". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Research Bears Out the Bible’s Commandments on Sex, Marriage, and Happiness

April 8, 2024

American culture is built to sabotage happiness. From comparing physical appearance on dating apps, to encouraging endless obsessions over past wrongs, to doomscrolling on social media, U.S. culture bombards young people with messages that science has shown to undermine their present, and future, happiness. Nowhere is this more true than sex, where years of social science research proves the happiest people follow the wisdom laid out in the Bible.

While Christians do not follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior for the purpose of having a better sex life — and there are far more important elements to marriage than physical intimacy — surveys consistently show the highest level of sexual satisfaction for those who follow three scriptural injunctions.

1. Wait until Marriage to Have Sex

Researchers investigated thousands of married couples and found the happiest ones waited to tie the knot. “Any waiting at all helps,” said Dean M. Busby, professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University, but “abstinence [until marriage] has the best outcomes.” Couples who waited to have sex until marriage reported 15% higher sexual quality than couples who had sex within he first month of dating, according to a study of 2,035 married people published in the Journal of Family Psychology. Those couples also have higher relationship stability (22 points), satisfaction with their relationship (20 points), and better communication (12 points).

The cultural notion that people should “test drive” a relationship to test sexual compatibility falls flat. So does the notion that living together before marriage allows couples to try out the resilience of their relationship before getting married. “Two-thirds of cohabiting parents split up before their child reaches age 12, compared with one quarter of married parents,” noted Richard Reeves and Eleanor Krause of the center-left Brookings Institution.

Couples who lived together before getting married have a 48% higher level of divorce than those who never cohabitated, according to a study of 1,600 married couples published by University of Denver psychology professors Galena Rhoades and Scott Stanley last April. Stanley hypothesizes this comes from relationship “inertia”: “[S]ome couples who otherwise would not have married end up married because of the inertia of cohabitation.” Sexually active couples often “slide into” marriage, believing each iteration is “the next step.”

These studies explain, at far greater length, the insights the Apostle Paul shared thousands of years ago when he warned young people: “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (I Corinthians 6:18). The Bible condemns “fornication” 35 times.

2. Have No Other Sexual Partners besides Your Husband or Wife

The culture leads people to believe marital sex with one partner leads to boredom. A porn-soaked culture emphasizes trying a number of different individuals for comparison’s sake. Variety, far from the spice of life, is the seed of unhappiness, they claim.

The higher the number of sexual partners, studies find, the lower someone’s sexual satisfaction. “Married men and women who have only had sex with their spouse have a nearly 45% chance of reporting a very high level of relationship stability in their marriage, compared to only 25% of married individuals with 5-9 lifetime sexual partners and only 14% of married individuals with 10 or more lifetime sexual partners,” states “The Myth of Sexual Experience,” released by the Wheatley Institute at Brigham Young University last April. The report found it did not matter if these were casual sexual partners or committed, loving partners in serial monogamy. “[W]hether a person’s sexual partners were committed partners or casual sex partners did not change the negative effect premarital sexual experience had on future marriage outcomes.”

Each additional sexual partner had negative impacts on a person’s future marriage. For each sexual partner someone has other than his or her spouse, the level of satisfaction with their sexual relationship — and their marriage — falls by 4%, and the likelihood of having a “highly stable” marriage falls even further, by 6.5%. Those who waited until marriage to have sex reported 20% higher levels of emotional closeness in their marriages than those who had sex with 10 or more partners.

Again, the Apostle Paul told young people to flee the fiery temptation of sexual passions in marriage. “To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (I Corinthians 7:2). And again, researchers bear out his advice.

3. Attend Church Together as a Couple

American culture puts a low premium on faith — lower still when it comes to the importance of religion in marriage. Few believe it makes much difference what religion someone belongs to, because love will overcome all. But surveys show the happiest, and most sexually fulfilled, couples spend time in the same sanctuary.

“Couples who attend religious services together also report the greatest sexual satisfaction. About three-quarters of these husbands and wives are very happy with their sexual relationship; by contrast, those who do not regularly attend together or at all are markedly less likely to be happy,” writes W. Bradford Wilcox, professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Drawing on data from his 2022 State of Our Unions Survey, conducted by the Institute for Family Studies, he finds two-thirds of married couples between the ages of 18 and 55 reported having sex within the last week. That number plummets 19 points (to 46%) for men who say they attended religious services with their wives “occasionally” and another six percent (to 40%) for those who “never” attend church together. The level of sexual satisfaction follows in lockstep. Three-quarters of married men (75%) and women (73%) who regularly attend church together report being “very happy” with their sex lives. The level of physical satisfaction in a marriage falls each time the level of spiritual engagement is reduced: Those who attend religious services “occasionally” report significantly lower levels of sexual fulfillment in their relationships (60% for women, 54% for men), and those who never attend services have the lowest levels yet (52% for women, 47% for men).

Physical pleasure is far from the only reason that the Apostle Paul warned Christians, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (II Corinthians 6:13-15). Yet the truth of the Scriptures applies equally to soul and body.

The survey also records that couples who share spiritual values as most likely to accommodate one another’s physical needs. Wilcox reports that “wives in religious marriages are more likely to report that it is ‘mostly’ or ‘definitely’ true that their husbands are considerate when they do not wish to have sex, compared to couples who do not share a common faith; likewise, husbands in religious marriages are more likely to report that their wives are responsive to them when they initiate sex, compared to men in marriages marked by no faith.”

That, too, echoes the Apostle Paul’s injunction to married couples: “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (I Corinthians 7:3-5).

The combination of physical and spiritual intimacy acts strongly to reinforce marriages. “[T]he data tell us that regular churchgoers are between about 30 percent and 50 percent less likely to get divorced, compared to Americans who are unchurched,” writes Wilcox. Conversely, having a good sex life as a single person works against the relationship’s permanence. “Higher sexual satisfaction is associated with less desire to marry, stronger beliefs that unmarried people can be happy without marriage¸ and greater satisfaction with singlehood and less desire for a partner,” according to a 2021 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin by Yoobin Park and a team of researchers at the University of Toronto.

The Bible says, “One who pays attention to the Word will find good, And blessed is one who trusts in the Lord” (Proverbs 16:20). Science continues to bear this out. When will our culture catch up?

Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.