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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, 1-6 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.
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.
The “cohabitation effect,” as it’s called, occurs because many people who live together before getting engaged slide into marriage through a process of inertia.
I’ll skip over the gory details of the extensive analyses and controls that the researchers imposed, but rest assured that they did everything they could to tease apart their findings.
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: 1.
For men, having sex early in the dating period didn’t actually have that same meaning. Entry into cohabitation accounted for the negative effect of relationship tempo on quality.Having sex early in a relationship, followed by cohabitation, sets the stage for women to be less satisfied with the sex they’re having now.These findings suggest that premarital sex, especially early in the dating relationship, has different impact on the later satisfaction of women than men.In an online study of nearly 600 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.Before they know it, they’re making plans to move in together.Unfortunately, many of these hurried unions lead to disappointment as the relationships falls apart before it’s even had time to take shape.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.What about if you’re a “churner,” and not yet in a long-term committed relationship?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.