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Abstaining from Sex Until Marriage Helps Marriages Last

Virginity gets very little press or screen time these days and that’s a shame. As a new American study confirms, a woman who enters marriage as a virgin has the best chance of still being married five years later – and probably beyond that. In fact, the odds of her marriage lasting have got better over the last 30 years, as divorce rates for such women have dropped from 11 percent in the 1980s to 6 percent in the 2000s.

The likely reason for that, says the author of the study, University of Utah sociologist Nicholas H. Wolfinger, is religion –that other uncool topic. His data, taken from three waves of the National Survey of Family Growth, shows that women who marry as virgins are far more likely to attend church at least once a week. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer of them. Four decades ago 21 percent of brides had no previous sexual partner, but by 2010 that figure had dropped to 5 percent, representing the most religious women.

(By now you may be asking, Hey, what about the men? Wolfinger explains that “the NSFG doesn’t have full data on men’s premarital sexual behaviour, and in any event they recall their own marital histories less reliably than do women.”)

As you might expect, the next most likely to last marriages are those of women who have had only one sex partner previously – in most cases their future husbands. Their numbers, however, have dropped from 43 percent in the 1970s to 22 percent in the current decade.

The stats for the 1970s may surprise us, as they did Wolfinger. Even though the sexual revolution was well under way, he notes, almost two-thirds of brides had at most one sexual partner before getting married.

“Even in the 1980s, slightly over half of women had a maximum of one sex partner before walking down the aisle. Things looked very different at the start of the new millennium.”

By the 2010s,the number of brides who had had multiple sexual partners had climbed significantly. Those who’d had 10 or more partners had gone from 2 percent to 18 percent. As you would expect, this group has the highest five-year divorce rates – but only since the 2000s. Prior to that, women with two partners prior to marriage had the highest divorce rates – around 30 percent – compared to those with more partners.

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