Essays Psychology

Two Reasons Why Premarital Sex Increases the Risk of Divorce

Couples who have premarital sex are more likely to neglect other aspects of relationship development, and to misjudge their compatibility for marriage.


Nearly all adults in America have sex before marriage. According to the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, “by age 44, 95% of respondents had had premarital sex.”1 Although sex can increase your feelings of love for your partner, research shows that premarital sex also increases the risk of divorce. Couples are more likely to neglect other aspects of relationship development, and to misjudge their compatibility for marriage.

Sex has the power to create an emotional bond between a man and a woman, resulting in increased feelings of love and intimacy. Jim Pfaus, a professor at Concordia University, published a study that showed “love and desire activate specific but related areas in the brain.”2 According to Pfaus, “Love is… a habit that is formed from sexual desire as desire is rewarded.”3 In other words, if you have sex with someone you are physically attracted to, the more likely your feelings of love for that person will grow.

Although sex is a “love drug” that can create an emotional bond with your partner, research shows that premarital sex does not lead to better marital outcomes. A 2010 study, which surveyed over 2,000 married individuals, found that “the longer a couple waited to become sexually involved, the better their sexual quality, relationship communication, relationship satisfaction, and perceived relationship stability was in marriage…”4 Couples who waited to have sex until their wedding night had the best marital outcomes with relationship stability rated 22% higher, sexual satisfaction 15% higher, and communication 12% better.5 The higher scores for couples who delayed having sex suggest that they put more time and effort into developing their personal relationship.

A 2016 study by the Institute for Family Studies found that women who marry as virgins have a much lower divorce rate than women who have had multiple sexual partners. Female virgins who married in the 2000s had a 6% divorce rate after five years, while women who had two sexual partners before marriage had a 30% divorce rate.6 Women with 10 or more sexual partners had the highest divorce rate at 33%.7 The percentage dipped slightly for women with three to nine partners,8 but the overall result is clear: Having one or more sexual partners before marriage increases the risk of divorce.

One reason is, couples who have premarital sex may place greater focus on the physical and sexual aspects of their relationship, and put less effort into other aspects of relationship development like communication. As a result, their future marriage will be less stable. In contrast, couples who abstain from premarital sex are likely to place greater focus on their personal relationship, making them better prepared for marriage. Further, by building a relationship on a foundation other than sex, both partners can better judge their compatibility.

Many people today believe that premarital sex is essential so both partners in a relationship can determine if they have sexual chemistry: the “mysterious, physical, emotional and sexual state that when present in a relationship creates something unique and explosive.”9 They reason that if marriage is a car you might want to purchase, then you need to take a test-drive first. However, if sexual chemistry is a prerequisite for a successful marriage, couples who have premarital sex should have lower divorce rates than couples who abstain. The results of the two aforementioned studies indicate that the opposite is true.

The second reason premarital sex increases the risk of divorce is the experience of sexual chemistry can cause a couple to misjudge their compatibility. Due to the increased feelings of love and intimacy that follow sex, a couple can become “prematurely entangled”10 and later get married. In other words, if you have a great sexual relationship with your partner, it can create the illusion that you are soul mates. Tragically, years later, when the flames of sexual passion have died down, many people realize they married the wrong person.

Sex is a vital aspect of marriage, strengthening the emotional bond between a husband and wife, but great sex is not what makes a marriage last. True love endures when a man and a woman are loving companions: two people who enjoy each other’s conversation and have shared interests and values. Engaging in premarital sex doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful marriage. (The Institute for Family Studies found that 75% of women who had six to nine sexual partners did not divorce after five years.11) However, by delaying sex until marriage, and building a relationship on the foundation of companionship, you have a greater chance of choosing the right partner, and being together until death do you part.


  1. Lawrence B. Finer, “Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States, 1954­2003,” Public Health Reports 122, no. 1: 73.
  2. “I want to know where love is,” Concordia University, June 19, 2012,
  3. Ibid.
  4. Dean M. Busby et al., “Compatibility or Restraint? The Effects of Sexual Timing on Marriage Relationships,” Journal of Family Psychology24, no. 6 (2010): 772.
  5. Brigham Young University, “Couples who delay having sex get benefits later, study suggests,” Science Daily, December 29, 2010,
  6. Nicholas H. Wolfinger, “Counterintuitive Trends in the Link Between Premarital Sex and Marital Stability,” Institute for Family Studies, June 6, 2016,
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Busby, “Compatibility or Restraint?”, 767.
  10. Busby, “Compatibility or Restraint?”, 772.
  11. Wolfinger, “Counterintuitive Trends,”


  1. I can only “speculate” that in the age of the Internet, it is much easier to have more sexual partners. The source links might have a better answer.

    What is clear (from the data) is that virgins have a very low divorce rate. It makes perfect sense. When you take premarital sex out of the relationship, you are better able to judge your comparability for marriage. Your relationship is founded on companionship love. Premarital sex can give you the illusion you have found your soul mate. Because sex is a love drug, premarital sex can bond you to someone who isn’t right for you.


  2. Hi Nehemiah Project, i’ve read your profile and liked it.
    While I am a skeptic and atheist, I relate profoundly to your comment policy, welcoming discussion while not indulging in mud-slinging.
    My policy is the same, we have that in common. Over the years of occasionally visiting blogs and expressing myself on comment threads, I have offered this:
    If anyone thinks that anything I have said or even hinted at is wrong, I encourage them to tell me that they think so, provided they then tell me WHY it is wrong.
    I can then respond to their views directly without trying to guess their exact objections.
    Then I can examine their thoughts and i’ve even been surprised in the past, having chewed over a subject I have learned from them and they have learned from me, such an enjoyable and satisfying thing.
    I’ve exchanged with ‘psychic mediums’ on skeptical blogs, creationists on Atheist blogs, ‘Roswell’ fans on critical ufological blogs and among many others, witch-doctors on anti-psuedo-medicine sites. The hard-line ‘I’m right and your wrong’ attitude did little to improve my knowledge. Although I did gain some primal satisfaction from digitally spinning on people with eyes ablaze to see them shrink back into their seats a little, that time has passed and I think we can learn from each other by sharing beliefs, exchanging ideas and generally keeping at least a cordial manner.

    The big wheel has turned. My sexy, powerfully muscled and acid-tongued youth has been swept away with time and a smarter, nicer Woody exists now.

    All the best and thanks for being here,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very well done, Chris. You would think that with evidence like that people would find it desirable to “wait” until marriage. We have thrown off the yoke of God’s directions for life and run ourselves into the ditch.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Very interesting and good job citing your references.
    I have found that women tend to invest in a relationship. They will do whatever they can to give love to their man…they will live with him, have sex with him and even give up things for him. No, this is not 100%, of course. But, in these instances, the men will likely take advantage of the convenience of her investment, while enjoying physical intimacy and simply having somebody to love – to whatever level they define love. Women, by and large, love rather naturally while seeking to be loved.
    The physical intimacy is an unintended smokescreen which clouds the senses concerning love. The guy thinks he is giving love and the gal thinks she is being loved. Again…not 100%, and this is also my personal observation. No clinicians to cite.
    I think what we need is better knowledge of what love is and how it pertains to relationships of all kinds and, in this case, the intimate male-female relationship.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Thanks, Woody, for your feedback. This definitely won’t be my post popular blog post!

    This essay was a personal discovery for me. I wanted to find out if virgins had a lower divorce rate. I learned many things about premarital sex I didn’t know before.

    I agree that in marriage (or a common law relationship) if couples aren’t having sex, that is obviously a sign of relationship problems. However, in a premarital relationship, great sex can create the illusion that you have found your soul mate. This can cause couples to misjudge their compatibility for marriage.

    One of the many risks with premarital sex is you can become emotionally bonded to someone who isn’t right for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks Chris, interesting subject and thanks for the references because I was scoffing and had face twisted in pure disbelief at some of your assertions until I was able to validate them.

    I have noticed that almost without exception, the sex-life enjoyed by a couple is a clear indication of how the rest of the relationship is going. I’m not sure what I might be hinting at with this, it’s just something I have noticed.

    Liked by 1 person

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