Fewer Sexual Partners. Bigger Weddings. Happier Marriages?

This many.

This many.

If you ask me how many sexual partners I had before I married, I’ll probably awkwardly casually put my hand up to my mouth and mumble through my fingers some number between “three” and “thirty-three” depending on how good your hearing is.

And if you ask me about my wedding, I’ll tell you I got married on a Friday afternoon (I left work early) at the county courthouse in front of the district judge. The judge’s secretary was called away from her desk to act as witness. Her phone rang in the middle of the ceremony and she whispered, “I’ll just let that go to voicemail.” Afterward, my new husband and I went to dinner and then he went off to work a 16 hour shift and I went off home to bed.

Those two factors (the number of sexual partners prior to marriage and the small size of the wedding) have destined my marriage for eventual failure, at least according to the researchers at the University of Virginia and their study, “Before I Do: What do premarital experiences have to do with marital quality among young adults?”

“We’re doomed!” I told my husband.

“You’re right,” he agreed after scanning the research findings. “If only we’d known about this earlier, we could have already divorced.”

I nodded. “Instead, we’ve hung on to this sham of a marriage for years!”

“Look here.” He pointed out a paragraph in the study he found particularly interesting.

In our sample, only 23 percent of the individuals who got married over the course of the study had had sex solely with the person they married. That minority of men and women reported higher marital quality than those who had had sex with other partners prior to marriage. We further found that the more sexual partners a woman had had before marriage, the less happy she reported her marriage to be. This association was not statistically significant for men. [emphasis added]

Or maybe this many,

Or maybe this many.

“So now you know the reason why I’m always bitching about you not replacing the toilet paper roll,” I said. “It’s because of all those guys I slept with before I met you.”

He shook his head. “No, you missed the other part from their research.” He quoted from the article. “‘This association was not statistically significant for men.’ Don’t you see? I could have slept with a different girl every night, and still we would have a happy marriage.”

“So my slutting around before we got married is what will cause our children to come from a broken home?”

“I’m afraid so.”

After positing these outrageous (and headline grabbing) claims in the first few sentences, this study, like so many of these studies, then takes it all back in the next few sentences.

It could be that these underlying traits or experiences, rather than the behaviors we analyzed, explain the associations reported here. This objection applies to most research that is not based on randomized experiments. We cannot prove causal associations between the personal and couple factors we explore and marital quality. [emphasis added]

Let me explain what they’re saying here: We had a hypothesis (Big Weddings and Fewer Sexual Partners Lead to Happier Marriages!) that our research did not prove (We Don’t Have a Clue Why Some Marriages are Happier Than Others!), and yet we published this paper anyway.

Given the fact that the researchers with the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia admit their study didn’t prove much of anything, I guess I’ll just ignore it and go on focusing on the number of sexual partners I’ve had after I married, rather than before.

Royalty free images, including the ones in this post, can be found at freeimages.com.

13 thoughts on “Fewer Sexual Partners. Bigger Weddings. Happier Marriages?

  1. barbtaub says:

    Okay if I get kicked off this flight (which they are threatening in three different languages) because I have to finish snorting over this post, it’s so gonna be on you. And that’s just sad, considering that my kids are apparently to suffer through our impending divorce. )


    • Karen says:

      The study was attempting to measure marital satisfaction, not sexual satisfaction, so theoretically a married person could report high levels of marital satisfaction while being totally disappointed in the bedroom (I wouldn’t be one of those people, but I guess there are some in the world, somewhere . . .)

      I neglected to focus on (though I do mention) the other premarital factor the study reported as influencing high levels of marital satisfaction: having a big wedding. Supposedly if you have a big wedding, you’re more happily married.

      To me these “predictors” (you can read about the researchers methodology at the end of the published paper) that the study investigated seem so arbitrary (why not measure people’s toe nails to see if people with pedicures have happier marriages?) that the study is absolutely worthless. And there does seem to be a political agenda here (or maybe I’m paranoid) when the research “finds” evidence to support a double standard, i.e. promiscuous women have lousy marriages but promiscuous men don’t. That finding just sounds a bit too much like “science” supporting slut shaming.


      • Michelle at The Green Study says:

        Studies can be found to support any point of view. People tend to believe their own life/anecdotal experience over scientifically conducted research, but they love it when they can use science to “prove” them right.
        I’m sure there are happy marriage/unhappy sex combos, but I’m sticking with my car analogy. Lucky are the people who get things right the first time around, but I never liked my odds. Still, in first marriage, 14 years later and marital satisfaction higher than ever. I put it down to practicing – going into things with realistic expectations.


      • Belladonna Took says:

        Someone should tell all those celebrities we read about while standing in line at the supermarket that their fabulously expensive weddings will assure them of a happy marriage. Except then we wouldn’t get to read about their even more fabulously expensive divorces…


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