These are important questions to ask since most single adults report that they desire to one day have a successful, lifelong marriage—and while dating, many couples move rapidly into sexual relationships. Couples who do nottest their sexual chemistry prior to the commitments of exclusivity, engagement, and marriage are often seen as putting themselves at risk of getting into a relationship that will not satisfy them in the future—thus increasing their probability of later marital dissatisfaction and divorce.
In fact, as noted in Figure 1, recent studies have found that between 30 and 40% of dating and married couples report having sex within one month of the start of their relationship, and the numbers are even higher for currently cohabiting couples. However, two recently published studies call into question the validity of testing sexual chemistry early in dating. This study involved a national sample of 2,035 married individuals who participated in the popular online couple assessment survey called “RELATE.” We found that the longer a dating couple waits to have sex, the better their relationship is after marriage.
Inertia means that it is hard for some couples to veer from the path they are on, even when doing so would be wise; the fact that they share friends, an apartment, and maybe a pet make breaking up with each other even more difficult than it would otherwise be, and so the relationship progresses from cohabitation to marriage even if the partners are not very well matched.
For many young adults, the single life has become synonymous with hook-ups and sexual experimentation.
The problem with these patterns is that proper partner selection is often difficult for sexually involved couples who experience strong physical rewards with each other, as these rewards can cause them to ignore or minimize deeper incompatibilities in the relationship.
The human brain and body do not just experience pleasure during sex; they also experience strong sensations of attachment and bonding. Rapid sexual initiation often creates poor partner selection because intense feelings of pleasure and attachment can be confused for true intimacy and lasting love.
Evidence points to two primary explanations for why couples benefit from waiting to become sexually involved: Intentional Partner Selection A primary reason why sexual restraint benefits couples is that it facilitates intentional partner selection.
Using data from the Marital and Relationship Survey, which provides information on nearly 600 low- to moderate-income couples living with minor children, their study examined the tempo of sexual intimacy and subsequent relationship quality in a sample of married and cohabiting men and women.
Their analyses also suggest that delaying sexual involvement is associated with higher relationship quality across several dimensions.
Ultimately, loving and lasting marriages are ones where the sexual intimacy is a meaningful physical symbol of the emotional intimacy shared between the spouses.
Without this, sex is just physical and lacks the meaning needed to be truly satisfying over the long term.