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


Saving Sex for Marriage Leads to Happier Marriages, Study Finds

April 25, 2023

A new study conducted by Brigham Young University’s Wheatley Institute has found that individuals who saved sex for marriage have significantly higher levels of marital satisfaction than those who had multiple sexual partners before marriage, confirming what numerous previous studies also found.

“Our study confirms what other national studies have been finding the last few years, that sexually inexperienced dating couples are two to three times more likely to be in a highly stable marriage,” said Brian J. Willoughby, a Wheatley Institute fellow and co-author of the report.

As Willoughby observed in an Institute for Family Studies article laying out the report’s findings, conventional and popular cultural notions in America have often emphasized the idea that gaining “sexual experience” via premarital sex is an important step toward achieving a stable marriage. “Many people believe that it is important for couples to test their ‘sexual chemistry’ while dating and for single adults to gain ‘sexual experience’ before marriage to sample one’s options and eventually select a spouse better suited to their preferences,” he wrote. “Also, many believe that young people need to experiment sexually while they are single so that they will be ‘ready to settle down and get married’ when the time comes.”

But as Willoughby pointed out, his study — along with multiple previous studies — contradict this way of thinking. For example, recent studies conducted by sociologist Nicholas Wolfinger and his colleagues found that “women who wait until they are married to have sex have only a 5% chance of divorce in the first five years of marriage, whereas women who report two or more sex partners prior to marriage have between a 25% to 35% chance of divorce within the same time period.”

The Wheatley study further underscores this pattern. It found that the probability of individuals reporting being “very satisfied” in their marriage, having a “very stable” marriage, and being “very satisfied” with their sexual relationship within marriage decreased proportionate to the number of sexual partners they had before marriage.

Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council, argued that social science data like the Wheatley study substantiate the wisdom of foundational Christian teachings that prohibit sex before marriage.

“God didn’t give us commandments in order to limit our freedom; in fact, it’s quite the opposite,” she told The Washington Stand. “Following His commandments allows each of us to experience true freedom and the highest degree of flourishing possible. This is shown time after time, and most recently in the new report from the Wheatley Institute demonstrating that individuals who live their lives according to God’s plan for human sexuality — that it be between one man and one woman in the context of marriage — have more fulfilling and longer lasting marriages. Incidentally, saving sex for marriage doesn’t just lead to a better marriage, but also leads to fewer women having abortions and fewer adults living in poverty. In short, following God’s law is good for mankind.”

Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.