Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Does being a virgin before marriage affect marital stability?

Please click this link and read this post by an Australian medical doctor. (H/T Mysterious C)

Here’s the graph which is based on data from the National Survey of Family Growth, 2002:

Marriage stability vs. number of lifetime sexual partners

(Click for larger image)

This shows why it is important for men to marry virgins, and also to be virgins themselves.

And in another post he analyzes another independent study that reached the same conclusion:

The results presented in this article replicate findings from previous research: Women who cohabit prior to marriage or who have premarital sex have an increased likelihood of marital disruption. Considering the joint effects of premarital cohabitation and premarital sex, as well as histories of premarital relationships, extends previous research. The most salient finding from this analysis is that women whose intimate premarital relationships are limited to their husbands—either premarital sex alone or premarital cohabitation—do not experience an increased risk of divorce. It is only women who have more than one intimate premarital relationship who have an elevated risk of marital disruption. This effect is strongest for women who have multiple premarital coresidental unions. These findings are consistent with the notion that premarital sex and cohabitation have become part of the normal courtship pattern in the United States. They do not indicate selectivity on characteristics linked to the risk of divorce and do not provide couples with experiences that lessen the stability of marriage.

[...]This limitation notwithstanding, the results presented here should shift attention away from research that focuses on the selection of individuals into cohabitation and premarital sex to a focus on the selection of individuals who do not marry the individuals with whom they first cohabit or initiate first sex. It may well be the case that, irrespective of the legal status of the relationship, the relevant distinction to make is between people who form multiple relationships and people who form a single, longer lasting relationship.

The graph:

Published in the Journal of Marriage and Family

(Click for larger image)

The Teachman study was not done by a conservative.

What is the point of a man being a virgin?

OK, I just wrote this part out in one fell swoop, and I am not sure if it is all relevant, but…

I wanted to consider the question of whether women should value the property of virginity in men from a Biblical perspective. Men have specific things they are supposed to do based on the Bible’s specifications. First, they have to be able to provide for the family financially. Second, they have to be able to protect the family from threats, including threats from false worldviews that lead to damage and destruction. Third, they have to be moral and spiritual leaders, nurturing their wives and children in moral values, moral duties, and their relationships with God.

Biblical men make good decisions all along their lives in order to satisfy these Biblical goals. In order to be a good provider, they study math and become engineers, which is hard and requires self-sacrifice. In order to be a good protector, they study science apologetics, philosophy of religion and the historical Jesus, which is hard and requires self-sacrifice. In order to be a good moral and spiritual leader, they guard their chastity and learn how to behave chivalrously, which is hard and requires self-sacrifice.

What women need to do is to do the research on everything including marriage/divorce/parenting, just like the research I talked about above, and generate a seriously Biblical set of criteria for choosing men that seriously satisfies the requirements for Biblical manhood. Women cannot expect good behavior from bad men. And they should actually affirm, approve, and encourage good behaviors in men – and not be resentful about having the obligation to build good men up with words and gifts.

What women need to do is to understand the behaviors that lead to stability and fidelity in a marriage – and that means studying research. Saying “I already know about the damage caused by divorce” is useless – it’s the knowledge of the evidence that changes how a woman makes decisions about men. Personal preferences can be changed at any time, but knowledge doesn’t vary depending on how you feel at any given moment.

For example, to test men for apologetics knowledge, it’s really easy – just ask them what the significance of cosmic microwave background radiation is, what chirality is, what the significance of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is, and what is the difference between the deductive and inductive problem of evil. If they can’t answer all four of those then you can’t marry them. Biblical manhood concerns are not check-boxes on the marriage application form – they’re long-form essay questions. Judging the man’s ability to do silly stuff, like get a tattoo or clown around in a bar, is just not relevant to making the marriage serve God. A woman’s personal preferences don’t decide here – evidence decides. (So long as the goal of marriage is to serve God, instead of to make women happy)

Men have a very specific role in marriages. They have to be able to teach the children about theology, apologetics and morality. When it comes to morality, women should not just believe what a man says. Instead, women need to look at what a man does. Specifically, she should look at what a man does representing his worldview, faith and morality to people who disagree with him. Go to his non-Christian co-workers and ask them what the man has told them about theology, apologetics and morality. Ask them for the reasons and evidences that were used in debates with them. That’s how you know what a man really thinks – it’s about what he is willing to say to people who he would rather not upset. Where standing up for the truth is really going to hurt his career and make him less popular. That is the true measure of his faithfulness. Not how well he speaks, sings and prays in church. What matters is whether he puts God above his own selfish needs for advancement and popularity. Is he willing to choose Christ over his own selfish desires? What is number one in his heart?

And finally, if a women chooses a bad man because she knows nothing about how to choose a good one, and hasn’t done any research about what a man has to be able to do to make a marriage stable, then she needs to stop blaming men and taking responsibility for her own poor decision-making. Choosing a man just because he makes you feel happy is not the best way to have achieve a stable marriage. You need to have better criteria than that, because you are going to answer for it later, especially if things go awry.

Evidence creates knowledge and knowledge binds the will

OK now back to the real topic of the post: the use of evidence to support Biblical moral values.

I like having evidence. I hate having to take stands for Biblical morality without evidence. If I can use the evidence for the Big Bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of biological information, the Cambrian explosion, the habitability fine-tuning and irreducible complexity to argue for theism, and then argue for the resurrection based on early sources and minimal facts, then I should have the exact same quality of data when defending moral values. If the Bible says something, I should be able to look at the best research and find that the Bible is correct.

You have to persuade a person during courtship by making them read and write about things, and dump them if they won’t do it. People can say anything during a courtship – make all kinds of promises and then suddenly just turn selfish and break them all. If they haven’t studied and tested these things out, because they think they know everything already, then you really can’t expect good behavior. It’s a crapshoot unless they’ve seen the evidence.

UPDATE: Another peer-reviewed paper on the effects of abstinence on stability and communication.

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23 Responses

  1. Jared says:

    This is an excellent post Wintery, very well said. Some men think the Bible lets them off the hook in a marriage, but honestly, when read correctly the bulk of responsibility is on the man. The woman submits to the husband, sure, but the man is supposed to love her as God loves the church…that’s huge! You’ve outlined the man’s role quite well. I would just add that a man must love his wife sacrificially, to be strong, and put God first.
    This is a great post for men to read and for women to read, to see the important traits to look for in a man.

  2. Mary says:

    This is valuable information – particularly in a world where “test driving” one’s prospective spouse is touted is a divorce prevention strategy. Turns out that “old fashioned” chastity is not only godly, but sensible. I also like the way you have elaborated on a husband’s role. I might forgive him not knowing one or two of those apologetic issues provided he showed an interest in finding out more about it. ;-)

    I just really wish you wouldn’t generalize about the response of “Christian women”. :-P I just had a really good conversation with a good male Christian friend who is a couple of years younger than I am. We talked about theology, apologetics, psychology, marriage, etc. Not Lady Gaga’s latest offering. And then he related a story to me of a time when a very attractive young lady he really liked suggested something which would have put him in a position where the temptation to compromise on chastity would have been strong. He managed to resist her, despite his liking her so much and finding her so attractive. He’s very humble about it too and thanks God for helping him withstand that. He also mentioned how glad he is that he avoided it because of all the possible repercussions it could have had. I praised him for doing the right thing and encouraged him. I don’t belittle him at all. I am fiercely proud of him and consider him one of my best friends in all the world.

  3. Mary says:

    I would just like to add that this research doesn’t differentiate between non-virgins who are unrepentant and those who are repentant. I should think that there is far greater marital stability among those who have repented of premarital sex because they have come to value chastity and faithfulness. The Christian God is the God of new beginnings, the God who imparts a rebirth and who makes all things new. This gives great hope to the repentant sexual sinner who has become a new creation in Christ Jesus.

  4. Shalini says:

    This post is great like most of your posts. But I just have one problem. Every time you say this is how women should test, I agree but you know I don’t really have that option. Some times all this does is make me feel sad and frustrated.

    • I know… It is very frustrating. I have more confidence in your ability to choose a spouse than anyone else who might do your arranging for you.

      • Shalini says:

        Well, I guess I just have to take that leap of faith! :) But thank you for your confidence in me. It means a lot coming from you.

        • The best thing I can do for you is to give you the tools to persuade him when he finally arrives. That way, you can change him in appropriate ways – by showing him things that you know. I hope he will be willing to learn all that you can teach him.

    • Mary says:

      Shalini, that must be so hard…

      Some encouragement:

      – Your Heavenly Father knows your concerns and the godly intentions you have. He will be pleased with those godly desires.

      – Remember also that women in Biblical times also often didn’t have much say in the matter. So the advice and promises given to women in the Bible would have your situation almost as an assumption. Those of us who DO have a choice of whom to marry or whether to marry at all must use it wisely and not take it for granted.

      – Take it to the Lord in prayer. I will pray for you and those who are making the decision for you too.

      – Remember also that He will work all things to your good because you love Him and are called according to His purposes.

      • Mara says:

        Note:

        Ephesians 5:21-33 most likely was written specifically to a very partriarchal culture of arranged marriages.

        The verses to the woman were written to a woman who had little or no choice, few rights, and whose husband, for the most part, owned her and her children.

        The verses to the man were written to men who had it all, in their culture, and were encouraged to rule with an iron hand and were discouraged to look upon their wives as suitable, intellectual companions. The wives were baby makers to produce sons and carry on the family name. That’s all.

        Paul’s words were far more revolutionary to his time than our modern minds can fathom.

      • Shalini says:

        Thank you Mary for the encouragement!! I really appreciate it! :) Truth is I’ve accepted this as what God wills for me for the most past but when I read about the rules WK i allow myself to sulk once in a while. :)

        You are right though! I’ll have my faith completely placed in the Lord. Thank you again!! :)

        • Mary says:

          (hug)
          :)

        • Mary says:

          Shalini, I was listening to a Focus on the Family broadcast this morning and the topic was how people change in marriage and how they’re often unprepared for their spouse’s change. The speakers have written a book on the subject: http://www.amazon.com/Your-Spouse-Isnt-Person-Married/dp/1589975472
          One of the interesting points they made was that one of the reasons marriages in the West that aren’t arranged often don’t last as long as those that are arranged is that the expectations are different. People in arranged marriages are expecting having to deal with the unexpected (if that makes sense), and they expect to have to keep learning about their spouses in marriage, while those that make their own choices often fall into the trap of thinking they know all about their spouse up front, and they stop trying to learn and feel disappointed when change happens. In some ways, while I realize it’s a difficult thing for you, you will come into marriage with the correct understanding of needing to learn. And those of us who make the decision for ourselves should use the data we have available to make good choices, but we aren’t at AS much of an advantage as we like to think…

  5. [...] Keep reading. (You can get larger versions of the graphs at this link.) Spread the word: [...]

  6. [...] And in terms of marital stability, the ideal number of pre-marital partners is . . . uh, zero.Wintery Knight has lots more research with charts and stuff. And Steven Crowder makes a startling admission:Yes, I admit it, I’m in a long-term relationship [...]

  7. [...] The self-described slut’s desire for those valuing abstinence? Shut up, you’re young. Also, it doesn’t matter anyway. In addition, you’re stupid and inexperienced. And, don’t confuse me with the facts. [...]

  8. [...] The self-described slut’s desire for those valuing abstinence? Shut up, you’re young. Also, it doesn’t matter anyway. In addition, you’re stupid and inexperienced. And, don’t confuse me with the facts. [...]

  9. Craig says:

    What do you mean when you say women should not marry a man who lacks knowledge of chirality or the cosmic background radiation. Is that sarcasm?

    • Um, no. I think that in order to be a good husband, that a man has to have reasons why God exists. Two of the most common reasons every Christian man should know are the Big Bang and the origin of life. This is boilerplate. Everyone knows this. Belief in God is not an opinion. If a man doesn’t KNOW whether God exists, he cannot be relied on to act morally when things get tough. That’s my opinion. People are free to do what they want.

  10. Zak says:

    I am very, very interested in this sort of research. However, I think it is crucial to be careful here, and make sure people understand this is just a correlation. Going beyond that is simply not supported by the evidence.

    For example, does sleeping with a lot of people cause mental instability, or does mental instability cause one to sleep with lots of people? And how does age, education about sex, and socioeconomic status play into it?

    Do the studies control for why people slept with more than one person (was it cause they were in love with more than one person? Were they raped? Etc). And does it control for why they got divorced? Does it control for if the couples have children?

    I agree there is a clearly a correlation, but it seems that pronouncements of anything beyond that simply is not warranted… there simply are too many other variables.

  11. This post has some interesting points, however I don’t agree totally with it. God loves us all the unconditionally. I don’t believe in Premarital sex, but I have fell into that sin. I have repented faithfully and I believe that God forgives and love holds no records of any wrongs. Marriage can last a lifetime, weather or not you had sex before. It truly depends on the couple that are marrying and if they understand what God want from both of them and how committed they are to the Word of God and each other. Sex is sacred because God made it that way. It is only supposed to happen between a husband and his wife, but we sometimes do fall from God and have sex before marriage.Having sex with someone else outside your marriage is a hole new story, one of witch I am totally against!

    • Well, I think that once the milk has been spilled, you’re doing well to clean up and not spill any more. But the research is what the research is, and people who aspire to a stable marriage should know. Besides, you can still restrict the number of partners and that will be good.

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