Category Archives: marriage

Do men need sex? Wants vs. needs and the making of weak men

A bit ago, I wrote a piece challenging Michelle Duggar’s advice to her newlywed daughter about how to be sure to always be ready for sex.

“And so be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you,’ no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels. ‘I’m still here for you and I’m going to meet that need because I know it’s a need for you.’ ” (emphasis mine)

That advice, in my opinion, makes men out to need sex to such a degree that the lack of it will lead to bad things like porn and adultery. Sex is treated as the glue that holds fragile men in the marriage and the lack of it kills the marriage because men can’t function without it.

Interestingly, comments on that blog and other social media, by women, suggested that indeed sex is a need, not just a want.

Now, I just read a piece by a not-surprisingly anonymous blogger entitled, “How a husband can enjoy sex that is grudgingly given by his wife,” which argues much the same thing. While there are a million things wrong with his post, I only want to highlight the “need” language used in it. When illustrating how a wife might be allowed to (rarely) turn down her husband’s request for sex, he suggests she use this line with him,

“Honey, I know you really need it, but I am just really sick tonight, can I make it up to you tomorrow?” (bold mine)

And when he talks about the problem of the wife not wanting sex the way the husband wants,

But then we have the conundrum, women don’t always feel like having sex. Even women that have a healthy view of sex don’t always feel like having sex as much as their husbands do. (emphasis his)

One could argue that for some this is true, some men feel greater sexual desire than do their wives. But it is only a conundrum if such feelings/desires for sex are evidence of some innate need that if not met will lead to trouble.

Maybe from this quote you are not sure that this blogger believes sex is a need for men. Well, he also believes it is a need for women as well,

You need to realize that this is a physical need that you have as a man. You also need to realize that whether your wife knows it or not she needs to have sex too. Your marriage needs sex at regular intervals. If you don’t have sex with your wife at regular intervals, even sometimes when she is not in the mood but consents anyway, you will open yourself to temptation. You will find yourself becoming distant from your wife, because this is the primary way that you as man feel closeness with your wife.

But even if you realize and accept this truth that you need sex and it needs to happen even if your wife refuses to “fake it” and bury her wrong attitude then what?

What is probably most controversial in this blog is that he advises men to go ahead with sex when a wife is giving sex in a grudging way. He recommends that a husband not look at his wife’s face but focus on her body. You see, sex is such a need, it would be best to just muscle through it, don’t look at her face, so you can fulfill that need. Really!

Is it a need? Is it a want?

So is sex a need? Even if you believe it is a duty to provide sex to your spouse, does that make it a need equivalent to, “if I don’t get oxygen, I will die”?  Will the absence of it lead to bad things? It seems that some have  bought into this little formula: SEXUAL DESIRE = NEED. UNMET NEED = DANGER that will lead to  temptation, straying, or some such pathology.

What do we do with single men who want to be married? Is God unkind to them?

I think our troubles begin this way: We often baptize desires as needs, expect needs to be fulfilled, are angry when they are not, make demands of others to fulfill our wants and excuse ourselves when we use illicit means to get what we want (either by outright force, manipulation, or secrecy).

Notice here the author conflates desire with need. Yes, many men and women desire sexual activity. We are designed for it so it is not surprising when we like it and want more of it. But it is also designed to be used to connect us with our spouses. And when it is used to only fulfill one person’s needs, then it is not being used as designed.

And when we see it as a need, we are encouraging men to see themselves as weak and incapable of living without sex.

Further, arguing backwards does not make it a need. For example, you could show that those in sexless marriages are more likely to cheat (example; I don’t know if this is true or not). This information still does not make sex a need. At best it can only tell us it is a powerful want.

Consider for a minute how we might respond to these two different equations:

  • Sex as basic need + unmet need = ???
  • Sex as powerful want + unmet want = ???

How would you conclude these two equations? The first is more likely to focus on ensuring the spouse is not selfishly withholding such a basic need. The second is more likely to be concluded by addressing the one who has the want and how they plan to address that want.

A Better Equation

Maybe this is a more accurate equation: Sex as a powerful want + partially unmet wants + brokenness (bodies, relationships, desires) = grief over losses + opportunity to rely on Holy Spirit + pursuit of loving our spouses more than ourselves. This equation better acknowledges wants, sadness the happens when wants are not met, the reality of broken wants and broken bodies but also points to a better goal of reliance on God and the focus of love more than getting something.

It is painful to have unmet wants/desires. Those desires do not have to be wrong (though we are never fully right either). But our wants are always given to God and made secondary to our command to love the other well. Yes, part of loving the other may be talking about desires and hurts. But surely let us get rid of the idea that failing to have sex leaves men or women in some greater danger than those who have sex as much as they want.


Filed under marriage, Relationships, Sex, Uncategorized

Advice to Young Marrieds? Why Michelle Duggar’s Newlywed Sex Advice Hurts Women AND Men

A couple of days ago my social media sites were all a rage about some advice given by Michelle Duggar (19 Kids and Counting fame) in one of her blogs. Here’s the oft-quoted part,

She told me: “Michelle, I know you’re so excited. You’re a bride-to-be, but some day you’ll be at this point. I’ve been married three years and I’m still happily married. I have one child, we’re expecting our second and I’m big pregnant. You’ve got to remember this. Anyone can iron Jim Bob’s shirt, anybody can make lunch for him. He can get his lunch somewhere else. But you are the only one who can meet that special need that he has in his life for intimacy. You’re it. You’re the only one. So don’t forget that, that he needs you. So when you are exhausted at the end of the day, maybe from dealing with little ones, and you fall into bed so exhausted at night, don’t forget about him because you and he are the only ones who can have that time together. No one else in the world can meet that need.”

“And so be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you,’ no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels. ‘I’m still here for you and I’m going to meet that need because I know it’s a need for you.’ ”

No wonder the rage. The message is quite simply awful in its meaning. Here’s my take on what she really says:

Your husband’s sexual need is so great you can never turn him down or bad things will happen. Always be ready no matter what has been going on in your life. Put a smile on and do it! The only way he’ll really know you are “there for him” is your sexual availability.

Okay, a little context is in order for those, like me, who have never seen the television show. The blog, entitled, “Michelle Duggar’s Advice to Newlyweds,” begins with a fan question: What advice will you give Jill [her daughter] as a newlywed wife to keep in mind throughout her marriage? She gives three points: be available (quote above is from that point), talk about disagreements in private, and get marriage advice when you need it. And while the context is all about what she wants to tell her daughter before her wedding, she does conclude with a single sentence to the guys about not approaching marriage as if they are all “macho” and above the need for advice and help.

The problem

The problem with this advice is there is a bit of truth in it mixed with a significant dose of false conventional wisdom. It is true that we need to pay attention to the desires of our spouses. It is true that sex can be more important to one spouse than the other and so it if you are the lower-desire-for-sex spouse, it means you one form of love for your spouse is to care about their desires. But notice that “care about desires” does not mean you have to do whatever they want when they want. That is the false conventional wisdom in her post. Men have this need, so the thought goes, and a godly wife will always meet it because that is what love does.

Some Better Sex Advice for Young Married Men

Sex is not the (sole) definition of emotional connection. You want a good marriage and the probability of a decent sex life? Connect with your wife’s emotional and experiential life. Regularly explore her dreams, fears, and aspirations. You may be shocked to find out that you didn’t marry someone who thinks exactly like you. Allow her to have her own thoughts and feelings. It won’t diminish who you are.

When you come home at the end of the day, seek her out. You may have had a hard day at work but your wife still needs you to be present. Ask about her day. Notice what needs to be done around the house and do it, without being asked. And when you see she is burdened with care for the kids, the house, or her own health, step it up a bit without looking for a pat on the back. Only you can offer that kind of support.

Remember too, sex is a great thing but it isn’t intended to be an antidote to herb (or your) boredom, sadness, or tiredness. Find out what helps her to be ready for sex and yet be understanding when she says “not tonight” (note: when you want sex, be sure to ask not hint). She’s not a vending machine that always responds because you put in the right amount of money. When she declines, stay close to her. If she says yes only to avoid your cold shoulder, you are ensuring that sex is all about you and not at all about her. Do not make sex the requirement for your love, compassion, and interest in your wife.

Finally, and most importantly, remember that sex is a want, not a need. Sure, it is a powerful want and a good desire. But that does not mean it is a must-have. Treat it as a right and you will kill your love life. 1 Corinthians 7 doesn’t give you the right to demand sex. Notice that your body is not yours to control. That control is given to your wife. Yes, the point of the passage is mutual care for each other. But in a broken world, that does not mean that we mutually care for each other in the exact way we want to be cared for. And so we will have times of unfulfilled desires. Do not believe for a moment that her lack of availability is what tempts you to porn, masturbation or other forms of infidelity. It’s not her, it’s you!

Obviously, there is much more sex advice to be given to young married couples. Find a good book and read it together. Stay away from blog posts (even this one!) as your final source. But if you are in need of pithy bullet pointed sex advice, try these:

  • Don’t be selfish
  • Laugh a lot (especially at yourself)
  • Don’t keep a record of wrongs
  • Do repent quickly
  • Make and keep a tradition that is something you both love
  • Don’t ignore or withhold what makes your spouse feel safe and significant

You do these well and I would bet your sex life will be just fine.


Filed under marriage, Sex

Advice to an abused wife? Guest post over at

For those interested in a new resource on dealing with abusive relationships, check out this post about Leslie Vernick’s new book on emotionally destructive marriages. I highly recommend it. Leslie gets the insanity of emotional abuse and is able to point out a good and godly response.

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Filed under Abuse, marriage, Relationships

What if your spouse acts the part of empathic listener (but really isn’t)?

You’ve had a bad day. Your spouse comes home and you proceed to tell them about your difficult, frustrating day. When you finish telling your tale of woe, your spouse says the following (with appropriate feeling)

Wow, that really was a tough day. I’m sorry it has been so hard for you. Why don’t you take it easy and I’ll handle…[whatever menial task you would normally do right now]

Normally, this validation would feel quite nice. But what if you knew that your spouse didn’t really feel the warm fuzzies they were trying to send your way? What if they were only saying what they thought you wanted to hear?

Would you still feel loved because of the effort they made? That they wanted to “fake it ’til they make it”?

A recent This American life radio episode covers this very issue. The fifteen minute episode tells of a man with Aspergers who needed to learn how to love his wife and did so by observing and mimicking others who had better social skills. At one point in the show, the interviewer asks his wife if it matters to her that her husband doesn’t feel the empathy he is trying to convey.

Her answer? No.

What would your answer be?


Filed under love, marriage, Psychology, Relationships, Uncategorized

Ken Tada: Breast cancer from the husband’s point of view

Last night I had a short but sweet conversation with Ken Tada. That would be Joni Eareckson Tada’s husband. Joni and a few others were presenting yesterday at a Biblical Seminary event. At the Q & A, an audience member asked how we all could pray for Joni and Ken. Ken’s answer was to tell us that in 2010, Joni was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had treatment and now has gone 2.5 years since surgery and chemo. He asked that we pray for continued good health in regards to cancer. He mentioned the important goal of making 5 years without a reoccurrence.

As a fellow husband of a breast cancer survivor, I could relate well to his prayer. We just hit our 3 year anniversary. During our conversation we discussed how such a diagnosis and ensuing suffering brings life into crystal clarity. What is important (relationships, time together, worship, small things like listening to the birds, etc.) and what is not (writing/speaking opportunities, following the news, public affirmation, career advancement) becomes so evident to us. It also taught us both (Ken and I) what vows mean. Now, I would have thought he already understood that being married to Joni. I suppose he did. However, new forms of suffering remind us of what God’s love is like for us.

Last night Joni said that suffering is used by God to purify us, to remove those things that are not from him. I agree. It does so in both the one with cancer as well as the husband.

He and Joni have a new book coming out in April. I saw a copy of it last night. Looks like a good read!


Filed under breast cancer, marriage, Relationships, suffering, Uncategorized

[A version of this post was first published here on February 24, 2009. Given the content of my previous post, I decided to place it back at the top by republishing today]

Now for the matters you wrote about: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 1 Cor. 7: 1-4

In the past year I have had several conversations with men about these verses. In every situation one spouse (not always the woman) had refused to engage in certain sexual practices with their spouse. These they found unappealing or disconcerting for a variety of reasons (e.g., a husband did not wish to use sex aids, a wife did not wish to receive oral sex, a spouse found a position brought back memories of abuse, or either found themselves undesirous of any sexual activity).

And so the frustrated spouse remembered these verses and wished to use them to compel their spouse or at least remind them of the duty to provide sex.

So, whose desires trump if the gist of the passage suggests that neither has full ownership of their own body nor has the right to demand in the bedroom? 

Sadly, I have listened to  men argue that women must submit to their husband’s sexual requests. She should fulfill her marital duty, should abstain only for prayer, and that her body is her husband’s. They appeal to this text and to Ephesians 5 which commands women to submit to their husbands.

Here is what is missing in that argument:

1. The husband is commanded to sacrifice everything to love his wife. That would include his desires.

2. This passage clearly states that the wife has control over her husband’s body and thus gets veto power over how he wants to use it in bed.

Some other things from the text that get neglected:

1. The Corinthian church wanted Paul’s opinion about sex and marriage. Paul does not affirm their position. In fact, he says that given the problem of immorality, couples should not unnecessarily tempt each other.

2. Sex is not the highest good in life or in marriage. It would be better to not marry and no, not everything is beneficial. Thus our desires cannot be a god to us.
2. The mutuality of sex is obvious. No one gets trump. The goal of the passages is to encourage each other to look out for problems of temptation.
3. And yet, these aren’t commands but advice (v. 6).

Now consider these application Q & As:

1. Should a spouse comply to a request for sex if they aren’t interested?

Interested is a key word here. Some spouses may wish to engage in sexual activity even as they know their own level of desire isn’t nearly as high as the requesting spouse. But the one who wishes to please their spouse ought not feel compelled or asked to do something they find distasteful or compromising. Couples that can talk through sexual desire differences in a manner where both the asker and the assenter feel heard and supported should not face much difficulty here. It is only when either the asker feels rejected or the assenter feels forced/guilty does differences in sexual desire create trouble.

2. Should one ever use these verses to urge their mate to engage in certain sexual behaviors?

There is a big difference between asking and urging (aka compelling). Lauren Winner says that God oriented sex is unitive and sacramental. It is about giving rather than getting and/or performance. It is hard to imagine how a person would use these verses  in a manner that wouldn’t violate the law of sacrificial love. Recall that these texts are not providing “rights” for either party. The entire Christian life is a “dying to self” experience.  

3. Are there situations that might cause a couple to abstain from sex other than for prayer?

Absolutely. The text doesn’t cover every situation. Health factors obviously limit sexual activity. These may include non-genital disease, STDs, and even past or present traumas. Generally speaking, married individuals enjoy sex. So, if one is resistant to sex or to certain sex practices, it probably won’t take much time to uncover problems in the relationship or other illnesses. Note here that this 1 Corinthian text focuses on the problem of sexual immorality. Paul gives several pieces of advice (give yourself to ministry, avoid marriage, get married, watch out for each other, etc.) but nowhere does he command any of these activities. His goal is to help the church avoid the sins of idolatry and adultery. When we take the text and look for a passage to defend our “must-haves”, we miss out on the larger context and purpose and fall into the very sin Paul is exhorting us to avoid–idoloatry.


March 8, 2013 · 5:07 am

CS Lewis on “headship”

Last week my prayer partner John read me a bit from CS Lewis’ “The Business of Heaven“, a daily reader. This little vignette covers the controversial topic of headship. Christians have frequently gotten up in arms over the meaning of headship and submission in the marriage relationship (Ephesians 5:21-33). We can boil most of these arguments down to matters of power. Who gets to be in charge? What is mutual submission? Are you loving right? Submitting right? How often should the decider (thank you George Bush and Saturday Night Live for this wonderful noun) be putting his/her foot down?

Wherever you fall on this discussion of the meaning of the Ephesians 5 passage, the following from Lewis is quite apt:

We must go back to our Bibles. The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the Church. He is to love her as Christ loved the church–read on–and gave his life for her (Ephesians 5:25). This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is–in her own mere nature–least lovable. For the Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; he does not find, but makes her lovely. The chrism of this terrible coronation is to be seen not in the joys of any man’s marriage but in its sorrows, in the sickness and sufferings of a good wife or the faults of a bad one, in his unwearying (never paraded) care or his inexhaustible forgiveness: forgiveness, not acquiescence. As Christ sees in the flawed, proud, fanatical or lukewarm Church on earth that Bride who will one day be without spot or wrinkle, and labours to produce the latter, so the husband whose headship is Christ-like (and he is allowed no other) never despairs… (p. 169-170)

There is a lot of substance in the above quote. You might do well to read it again, slowly. I gather a couple of crucial points.

  • You want to see Christlikeness in a husband? Much easier to see it in a difficult relationship than in an easy one. It is easy to love the most lovable.
  • Headship is not about being the decider so much as it is about being the first to sacrifice his desires for hers.
  • Sacrificial living is not acquiescing to another’s desires. That is a weak way of relating to others. A thoughtful person may well say “no” to another’s wishes when humbly considering that the request is not good or healthy or is unjust. And yet, many of our denials of other’s wishes are less about right and wrong and much more about personal freedom and control. There is great power in choosing to set aside personal desire for the sake of another.
  • The same can be said for women who are trying to figure out how to “submit” to “unworthy” husbands. However, this biblical passage has much more to say about the sacrificial, others-focused husband.

Lewis goes on to say that he does not mean to baptize difficult or miserable marriage. There is no extra value to martyrdom. He only wishes to remind us that it is easy to point out the flaws of another in such a way that makes our self-serving choices legitimate. Even when we must refuse a loved one or confront them about their flaws, it should be done for their sake, and not our own.


Filed under biblical counseling, Biblical Reflection, christian counseling, counseling, marriage, Relationships

EFT Seminar in Philadelphia: 7/29/11

Those interested in learning more about Emotion Focused Couples Therapy might wish to take note of a local seminar being taught by a certified EFT trainer. My colleague, Anna Nicholaides, is helping to sponsor this and is hosting it at her office complex on Arch Street in Philadelphia. Cost is $115 ($150 for CEs) and includes lunch. Seminar runs from 9a to 4p. EFT is a validated couples treatment modality. If you are working with couples and having  a hard time softening them or de-escalating the conflict dance, you are likely to benefit from this seminar. See the HEALINGoneday6082011 flier and the registration Healing Relationships training registration[1] for more details.

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Filed under counseling, counseling science, counseling skills, marriage

Debunking myths about marital sex

[NOTE: This week I plan to highlight some of last week’s sex trafficking and sexual abuse conference hosted by the Seminary. We had great numbers for the event but some readers aren’t local so I want everyone to get a bit out of the conference.]

Yesterday I was at Church of the Savior in order to speak on the topic of sex to their pre-marital class. One of the goals I have is to debunk a number of myths pre-marrieds might have about sex. So, here are some of the myths (in no particular order):

Marital Sex is best when couples achieve simultaneous orgasms

Few couples actually ever achieve this (less than 25%) and those who do report that it takes much effort. Good marital sex is about giving and receiving mutual pleasure. It is not a competition but an opportunity to love and serve each other

Couples should expect intercourse to last a long time

Contrary to media depictions, intercourse isn’t likely to last for long period of time. First, most males are likely to ejaculate within 3 minutes of vigorous thrusting. Sorry for the graphic nature of this but facts are facts. Believe it or not, someone has done the research having couples count thrusts. Average? 30. Second, vaginal tissues aren’t designed to withstand that amount of friction that would happen in a lengthy intercourse. It is essential for couples to realize that sex is much more than intercourse and orgasm. It starts with the relationship OUTSIDE of the bedroom. Trust and commitment lead to a capacity to be vulnerable with each other. It includes acts of service. If you count emotional intimacy and verbal foreplay, then sex does last forever.

Healthy couples have similar sexual desires

Actually, in every couple there will be one with higher sexual desire and one with lower desire. This is NOT a problem. Also, the one with the lower desire will control the sexual relationship (that person decides which requests for sex to say yes to and which to say no to) and this too is NOT a problem nor unfair. Couples do not get off track with differing levels of desire. They get off track when either one personalizes the disparity. For example, if the one who desires more sex assumes that a “no” to their request is personal and an attack then there is going to be a problem. If the one who desires less feels coerced or guilty for not wanting to have sex, then there is going to be a problem.

Marital sex will be boring if you are not always trying out new techniques

Sex can be exactly the same each time and yet not boring. What makes sex boring is the attitude and the attention span. If you are not “present” during sex, then it won’t be that exciting. If you are present and prepared to enjoy your experience, you likely will enjoy it. While trying new things in the bedroom can be good, those who believe they must try new things all the time may reveal that they are never satisfied and are on a quest for something beyond mutual pleasure. The lure of “new” and the quest for an over-the-moon experience may reveal addictions and/or unrealistic expectations.

Boring isn’t the biggest problem in the bedroom. Trust and vulnerability levels predict sexual pleasure far more than “new” and “exciting” ideas. So, levels of conflict, criticism, unwillingness to be influenced by one’s spouse, rigidity, unwillingness to listen to the fears/dreams of each other, and the tyranny of the urgent are more likely to kill intimacy in the bedroom than would boredom.

Good sex needs to be spontaneous

Actually, good sex is more likely to be planned. True, it can be spontaneous. But unlike the various erectile dysfunction ads, most people find that planning is more likely to get them in the mood than stopping in the middle of some house work and running upstairs to the bedroom.

Past sexual abuse or prior sexual behaviors will always hinder good marital sex

It is true that abuse and shame regarding past sexual experiences (wanted or unwanted) have an impact on one’s identity. These experiences have a way of changing us and do not usually disappear. However, a couple who has worked hard to build a trusting, safe relationship can find ways to express their sexuality that honors each other. Good communication will help non-abused spouses to understand how to help their loved one avoid triggers and to respond well when a trigger happens. Couples that demand sex to fit into stereotypes and limited forms may struggle more than those who are willing to be creative and broad in their definition of sexual expressions of love.

Want to kill your marital sexual relationship? Start comparing!

Comparing what you have to what you expected or what you think others have tends to make you jealous, fearful, hurt, disappointed, etc. Stop comparing and start noticing what God has given you and enjoy that.


Filed under marriage, Sex, Uncategorized

Delaying sex til marriage improves your relationship?

The January 22nd edition of The Economist ran a 1 page review of a research article regarding the impact of sex before or after marriage on the subsequent marital relationship. I decided to track down the actual article and so thought I would make some comments here. For those of you who can’t wait for a tidbit The Economist writer provides this final summary:

Their report, just published in the Journal of Family Psychology, suggests that people who delay having sex do indeed have better relationships, on four different measures…That result applies to both men and women.

Unfortunately, Dr. Busby’s method cannot distinguish the cause of this. It could be, as many moralists preach, that the delay itself is improving. It could, though, be that the sort of people who are happy to delay having sex are also better at relationships. [p.93]

Not a bad summary but let’s go a bit deeper.

The Study

This is a study, by Dean Busby, Jason Carroll, and Brian Willoughby, was funded by a grant at Brigham Young University. The researchers surveyed 2035 married couples (recruited through various ways to take an online survey) as to the timing of their first sexual experiences (before or after their wedding). They hypothesized that sexual timing would have an impact on sexual compatibility, communication, relationship satisfaction, and relationship stability. 

Who took the survey? Demographics reported show that 77% were Caucasian couples from ages 19-71 (mean=36.1 years). Most were fairly educated. Religious affiliation was reported to be 39% Protestant, 21% Catholic, 6% Mormon, 17% “other”, and 17% unaffiliated.OF the sample (2035), 336 couples reported that they waited until they got married to have sex. The rest reported having sex prior to getting married. The largest group admitted to having sex within a few weeks after dating and 126 couples reported having sex prior to even dating (I guess I’m not sure what constitutes dating anymore…)


Here’s a succinct summary from the authors

With the sample in this study it is clear 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, even when controlling for a variety of other variables such as the number of sexual partners, education, religiosity, and relationship length. (p. 772)

Testing sexual chemistry prior to marriage did not enhance any of the above aspects of marriage over that of waiting. However, the authors also admit that the timing of sex (waiting) has positive but only moderate gains for the relationship. From this data you can’t say that you will kill your relationship if you have premarital sex. That said, the idea that premarital sex is advisable to form a good relationship holds NO water. But then, I’m not sure people really have premarital sex because they want to test the relationship. They have it because they want it and don’t want to wait.

The authors did make some hypotheses. Is it possible that those who engage in premarital sex underdevelop the relationship. By focusing  on pleasure and sex, do they fail to get to know each other well. Consider this quote.

The primary focus here is that when people slide through major relationship transitions the decreased level of deliberation
may lower the odds of pro-relational behaviors. Furthermore, sexual involvement without clear commitment can represent an ambiguous state of commitment for many partners. The ambiguity of early sexual initiation may undermine the ability of some couples to develop a clear and mutual understanding about the nature of their relationships. In contrast, commitment-based sexuality is more likely to create a sense of security and clarity between partners and within their social networks about exclusivity and a future. The results from this study support these propositions. (p. 773)


I’m not sure many will refrain from having sex because it will build a better relationship. People usually refrain out of deeper principles than that. It may not be different between those who save and those who spend all they get. Everyone knows saving is best. But some do and others do not. Those who do not usually find something they want or need now that is more powerful than socking money away for a later date.


Busby, D. M., Carroll, J. S., & Willoughby, B. J. (2010). Compatibility or restraint? The effects of sexual timing on marriage relationships. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(6), 766-774.


Filed under marriage, Sex