Why studies keep finding that abstinence before marriage benefits your relationship

A new study published in American Psychology Association’s Journal of Family Psychology shows once again that abstaining from sex before marriage results in couples who report healthier relationships. Many people who can't conceive of waiting until marriage to have sex are quick to point out the flaws of these studies, which are often abundant. For instance, this particular research was based on an online questionnaire conceived and interpreted by scholars at Brigham Young University—-a Mormon school that preaches conservative values.  Still, the study was strong enough to be approved by the peer reviewed American Psychology Association, and this is just one of many studies that finds the same thing.

Like it or not, there's some truth to the idea that abstinence leads to more satisfying marriages, but for the same reason that you may be better off marrying your best friend as opposed to your latest sexual fling.

Couples who have sex early in a new relationship are more likely to

confuse lust and the emotions associated with the "honeymoon phase" of a relationship with a genuine personal connection. While most people who get married have a substantial connection, the depth of this relationship may be distorted by sex. When the honeymoon period ends, many couples realize they don't have as strong of a connection as they originally thought.

Relationships based on the physical will suffer when the physical element fades. And make no mistake, the physical will fade. The energy and excitement of a new sexual pairing can't be maintained, no matter how much lingerie she buys or how many erectile dysfunction pills he pops. Variety is an essential part of sexual excitement and time will take its toll on physical beauty. While sex is an important part of a romantic coupling, it's a tiny part. At best, couples will spend no more than a few hours a week having sex. What happens outside of these sexual romps is really what determines the quality of a long term relationship.

Couples who don't have sex when they first meet must find other things to do with their time. They must develop hobbies, learn to communicate, and actually connect with the other person on a nonphysical level. These couples establish a relationship that doesn't revolve around sex. When the sex turns out to be bad, or their attraction fades, they have plenty of other things to fall back on: religion, their mutual desire to have a family, work, hobbies.

Also, couples who abstain from sex before marriage often tend to be inexperienced when it comes to sex and relationships. Their marriage thrives based on blissful ignorance. These partners spend less time fantasizing about previous sexual partners and they aren't as aware that there may be many more partners outside of their relationship who are a better match for their emotional or sexual needs. For them, sex with their partner, really is the best  sex they've ever had.

This doesn't mean that you need to abstain from sex altogether in order to have a successful marriage, or even a happy life. Other nontraditional relationships or lifestyles may report similar levels of satisfaction to married couples who were abstinent before marriage. For instance, someone for who exciting sex is an essential part of life may find more satisfaction with a series of long term relationships instead of a single marriage. Also, couples who have sex, but not with each other, before getting married probably score just as high when it comes to relationship satisfaction as couples who completely abstain from sex altogether.

In the end, a relationship based around sex will fade when the sex fades, which it will. So, if you're looking for a happy long term marriage you could try abstaining from sex altogether before marriage, or you could try not getting married, or you could try marrying your friend who you have an open sexual relationship with.

Follow Alfie on Twitter , Facebook , or at shawnalff.com


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