It's no surprise that most people engage in premarital sex, but one new study found that even if we look at surveys going back for decades, we see the same prevalence of the behavior.
Very few people actually wait until marriage to have sex — less than 10%, according to Lawrence Finer, research director at the Guttmacher Institute. That's been going on since the 1950s, contrary to the common belief that couples were more chaste back then.
Yes, it's normal to have sex before marriage, meaning that almost everyone does it. After all, there are few things more tempting than the urge to make love with the new guy you're falling madly in love with. But is it healthy?
As with all great questions, the answer is: it depends. Here are the factors that make this normal behavior either healthy — or not — for you and your relationship.
1. Age at first sexual experience. A new study from the University of Texas at Austin suggests that individuals who have their first sexual experience later than average may have more satisfying romantic relationships in adulthood. According to the study, individuals who waited to have sex beyond age 19 reported less conflict, more enjoyment, and greater love and affection with their partners.
The younger you are when you have sex for the first time the less likely you are to have stable relationships later in life. Because teenage relationships are inherently unstable (how can you know who you want to be with for the rest of your life at age 16?), most of them break up, often abruptly. The resulting trauma tends to be lasting because you are not yet as emotionally resilient as you will be as an adult.
The other risk with teenage sex is learning unhealthy patterns of relating. Due to the immaturity of partners at that age, it's likely that you will ride the emotional roller coaster up and down with the drama of being "on" one week and "off" the next. This creates highs and lows not unlike the ones associated with drug use. Because the brain is still forming as a teenager, you can cement an impression that this is "normal" for relationships, causing you to seek partners later in life with whom you re-create that instability. Sometimes that leads to a syndrome called Love Addiction.
Last, but not least, young people tend to be less informed about sexual health, resulting in teen pregnancies and the transmission of STDs. The bottom line is this: do your best to put off being sexual until at least age nineteen, for the best overall life and relationship outcomes. Regardless of the age at which you begin having sex, the next piece of advice will help you make better decisions about your sexual relationships.
2. How long you date your partner before having sex. The longer you date before having sex, the more likely you will get to the stage of emotional commitment prior to being sexual. Studies show that the higher the level of commitment, the greater the overall relationship satisfaction. That finding is especially true for women.
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