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These are important questions to ask since most single adults report that they desire to one day have a successful, lifelong marriage—and while dating, many couples move rapidly into sexual relationships. Couples who do nottest their sexual chemistry prior to the commitments of exclusivity, engagement, and marriage are often seen as putting themselves at risk of getting into a relationship that will not satisfy them in the future—thus increasing their probability of later marital dissatisfaction and divorce.
In fact, as noted in Figure 1, recent studies have found that between 30 and 40% of dating and married couples report having sex within one month of the start of their relationship, and the numbers are even higher for currently cohabiting couples. However, two recently published studies call into question the validity of testing sexual chemistry early in dating. This study involved a national sample of 2,035 married individuals who participated in the popular online couple assessment survey called “RELATE.” We found that the longer a dating couple waits to have sex, the better their relationship is after marriage.
They discovered that the negative association between sexual timing and relationship quality is largely driven by a link between early sex and cohabitation.
Specifically, sexual involvement early in a romantic relationship is associated with an increased likelihood of moving more quickly into living together, which in turn is associated with lower relationship quality.
Early sex creates a sort of counterfeit intimacythat makes two people think they are closer to each other than they really are.