Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

What you do before you marry affects your marital happiness and stability

A recent article from The Federalist explains why chastity matters when choosing a mate.

Excerpt:

[A] new study shows that the more relationships you’ve had prior to marriage, the less likely you’ll have a good marriage. This seems somewhat obvious, but it’s so contrary to popular culture and practice these days that even the study’s authors say the finding is “counterintuitive.”

“In most areas, more experience is better. You’re a better job candidate with more experience, not less. When it comes to relationship experience, though, we found that having more experience before getting married was associated with lower marital quality,” said Galena K. Rhoades, research associate professor of psychology at the University of Denver. She’s a co-author of the study “Before ‘I Do’: What Do Premarital Experiences Have To Do With Marital Quality Among Today’s Young Adults?,” from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. The report has all sorts of interesting findings, including that large weddings and conscious decision-making in relationships are also factors in happy marriages.

Previous marriages and previously having lived with a partner were both identified as risk factors for less-happy marriages, the authors said. We know so much about how living together is a risk factor for all sorts of unhappiness that I seriously have to restrain myself from shouting at my female friends who tell me they’re moving in or have moved in with their boyfriends. I mean, even if there were no moral problem with it, it’s just bad strategy if you want a happy life.

[...][T]he nearly one-quarter of people in the study who had sex solely with the person they married reported high marital quality, higher than those who had sex with other partners prior to marriage. And the more sexual partners a woman had before marriage, the less happy she reported her marriage to be. Well that’s not what we’ve been told by the Cosmo-Jezebel alliance. The study’s authors speculate on why this might be.

One reason that more experience could lead to lower marital quality is that more experience may increase one’s awareness of alternative partners. A strong sense of alternatives is believed to make it harder to maintain commitment to, and satisfaction with, what one already has. People who have had many relationships prior to their current one can compare a present partner to their prior partners in many areas—like conflict management, dating style, physical attractiveness, sexual skills, communication ability, and so on. Marriage involves leaving behind other options, which may be harder to do with a lot of experience.

I have to say that this factor is the biggest factor that gives me pause when considering marriage with a woman with a sexual past. Will I be compared to these other men? Will I be trusted? Will she be vulnerable to me? Usually when a woman has had past experiences with bad men, then she tends to be more guarded with me, regardless of how I would perform sexually after we were married. I am interested in a woman being trusting and vulnerable, yet a sexual past usually doesn’t make a woman more trusting and vulnerable.

However, there is a way to work on the problem, I think – and that way is taking a structured approach to courting that involves open communication and deliberate planning:

[T]he hook-up thing, which was a factor in lower marital quality, also matches with other less formalized arrangements that are becoming common among younger generations. If you can make out with someone thanks to the lowered inhibitions you guzzled down at the bar, you don’t have to make a formal request to ask her out or to plan a date. Similarly, many respondents reported shacking prior to marriage. And those who lived with their eventual spouse before making a commitment to marry reported lower marital quality than those who waited to move in together until they were engaged or married.

The study actually had people rate how much of living together was a conscious decision vs. something that just sort of happened. And the more it was a decision, the happier the eventual marriage was. This might be because of higher levels of commitment present at the time of moving in or because it reflects better communication skills, a key to marital contentment, the authors said.

The same sort of conscious decision making effect could be seen in differences in pre-marital counseling. While only 32 percent of those who did not have premarital preparation reported high marital quality, that jumped to 57 percent of those who did take part in premarital preparation. Less sliding, more deciding might not be a Millennial motto but it should be.

What you want to avoid is someone who cannot communicate and is not good at making decisions and then sticking with her decisions over the long haul. And that can be developed – it can be worked on and improved. But it takes time to do.

Here’s the author’s conclusion:

All the options make it hard to man-up or woman-up and make some decisions because we’re so terrified of missing out on the next best thing. But the whole truly counterintuitive point of a happy marriage is that you’re not supposed to be thinking about what your spouse can do for you so much as what you can do for your spouse. That’s why this whole commercialized approach to spouse-picking is wrong. When you’re trying to figure out which yogurt to buy, you’re doing a lot of comparison shopping, but you’re not thinking of what you can do for the yogurt, you know?

We all want marriage, more or less, but we couldn’t be doing a worse job of trying to attain it. We want to find the perfect spouse, even though he or she doesn’t exist and finding a perfect spouse isn’t what marriage is about. What’s worse, we demand that someone forgive us our many faults even while we’re mentally comparing our potential spouse with other people or figments of our imagination. We should stop with that and really work at doing what it takes to get married and stay happily married.

[...]Even if you have not made the healthiest or most prudential sexual choices prior to now, don’t flip out or despair. Just because some factors are related to marital happiness doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy marriage. Just focus on making better decisions from this point forward. Be conscious and deliberate about them. Stop letting life happen to you and start thinking about what you want and how to get there. And, finally, remember that your big extended family is a blessing and that rituals occur throughout the world for very good reason.

I think having a string of past relationships does lead a person to want to delay marriage and hold out for “the next best thing”. That’s why so many women are delaying marriage and getting into fertility problems. They want to have fun and them jump off the carousel into the respectability of marriage at the last possible instant. Which is not fun for a man who is seeking the kind of intimacy that grows slowly over time. I have always been impressed by couples who have been married for decades, but you get that by marrying for the benefit of that other person, instead of holding out for the best deal for you. If you find someone you want to care for for the rest of your life, just marry them – that’s my advice. Try to make relationships more about planning and obligations, and less about fun and excitement.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , ,

New study: couples that delay sexual activity experience higher quality relationships

Relationship stability, quality, communication, satisfaction

Relationship stability, quality, communication, satisfaction

From Family Studies, news about TWO new studies.

Excerpt: (links removed)

[T]wo recently published studies call into question the validity of testing sexual chemistry early in dating.

My colleagues and I published the first study a few years ago in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology. 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. In fact, couples who wait until marriage to have sex report higher relationship satisfaction (20% higher), better communication patterns (12% better), less consideration of divorce (22% lower), and better sexual quality (15% better) than those who started having sex early in their dating (see Figure 2). For couples in between—those that became sexually involved later in their dating, but prior to marriage—the benefits were about half as strong.

[...]These patterns were statistically significant even when controlling for a variety of other variables such as respondents’ number of prior sexual partners, education levels, religiosity, and relationship length.

The second study, by Sharon Sassler and her colleagues at Cornell University, also found that rapid sexual involvement has adverse long-term implications for relationship quality. Using data from the Marital and Relationship Survey, which provides information on nearly 600 low- to moderate-income couples living with minor children, their study examined the tempo of sexual intimacy and subsequent relationship quality in a sample of married and cohabiting men and women. Their analyses also suggest that delaying sexual involvement is associated with higher relationship quality across several dimensions.

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. This finding supports Norval Glenn’s hypothesis that sexual involvement may lead to unhealthy emotional entanglements that make ending a bad relationship difficult. As Sassler and her colleagues concluded, “Adequate time is required for romantic relationships to develop in a healthy way. In contrast, relationships that move too quickly, without adequate discussion of the goals and long-term desires of each partner, may be insufficiently committed and therefore result in relationship distress, especially if one partner is more committed than the other” (p. 710).

The rest of the post talks about two reasons why this works: improved partner selection and prioritizing communication and commitment.

That’s two studies, and there’s a third. Dina sent me this article from the UK Daily Mail about a new study showing the importance of chastity for relationship quality and stability.

Excerpt:

New couples who jump into bed together on the first date do not last as long in relationships as those who wait a new study has revealed.

Using a sample of almost 11,000 unmarried people, Brigham Young University discovered a direct correlation between the length and strength of a partnership and the amount of time they took to have first have sex.

The study showed that those who waited to initiate sexual intimacy were found to have longer and more positive outcomes in their relationships while those who couldn’t help themselves reported that their dalliances struggled to last more than two years.

‘Results suggested that waiting to initiate sexual intimacy in unmarried relationships was generally associated with positive outcomes,’ said the report authored published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

‘This effect was strongly moderated by relationship length, with individuals who reported early sexual initiation reporting increasingly lower outcomes in relationships of longer than two years.’

The study examined four sexual-timing patterns: Having sex prior to dating, initiating sex on the first date or shortly after, having sex after a few weeks of dating, and sexual abstinence.

Each one of these fields yielded different results in relationship satisfaction, stability and communication in dating situations.

Here’s another recent study that shows that if a woman has more than her husband as a premarital sex partner, her risk of divorce increases.

His findings:

Using nationally representative data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, I estimate the association between intimate premarital relationships (premarital sex and premarital cohabitation) and subsequent marital dissolution. I extend previous research by considering relationship histories pertaining to both premarital sex and premarital cohabitation. I find that premarital sex or premarital cohabitation that is limited to a woman’s husband is not associated with an elevated risk of marital disruption.However, women who have more than one intimate premarital relationship have an increased risk of marital dissolution.

Here’s another study that makes it even more clear.

Findings:

Data from the 1988 US National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) were utilized to assess the impact of premarital sexual activity on subsequent marital stability. Among white NSFG subjects first married in 1965-85, virgin brides were significantly less to have become separated or divorced (25%) than women who had not been virgins at marriage (35%).

[...]The lower risk of divorce on the part of white women with no premarital sexual experience persisted even after numerous intervening and background variables were controlled.

This study supports what the Bible says about chastity and premarital sex:

1 Cor. 7:8-9:

8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to stay single as I am.

9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

The idea of “burning” here has to do with sexual desire. Here Paul tells all unmarried people that if they cannot control their sexual desires, they need to get married. Why? Because Paul assumes that one cannot fulfill this sexual desire outside of the marital bed. While Paul would love for them to remain single (1 Cor. 7:7), he believes that sex outside of marriage is a destructive sin and cannot be used as a gratifying release of our sexual passions.

Although young people like to complain about “manipulation” and “controlling” when they are approached with facts, presenting evidence is really the only way to persuade them. Although they may respond with anecdotes to refute studies, studies are important because they represent LOTS of data points, not just one or two cherry-picked cases. Hit them with the evidence before they make the wrong decisions.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , ,

Dennis Prager explains what feminism has achieved for women

Dennis Prager has summarized many of my viewpoints on this blog in a tiny, tiny little article. He calls it “Four Legacies of Feminism“.

Read the whole glorious thing and bask in its wisdom!

Full text:

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s feminist magnum opus, The Feminine Mystique, we can have a perspective on feminism that was largely unavailable heretofore.

And that perspective doesn’t make feminism look good. Yes, women have more opportunities to achieve career success; they are now members of most Jewish and Christian clergy; women’s college sports teams are given huge amounts of money; and there are far more women in political positions of power. But the prices paid for these changes — four in particular — have been great, and outweigh the gains for women, let alone for men and for society.

1) The first was the feminist message to young women to have sex just as men do. There is no reason for them to lead a different sexual life than men, they were told. Just as men can have sex with any woman solely for the sake of physical pleasure, so, too, women ought to enjoy sex with any man just for the fun of it. The notion that the nature of women is to hope for at least the possibility of a long-term commitment from a man they sleep with has been dismissed as sexist nonsense.

As a result, vast numbers of young American women had, and continue to have, what are called “hookups”; and for some of them it is quite possible that no psychological or emotional price has been paid. But the majority of women who are promiscuous do pay prices. One is depression. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat recently summarized an academic study on the subject: “A young woman’s likelihood of depression rose steadily as her number of partners climbed and the present stability of her sex life diminished.”

Long before this study, I had learned from women callers to my radio show (an hour each week — the “Male-Female Hour” — is devoted to very honest discussion of sexual and other man-woman issues) that not only did female promiscuity coincide with depression, it also often had lasting effects on women’s ability to enjoy sex. Many married women told me that in order to have a normal sexual relationship with their husband, they had to work through the negative aftereffects of early promiscuity — not trusting men, feeling used, seeing sex as unrelated to love, and disdaining their husband’s sexual overtures. And many said they still couldn’t have a normal sex life with their husband.

2) The second awful legacy of feminism has been the belief among women that they could and should postpone marriage until they developed their careers. Only then should they seriously consider looking for a husband. Thus, the decade or more during which women have the best chance to attract men is spent being preoccupied with developing a career. Again, I cite woman callers to my radio show over the past 20 years who have sadly looked back at what they now, at age 40, regard as 20 wasted years. Sure, these frequently bright and talented women have a fine career. But most women are not programmed to prefer a great career to a great man and a family. They feel they were sold a bill of goods at college and by the media. And they were. It turns out that most women without a man do worse in life than fish without bicycles.

3) The third sad feminist legacy is that so many women — and men — have bought the notion that women should work outside the home that for the first time in American history, and perhaps world history, vast numbers of children are not primarily raised by their mothers or even by an extended family member. Instead they are raised for a significant part of their childhood by nannies and by workers at daycare centers. Whatever feminists may say about their only advocating choices, everyone knows the truth: Feminism regards work outside the home as more elevating, honorable, and personally productive than full-time mothering and making a home.

4) And the fourth awful legacy of feminism has been the demasculinization of men. For all of higher civilization’s recorded history, becoming a man was defined overwhelmingly as taking responsibility for a family. That notion — indeed the notion of masculinity itself — is regarded by feminism as the worst of sins: patriarchy.

Men need a role, or they become, as the title of George Gilder’s classic book on single men describes them: Naked Nomads. In little more than a generation, feminism has obliterated roles. If you wonder why so many men choose not to get married, the answer lies in large part in the contemporary devaluation of the husband and of the father — of men as men, in other words. Most men want to be honored in some way — as a husband, a father, a provider, as an accomplished something; they don’t want merely to be “equal partners” with a wife.

In sum, thanks to feminism, very many women slept with too many men for their own happiness; postponed marriage too long to find the right man to marry; are having hired hands do much of the raising of their children; and find they are dating boy-men because manly men are so rare.

Feminism exemplifies the truth of the saying, “Be careful what you wish for — you may get it.”

I wish I could add something to this, but I can’t because every time I think of something to add, he says it in the next sentence.

If you like this short essay, then this medium essay arguing against feminism authored by Barbara Kay would be nice follow-up.

It might be worth forwarding these articles along to your friends. And I highly recommend books on male-female relationships and roles by George Gilder, especially “Men and Marriage“.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New study: most younger evangelicals hold to Biblical views on sexual issues

This National Review article says that evangelical Protestants, which is the most conservative kind of Christian there is, are sticking with the Bible’s teachings on sex.

Excerpt:

The research, to be fully released in September, was introduced in Mark Regnerus’s presentation “Sex in America: Sociological Trends in American Sexuality,” unveiled at a recent gathering of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s leadership summit. According to Regnerus, when compared with the general population and with their non-observant peers, churchgoing Evangelical Christians are retaining orthodox views on Biblical sexuality, despite the shifts in broader American culture.

Regnerus surveyed 15,378 persons between the ages of 18 and 60, but he focuses in particular on respondents under 40. Significantly, Regnerus did the important work of differentiating between those who identify merely verbally with a particular religious tradition and those who actually attend church weekly. A political poll that didn’t differentiate between likely and unlikely voters wouldn’t be an accurate representation of the electorate, and for the same reasons, a survey should distinguish between someone who says “Catholic” or “Baptist” when asked for a religious identity and someone who actually shows up in the pews.

While support for same-sex marriage characterized a solid majority of those identifying as atheists, agnostics, liberal Catholics, and liberal Protestants, only 11 percent of young Evangelicals actively expressed support for same-sex marriage.

Approximately 6 percent of religiously active Evangelicals expressed support for abortion rights, while over 70 percent of their non-believing peer group said they believed in abortion rights.

While a large cross-section of all Americans believe in marriage’s importance, Regnerus found that, for example, Evangelicals are less likely than most to perceive marriage as “outdated.”

Evangelical Christians were also drastically less likely to believe that cohabitation is a good idea. While upward of 70 percent of those who claim no religious affiliation or those who are “spiritual but not religious” agree that cohabitation is acceptable, approximately 5 percent of Evangelicals agreed that cohabitation is acceptable. “While left-leaning Evangelicals have received considerable media attention lately, it pays to survey the masses and see just what’s going on,” says Regnerus. “These data suggest that while a modest minority of Evangelicals under 40 profess what we might call more sexually liberal attitudes, it’s not a significant minority. Minorities can be vocal. Survey data help us understand just how large or small they really are.”

I am glad that I am an evangelical Protestant Christian. Wherever the battle lines in the culture war are drawn, you can always count on us to be there.

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Why does the Bible place restrictions on sex outside of marriage?

From Evidence Unseen.

Excerpt:

God created marriage to be between one man and one woman. God created us with gender (“male and female” Gen. 1:27), and he designed it so we would “leave our father and mother” (Gen. 2:24—both singular) and become “one” with our spouse. Sex outside of this context goes beyond (or against) God’s design. Jesus affirms God’s original design for sex by quoting these two passages in Matthew 19, and Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 to affirm God’s design for marriage as well (1 Cor. 6:16).

By contrast, the NT speaks against all other forms of sexuality as porneia. This is the Greek root from which we get our modern term “porn.” Paul writes about porneia often and with the strongest possible terms. Thus this isn’t simply a NT teaching, but rather, a NTemphasis:

(1 Cor. 6:13) The body is not for immorality [porneia].

(1 Cor. 6:18) Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.

(Gal. 5:19) Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality.

(Eph. 5:3) But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

(1 Thess. 4:3) For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality.

As those who know Christ, God’s will is to change us into people who have control over our sexuality, yet expressing ourselves regularly and pleasurably in marriage (1 Cor. 7:2). Resisting God’s design will depreciate your life. One author rightly said, “Nobody ever broke the law of God. You break yourself against the law of God… You don’t break the law of gravity. You break your neck.”[1] Of course, God completely forgives believers for our sins (Rom. 8:1), but he doesn’t protect us from their consequences (Gal. 6:7; Heb. 12:14-17). When we live apart from our Creator’s design, we will expect to see negative effects in our lives.

I can certainly vouch for the fact that premarital sex and especially cohabitation does enormous damage to a woman’s ability to be trusting and vulnerable. I find trust and vulnerability very attractive, but the women I know who have mashed themselves up with failed sexual relationships have a greatly diminished capacity for trust and vulnerability.

More:

Secular researchers have noted the ways in which fornication and cohabitation affect us in negative ways. Melina Bersamin (Department of Child Development—California State University) writes,

College students who had recently engaged in casual sex reported lower levels of self-esteem, life-satisfaction, and happiness compared to those students who had not had casual sex in the past 30 days… College students who had recently engaged in casual sex reported higher levels of general anxiety, social anxiety, and depression compared to college students who had not had recent casual sex.[2]

One study found that having sexual intercourse with someone only once or having sexual intercourse with someone known for less than 24 hours was significantly associated with feelings of sexual regret (Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008). Both men and women report sexual regret, albeit for different reasons, following casual sex encounters (Fisher et al., 2012). Feelings of sexual regret, and feelings of regret in general, have been linked to poor psychological out- comes, such as lower life satisfaction, loss of self-worth, depression, and physical health problems.[3]

Likewise, Robert Durant notes that “adolescents who were sexually active had significantly higher depression scores than nonsexually active subjects.” He adds that depression was “positively correlated with the number of partners in the previous 3 months.” He also points out that having a strong sense of “purpose in life” was “significantly negatively correlated with… the number of sexual partners in the previous 3 months.”[4] In other words, people that sleep around are not happier, but sadder. Moreover, people who feel that they have a purpose to their lives don’t feel the strong sense to sleep around.

It’s a question of prudence. If you want to be able to offer your future spouse trust and vulnerability, then you don’t engage in premarital sex, and especially not in cohabitation. Cohabitation basically means you give everything to a person who doesn’t commit to you. When it ends, your trust and vulnerability take a major hit, and you may never recover full function in that capacity. You basically just end up giving less of yourself the next time to the next person, and they are cheated out of the trust and vulnerability they deserve.

More studies:

Hall and Zhao (from the University of Western Ontario) studied 8,177 individuals who were ever-married. They write, “Premarital cohabitors in Canada have over twice the risk of divorce in any year of marriage when compared with noncohabitors.”[13]

Manning (et al.) writes, “Over 50% of cohabiting unions in the US, whether or not they are eventually legalized by marriage, end by separation within five years compared to roughly 20% for marriages.”[14]

Daniel Lichter and Zhenchao Qian (from Cornell University and The Ohio State University) write, “If serial cohabitors married, divorce rates were very high—more than twice as high as for women who cohabited only with their eventual husbands.”[15]

I think I know why cohabitation causes this higher risk of divorce. When a person cohabitates with another person and gives them everything (including their bodies) and the relationship fails, it makes them much more distrustful and paranoid when dealing with the next person they may like. They become unable to take the other person’s needs seriously and care for them because they are so worried about being hurt after giving up a lot to other people. If the distrustful person senses that they are holding back from the other person, they will often blame the other person for making demands on them – perhaps by imputing false motives to them, in order to justify not having to give anything back. In my experience as a chaste man, I have always felt like I was clear emotionally to give everything in each new relationship, and what I’ve found is that I have been able to easily trust each new person even after a break-up with the previous person. Break-ups don’t hurt much if you don’t get physical, and you’re more likely to stay friends with the person as well.

The really annoying thing about this is that premarital sex is so widespread that most people seem to have had it before their brains are even functioning enough to know what they really want out of life. So, instead of working backwards from the demands of marriage in order to know who to have a relationship with, they are choosing based on appearances and peer-approval far before marriage is even a possibility. By the time they get to an age where they are aware of what kind of woman or man marriage requires, they are already damaged to the point where they cannot give themselves to someone who is a good match. That’s the problem with having sex with someone when you are young – you don’t know what marriage is about, so you don’t know what to look for. It’s especially bad for women, who give away their peak sexual years (teens and 20s) to men who then want nothing to do with them. They’ve been used for sex without commitment by men who were good-looking, but not good.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , ,

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