You may have a heard a parent, teacher, or preacher contend that waiting to have sex will ultimately strengthen a relationship. But is there any actual evidence out there that backs up this well-meaning, if often vague advice? There is at least some that seems to point in that direction.
In one study, Dr. Sandra Metts asked 286 participants to think about the different turning points in their present or past relationships. One question she hoped to answer was whether it made a difference if the couple had made a commitment to be exclusive and had said “I love you” before or after commencing sexual intimacy. Metts found that when a commitment is made and love is expressed before a couple starts to have sex, the “sexual experience is perceived to be a positive turning point in the relationship, increasing understanding, commitment, trust, and sense of security.” However, when love and commitment is expressed after a couple becomes sexually involved, “the experience is perceived as a negative turning point, evoking regret, uncertainty,
In another study, Dr. Dean Busby sought to find out the effect that sexual timing had on the health of a couple’s eventual marriage. He surveyed over 2,000 people who ranged in age from 19 to 71, had been married anywhere from 6 months to more than 20 years, and held a variety of religious beliefs (and no religious beliefs at all). The results were controlled for religiosity, income, education, race, and the length of relationship. What Busby found is that couples who delayed intimacy in a relationship enjoyed better long-term prospects and greater satisfaction in a variety of areas in their marriage. Those who waited until marriage to have sex reported the following benefits over those who had sex early on in the relationship:
- Relationship stability was rated 22 percent higher
- Relationship satisfaction was rated 20 percent higher
- Sexual quality of the relationship was rated 15 percent better
- Communication was rated 12 percent better
For those couples that waited longer in a relationship to have sex, but not until marriage, the benefits were still present, but about half as strong.
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