Many young adults believe that they will have a better marriage if they try out some components of marital life first, but the opposite effect is more likely. For example, a new study shows that couples who keep sexual intercourse for marriage then have a significantly better relationship.

The study involves 2,035 married individuals who participated in a popular online marital assessment called “RELATE.” From the assessment’s database, researchers selected a sample designed to match the demographics of the married American population. The extensive questionnaire includes the question “When did you become sexual in this relationship?”

A statistical analysis showed the following benefits enjoyed by couples who waited until marriage compared to those who started having sex in the early part of their 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 couples in between — those that became sexually involved later in the relationship but prior to marriage — the benefits were about half as strong.

Lead study author Dean Busby, a professor in Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life, says, “I think it’s because they’ve learned to talk and have the skills to work with issues that come up.”

Because religious belief often plays a role for couples who choose to wait, Busby and his co-authors controlled for the influence of religious involvement in their analysis.

“Regardless of religiosity, waiting helps the relationship form better communication processes, and these help improve long-term stability and relationship satisfaction,” Busby said.

Apart from anything else, the study shows that couples can and do wait — still. Human mating is not the same as among non-rational animals.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet