3 Things To Consider Before Having Sex With Your Boyfriend

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Sex

It's no surprise that most people engage in premarital sex, but one 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 percent, 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.

Is it wrong to have sex with your boyfriend before marriage?

Actually, it's totally 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.

RELATED: The Weird Reason I Decided Not To Have Sex Before Marriage

But is it healthy to have premarital sex? As with all great questions, the answer is: it depends.

Here are a few factors to consider before having sex with your boyfriend, all of which make this normal behavior either healthy (or not) for you and your relationship.

1. Age at first sexual experience

A 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 relationships.

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: Do your best to put off being sexual until at least age 19, 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.

RELATED: Waiting To Have Sex Until I'm Married Does Not Make Me A Naive Woman

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.

Becoming sexual with a partner typically means that the choosing is over for her, and the chasing is over for him. Your bond is deeper and the choice is more real if you've taken the time to really know one another prior to sex.

The other issue is emotional insecurity. Having sex too soon often causes women to feel insecure and men to steer away from the perception of neediness. She wakes up the next day believing they're in a relationship, while he may feel that he's still checking her out.

The bottom line: Putting off sex with a new partner — for weeks, if not months — helps you pave the way for a more loving experience.

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3. Your choice of partner

Postponing sex increases the likelihood of making a better choice of partner, and that is especially true for women.

Studies show that women in particular, following sex, experience significant increases of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes bonding. That is why you can choose a sexual partner thinking it is going to be "fun and games" but wake up the next day craving validation that you are in a relationship.

Because sexual bonding tends to cloud judgment, putting off sex gives you a better shot at remaining somewhat objective, and thus more capable of evaluating a potential partner.

The whole point of dating and relating is to choose a good partner, someone to love and be loved by, with whom you share values and want the same outcomes in life.

The bottom line: Sex is a wonderful shared experience in a loving, committed relationship.

To get to that experience, you may have to rein in your hormones, practice delayed gratification, and use your rational brain to make choices. But the reward may well be worth the wait!

RELATED: I Was A Virgin Until I Got Married — And I Regret It

Nina Atwood, M.Ed., LPC, is a nationally known psychotherapist, author of five self-help books, and frequent expert media guest. Visit her website for free advice and Love Strategies.