Happy couple

Everyone has their supposed secrets to a happy marriage (quality time together, Viagra, or in the case of Tracy Morgan, six-cheese lasagna). But scientists out of Brigham Young University (wait, Mormons believe in science?) claim that waiting until your wedding night to have sex is the true key to a lasting marriage. (Unsurprising, coming from a school of religious zealots, I know.) 

A study of 2,035 married couples found that relationship stability was rated twenty-two percent higher in relationships between individuals who abstained from pre-marital sex. Relationship satisfaction was twenty-percent higher, while quality of sex was fifteen percent better and even communication between partners was twelve percent better. For couples who became sexually involved before marriage, the benefits were about half as strong.

One can't help but think this research is just an itty-bit biased given the ultra-conservative and religious bent of the university. After all marrying someone without sleeping with them is about as logical as buying a car without giving it a test-drive. Sexual compatibility has got to have something to do with a happy relationship — or at least a sexy one. 

Commentarium (18 Comments)

Dec 23 10 - 2:49pm

Science and Brigham Young? Isn't that an oxy-moron? Or is that Oxy-Clean?

Jul 15 12 - 9:49am

I know I will take heat for saying this but after many women, many failed relationships (including a failed marriage) where sex was the focal point early in the relationships, I decided to give the no sex until marriage concept a try. I can honestly say, at age 40, after waiting a year and a half to get married, I am currently in the best relationship I have even been in. The sex is GREAT!!! I know I am in the minority for saying this but it is true. By the way: we dated for a year and a half and it was the toughest thing I ever did, but seriously, it was worth it!!

Dec 23 10 - 4:15pm

I'd be curious to know where the sample was taken from, because if it was strictly based in Utah, I doubt it's a representative sample of the population as a whole... Not to mention, I would think that those that waited until marriage may believe they're happier, but without a little 'experimentation' how would they know how good it could be?

Dec 23 10 - 6:26pm

That just doesn't seem like the way to have a healthy sexual relationship... IDK, just sayin...

Dec 24 10 - 3:39am

It seems to me that if you were so intimidated by social conventions as to be afraid to have sex without some kind of ritual approval, you would be very happy indeed to find an arrangement that let you get as much as you wanted. Isn't that all there is to this?

Dec 24 10 - 4:24am

I knew a Mormon couple who abstained throughout their long courtship only to find themselves in a miserable, sexless relationship once they married. Why?--because they'd repressed their sexuality for so long that they were more like brother and sister than husband and wife. I wouldn't take BYU's word for anything.

Dec 24 10 - 1:31pm

This is probably too much self-disclosure for an anonymous online forum, but I feel that I am uniquely qualified to talk about this since 1) I am a former Mormon from Utah who 2) got my undergrad at BYU, and 3) got married very young using the abstinence model and am now divorced before I'm 30.

First @TwoLane: mormonism and science being an oxymoron is much too easy a target. I expect much better from you! Actually, most people don't know that Mormons are among the most influential and powerful people in science and academia, particularly in Ivy League schools. Even in my mormony days I was surprised at how expansive this is.

So about the no-sex-before-marriage thing: it is a bit like playing russian roulette with your relationship. Sexual chemistry is either there or it isn't. In my case and those of many mormons, it is only after the novelty of sex wears off that you realize that there isn't any real spark. When both parties have no clue about their sexuality, it creates a relational vacuum that neither knows how to fill. In my case, it was about 3 years that my wife and I realized that we were sexually incompatible.

When you grow up Mormon, you are taught that premarital sex is a sin, and as adolescents it equates to sex = evil. Then you are expected to flip a switch and go 0-60mph just like that. Its hard to process as a horny twentysomething virgin. Further compounding the anxiety is that you are pressured to start having children right away. And when some newly married couples do have kids soon after marriage, you NEVER have a chance to explore your sexuality.

And the abstinence model is almost more harsh on women than men. I know many mormon women who described their wedding nights and honeymoons as traumatic. The described feelings of impurity and unworthiness after sex with their husbands, caused by their upbringing that those who fornicate are evil, except when they are married.

The whole thing is a giant mind fuck. Now, sexual chemistry is something ithat has to be established with all of the women I date. It's too important to just leave up to chance.

Dec 24 10 - 3:02pm

i was raised fundamentalist christian, and broke away in my teens, but there are a lot of echoes of SR's experience in my early sexual explorations. it's all incredibly confusing and there are a lot of factors involved.

OF COURSE these couples report being happier. A: they're very motivated to say they have a strong relationship, since they're signed up for life, unlike non-religious people. they'd have to manage crippling cognitive dissonance if they were even for a moment un-filled with bliss, and B: ignorance is bliss, generally speaking. if you don't know what kind of sex you could be having, because you haven't compared it with anything, you're going to be perfectly satisfied (at least for awhile) with whatever you've got. the results are self-reported and i have a hard time imagining they controlled for these things.

Dec 25 10 - 6:42am

Has anyone, besides former Mormons or fundamentalist Christians, tried abstaining and had a positive experience? I'm always intrigued by certain possibilities, especially regarding marriage without sex after a serious health issue/ accident, or marriage/ civil partnership with atheist or agnostic beliefs and abstinence?

Dec 25 10 - 3:23pm

I've had two friends abstain before they met their partners. My girl friend, she waited until she was married to have sex, but she made out with a lot of guys and her husband was not a virgin. Even so, they had some difficulties figuring out what she needed sexually. But they were snuggling plenty before they got married, PLUS it was some kind of crazy love-at-first sight thing for them and they were married within a year of their meeting.

The other friend to whom I refer is actually my boyfriend--he waited until he met me (and knew he was going to marry me) to start having sex. But he, too, did plenty of hooking up and playing before that. For him, he who is so eminently practical, having sex would've meant getting entangled emotionally with crazy girls he liked well enough, but not so much that he wanted to get involved in their drama. This practical attitude pervades every thing he does, much to my annoyance (how can you win an argument with someone who's always sensible and right? And I don't mean that sarcastically, or mean to say that he's got an attitude problem. Whenever he makes a point, I can TOTALLY see the sense of it. It's SO ANNOYING.)

However, I am very glad that I didn't wait, because I was very uptight about sex until I met a man who made it hilarious and fun and joyful--if I hadn't taken those early opportunities, then I doubt that the sex I'm having with my boyfriend would be as good as it is. Sex with him is AMAZING and has only gotten better in the 5 years we've been together. But I KNOW that because I have a lot of something else to which to compare it.

His sister also waited until she was married to have sex, but I think for her, too, it was not wanting to get tangled up in drama. They are very practical people. And they are Episcopalians, so they're not THAT conservative.

Dec 26 10 - 5:58pm

I'm sure couples that have sex only for procreation are happier, too, according to a study run by the International Society for Krsna Consciousness.

Dec 27 10 - 12:20am

To JD. I tried working out the differences with my ex-boyfriend. I am agnostic/atheist (who happens to be a virgin) and he is catholic (who is also a virgin). In the long run, it didnt work because the religious variances were too much. Now, I am not a virgin because I'm up-tight or scared, but rather I'm waiting for someone to have a long term relationship with- and he definetly seemed like someone I'd be with for a while, but he was very, very adament about "saving" sex for marriage.
I am a very open minded person and so is he (for the most part). We both put our differences aside to see the other as a great person deserving of love and who had profound respect for one another. But having this schism in ideals was too much. I wanted sex to further our relationship where as he wanted to wait for all "bases" and under no circumstance would he budge.
I do not think MOST couples can withstand such differences.

Dec 27 10 - 1:06pm

The idea of waiting for just one person is 'romantic' in a sense, but only if you magically find yourself with someone who you are ridiculously compatible with, have all the same kinks, etc and amazing chemistry. Like SR said, its russian roulette. Sure, you might get lucky - but chances are its going to be rocky.
I know two women i've met in my life who both waited till marriage (both not with the original guy), and both found it utterly traumatic and said they would never ever recommend it to anyone.

I can't imagine the huge pressure for the wedding night to be amazing - it would be horrendous!!

Dec 30 10 - 6:53pm

Well I guess to each's own, I just find it really sad because it seems really limiting. Also it seems that to people who wait that sex just isn't as important to them and I can't imagine sex not being a vital part of life. I would never commit to the rest of my life with someone without knowing if we're sexually compatible.

Jan 03 11 - 12:28pm

I find this notion of "sexual compatibility" kind of perplexing. I've never thought that if I have, say, Fetish A, that anyone I marry has to also have Fetish A, and that's what it sounds like people are saying sometimes. Seems to me that if you get along philosophically, and are physically *attracted* to each other (which you certainly know without coming close to p-in-v sex), you'll make allotments etc. I guess I just don't see being "sexually compatible" as such a completely different category from "compatible in life."

Jan 05 11 - 12:01pm

You young people are so sexually saturated by sexual music, videos, TV, movies and magazines that you don't know how exciting and exhilarating waiting can be. Quit making fun of the study just because it came out of Brigham Young...I've seen other studies with similar results even when the researchers didn't WANT abstinence to come out the winner! Think of what you could avoid...the threat of disease, malfunctioning birth control and pregnancy constantly hanging over your heads.

Sep 27 11 - 6:46pm

I would love to see the methodology of this study. That said, think of what it would mean to say, (after doing without sex for 10 years in hopes of a blissful marriage) that I'm NOT happy after such a controversial stance in its pursuit. I'd love to see a polygraph test administered based on answers to the questionnaire to see who answered honestly.

Jan 28 12 - 4:24pm

It's really sad for me to think that sexual compatibility is the primary method of evaluation for a relationship or a marriage. I agree with thinkywritey: "I just don't see being 'sexually compatible' as such a completely different category from 'compatible in life.' You know whether or not you are sexually attracted to someone just by spending time with them. Or not! How many women who are okay with sex before marriage have sex with some celebrity in an instant and expect it to be amazing? But I digress...

My boyfriend and I are LDS and not getting married until December (11 months from now...yeah, I'm counting!) and we're waiting. I have no doubt that we'll have a satisfying sex life because I can feel it when we're together. Even without sex, they way you are together, the way you sit together, hold hands, touch, kiss - that'll all tell you whether or not you're sexually compatible with someone: do they turn you on? do you turn them on? That's what's important.

Sex is a special bond between two people whether you want it to be or not. As a convert, I was not a virgin before I was baptized. My experience of sex before marriage is that it creates a certain kind of connection between two people that cannot actually be broken, no matter how much you repent or how much you wish it didn't happen. From my experience, I know that sex is just something too big and too strong for a recreational relationship. When it's the defining act between being married and unmarried, it creates a bond in the marriage that should be very, very hard to break. But you must do it correctly - be honest with yourself about how you feel about the person sexually (which, again, doesn't need intercourse to be evaluated), communicate with them honestly about what you want and what your boundaries are, and make sure you feel like you're doing the right thing. (I think maybe that just sounds like too much hard work for some people.)

I realize that I have beliefs and experiences that influence my opinion that are different from others' . I understand that a big part of the reason I'm waiting until sex to have marriage is because I have respect for Heavenly Father's wish for us to remain sexually pure until we are adults (which in my [religious] opinion is the point at which you are ready to start a family and fulfill your obligation to the Earth), and not everyone has that "rule". But even without religion, the bonds that sex creates are just best saved for marriage. And so I will gladly not even French-kiss my gorgeous returned-missionary BYU-attending boyfriend until he's my loving, dedicated husband. I just wish everyone could know the ecstasy that I'm going to experience.