AUSTIN, October 25, 2012, ( – It turns out that “living happily ever after” in a romantic relationship may have a lot to do with when one first has sex.

A psychologist has published a study that found that married or cohabiting couples who saved sex until later in life had “significantly reduced levels of relationship dissatisfaction.”


The study, titled “True Love Waits? A Sibling-Comparison Study of Age at First Sexual Intercourse and Romantic Relationships in Young Adulthood” was released last week in the APS journal Psychological Science. It was written by Paige Harden of the University of Texas at Austin.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health, Harden broke people into groups who have had sex early (younger than 15), on-time (age 15-19), and late (older than 19). Harden clarified that “on time” meant only that “losing one’s virginity between the ages of 15 and 19 is normative for adolescents in the United States.”

Harden found that females who “experienced early first sex” had “reduced” odds of ever marrying.

The researcher found that people who “experienced late first sex” had a “substantially reduced” likelihood of “ever having cohabited with a non-marital partner.” In other words, postponing sex until later in life was seen to go hand-in-hand with being married.

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In contrast, Harden found that people who “experienced early first sex” had a “significantly increased” likelihood of “ever having cohabited with a non-marital partner.” In other words, having sex earlier in life led more to cohabitation than to marriage.

Finally, Harden found that “among both males and females currently in a marriage or cohabiting relationship, late timing of first sex was associated with reduced levels of relationship dissatisfaction.”

Her findings held true even among siblings. The sibling who postponed sex fared better in relationship satisfaction than the one who did not.

Harden noted that the “precise mechanisms” for why postponing sex accompanies higher relationship satisfaction “remain unknown.” She speculated, however, that postponing sex might steer a person clear of “early experiences of relational aggression or victimization” that could have “deleterious effects on relationship functioning in adulthood.”

Dr. Morse, who runs a think tank dedicated to understanding and defending the traditional family in all its aspects, pointed out this study is relevant to “everybody who wants a good relationship.”

“The research is saying, ‘Really, wait to have sex.’ Your satisfaction in whatever relationship you’re in is correlated with how long you’ve waited. Everybody who postpones sex until adolescence is happier in their relationships.”

“What this means is that even a poor person can increase his likelihood of having a good relationship if he postpones sex,” she said.