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The Myth of Sexual Experience

Why Sexually Inexperienced Dating Couples Actually Go On to Have Stronger Marriages

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Current dating culture promotes the idea that sexual experience with several people is necessary before getting married. These beliefs are so widespread that now half of the people in the United States have more than 5 lifetime sexual partners by the time they get married. But what does scientific data actually say about having multiple sexual partners before marriage?

Several recent studies—including a new one by the Wheatley Institute—show that having several sexual partners before marriage decreases marriage quality in 4 major ways: relationship satisfaction, relationship stability, sexual satisfaction, and emotional connection.

These findings challenge the notion that sexual experimentation in the dating years helps people “settle down” and prepare for marriage. In fact, multiple sexual partners may be doing the exact opposite. Overall, it appears that sexual exclusivity between spouses is what makes individuals most ready for the intimacies and difficulties of marriage.


Brian J. Willoughby, Ph.D. is a Professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University and a Fellow of the Wheatley Institute. Jason S. Carroll, Ph.D. is the Associate Director of the Wheatley Institute and a professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. Carson Dover is a master’s student in the Marriage, Family, and Human Development graduate program in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. Jessica T. Sullivan is a recent graduate in the Psychology undergraduate program at Brigham Young University.

The Myth of Sexual Experience Video