The rush of infatuation leads people to take the next steps in their relationship without looking objectively at the odds of the relationship succeeding. The breakup takes its emotional, if not financial, toll on both partners. Ever hopeful that the next time will be better, however, many people find themselves almost instantly in a new and similarly passionate relationship. Relationships that form under these circumstances, should they lead to marriage , are more likely to suffer in terms of quality.
Close relationship researchers have known for years that couples who cohabitate before marriage and are not engaged are more likely to divorce or, if they remain together, experience poor marital quality. Rather than going through the process of critically evaluating whether the relationship is right for them, they make the decision to marry out of factors such as convenience, economics, or—the sex.
In an online study of nearly married and cohabitating couples in which the female partner was less than 45 years old, Sassler and colleagues examined measures of relationship quality, sexual satisfaction, communication, and conflict.
Respondents indicated relationship tempo by saying how long the couple waited, after they started dating , to have sex. Controlling for a number of important other variables age, number of prior marriages, children, education , income, and financial strain , the researchers then compared the relationship quality of couples who waited less than a month, months, and 6 months or more.
Because the study was a cross-sectional one, meaning that people were not followed over time, this meant that it was impossible to determine whether people destined to have worse relationships jumped into sex sooner than those who would go on to be satisfied with their partners. In general, the findings supported the hypothesis that having sex early defined here as within a month of dating was related to poorer relationship outcomes for men and women. These four additional findings flesh out that overall conclusion and point to some sex differences as well: Couples tend to move quickly into sexual relationships.
Over one-third reported having sex within one month after they started dating. This percentage was slightly higher than that observed in previous studies. The slower the sex, the better the relationship. For women, but not men, the longer the delay between dating and sex, the better the perception of the current relationship quality.
Slowing things down for women, but not men, meant paying attention to other factors that would ultimately improve the relationship such as commitment and emotional intimacy.
Early sexual activity symbolized relationship commitment. Again for women, but not men, having sex early in the scheme of things signified to them that their partner was committed to the relationship.
Entry into cohabitation accounted for the negative effect of relationship tempo on quality. Couples who had sex early in the game were more likely to decide to live together and, in turn, had less satisfying relationships. For women, but not men, the factor most related to early sexual involvement was later sexual satisfaction.
These findings suggest that premarital sex, especially early in the dating relationship, has different impact on the later satisfaction of women than men. However, they do seem to attach different meanings to sex as an indicator of commitment. Without moralizing on whether premarital sex is bad or good for a relationship, the authors point out that practically speaking, premarital sex actually is bad for a relationship.
When couples are led by sexual desire, financial need, or an unexpected pregnancy to get married, they are less likely to stop and examine whether they share similar life values, goals , compatibility, and emotional intimacy. Since women are generally the ones to initiate divorce proceedings, it means that their satisfaction in the relationship is especially crucial to its long-term viability. However, there are valuable lessons for you. Being able to spot the signs of relationship difficulty could help you stop problems before they become unmanageable.
You can take advantage of active listening to improve the way you communicate, which is one of the primary ways to build emotional bonds. The upshot is clear: Take your time, examine your motivations for intimacy, and figure out whether you and your partner share a similar vision for your life and your relationship. If you and your partner take this brief intimacy quiz , you can also get an idea of whether this is going to be a good match. Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Reference: The tempo of sexual activity and later relationship quality.