has firsthand experience of sex with someone other than her eventual husband. This is not trivial, it should not be dismissed by men who are evaluating marriage candidates.

I was really glad to see Dr. Wilcox tweet this article, because a lot of men’s rights people judge him unfairly for being blindly pro-marriage, as if he doesn’t see the risks to men. No, he sees those risks, and he warns men about them, and he holds women accountable. He is saying to women: if you want your marriage to last, you are responsible to study this research, to say no to your heart, to resist the culture, and to make wise decisions to protect your future husband and children.

Now, many traditional marriage people will tell young men “feminism and the sexual revolution change nothing, go out there and get married to these women anyway”. No one condemns women for their unilateral decision to believe in radical feminism, and their decisions to act against the moral laws by having premarital sex. It’s like the Bible has no authority for men – it can only be used to tell men what to do. I have met pastors and parents who have this double standard that excuses women from everything, and blames and shames men for everything. Even if the men are virgins, they are blamed and shamed by pastors and parents when the woman’s poor choices do not “work out” for her.

The culture is filled with voices who rationalize women who choose to get drunk and hook up with good-looking men, including from the pulpits of churches. Few people are aware of the logical consequences of selfish actions. There is just this view that it is a terrible, horrible thing to stifle the freedom of women to “follow their hearts”. Pastors and Christian parents feel that it is wrong to tell young women that the Bible somehow should act as a brake on their desires to have feelings with a man, and to show off a boyfriend to their friends, and to have fun – to have a good time now, in the moment. I have seen these conversations happening, where grown-ups who claim to be Bible believing Christians condemn men for not manning-up to rescue women in one breath, and then admit that those women should not be shamed or judged for not having any moral compass. It’s enough that the women look pretty – that makes them “Christian”, regardless of their past selfishness. No one cares about the risks that a man will face by having to take on that damage.

Previously, I blogged about how most divorces are initiated by women. If you are a man who has made good decisions with his education and finances, you need to be aware of this research. Although you may think that it’s harmless that the woman you want to marry has had multiple premarital sex partners, it’s not. It will affect her ability to be attracted to you, and to be satisfied by you. According to my friend Dina, previous cohabitations should be treated by men as a previous divorce. And previous divorces make a woman more unstable for marriage – that’s a fact. And divorce is risky for men financially and emotionally – another fact. Men didn’t ask to live in a world where they can lose all their savings, future income, and access to their children should their wives become unhappy and decide to divorce them – but that is the world that men live in.

I would like to see women make better decisions with men before they marry, rather than be influenced by their peers and culture to give themselves to men who are not marriage-minded. Maybe a little skepticism should be shown to “follow your heart”? Women need to understand what they are losing when they choose to have premarital sex.

In my group of friends, the men are aware of the Biblical prohibition on premarital sex. My friends know about the research on marriage, and what it takes to make a marriage work. We don’t follow our hearts, because we do what we know will work to achieve the results we want. We don’t listen to the culture, and we don’t listen to radical feminists. Men generally take an engineering approach to marriage – we want to know what the best practices and tradeoffs are, and then we plan and act to succeed.

5 thoughts on “New study: women who have fewer premarital sex partners have lower risk of divorce”

  1. I am very glad to see research supporting what God told us long ago (and continues to tell us every time we open our Bibles). Common sense would seem to point toward the actual results of this study, but what do I know?

  2. Interesting study. One issue that I have is that he stopped counting divorce after 5 years otherwise I think women with 2-10+ partners would have divorce rates that are even higher with negligible increases to the 0-1 partner women

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s