For couples in between—those that became sexually involved later in their dating, but prior to marriage—the benefits were about half as strong.Source: Adapted from Busby, Carroll, and Willoughby (2010). The effects of sexual timing on marriage relationships. Note: Figure depicts mean scores reported by spouses in three sexual timing groups on relationship satisfaction, perceived relationship stability, sexual quality, and communication.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.
Leading marriage expert Scott Stanley, a frequent contributor to this blog, has proposed a concept of dating that he calls “relationship inertia.” The central idea of inertia is that some couples end up married partly because they become “prematurely entangled” in a sexual relationship prior to making the decision to be committed to one another—and had they not become so entangled early on, they would not have married each other.
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.
To compare these three groups, the authors conducted a Multivariate Analysis of Covariance controlling for religiosity, relationship length, education, and the number of sexual partners.
The results from the MANCOVA indicated that Sexual Timing Group and Gender had a significant effect on the dependent variables while holding the control variables constant.
Gender had a relatively small influence on the dependent variables. These patterns were statistically significant even when controlling for a variety of other variables such as respondents’ number of prior sexual partners, education levels, religiosity, and relationship length.
For the other dependent variables, the participants who waited to be sexual until after marriage had significantly higher levels of communication and sexual quality compared to the other two sexual timing groups. The second study, by Sharon Sassler and her colleagues at Cornell University, also found that rapid sexual involvement has adverse long-term implications for relationship quality.
Is it better to assess sexual compatibility early in dating or to delay having sex? The Tempo of Sexual Activity and Later Relationship Quality. Note: Data are from the Marital and Relationship Survey. Let’s take a look at what research tells us about these questions. Sexual Restraint The current dating culture often emphasizes that two people should test their “sexual chemistry” before committing to each other.
Does “true love wait” or should you “test drive” a relationship before saying I do? This type of compatibility is frequently mentioned as an essential characteristic for people to seek out in romantic relationships, particularly ones that could lead to marriage.
They discovered that the negative association between sexual timing and relationship quality is largely driven by a link between early sex and cohabitation.