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Bigger Weddings, Fewer Sexual Partners Linked to Better Marriages, Says Study

Posted by on Apr. 8, 2016 at 2:48 AM
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Couples who have bigger weddings and a lower number of sexual partners before marriage are more likely to have happier unions, according to a new study from the National Marriage Project.

The study, billed "Before 'I Do': What Do Premarital Experiences Have To Do With Marital Quality Among Today's Young Adults?" challenges the general notion that what happens in younger years, before marriage, has no effect on the rest of an individual's life.


Past experiences, especially when it comes to love, sex and children, are associated with future marital happiness, according to the study.

Related: vintage style wedding dresses

"In most areas, more experience is better. You're a better job candidate with more experience, not less. When it comes to relationship experience, though, we found that having more experience before getting married was associated with lower marital quality," explained Galena K. Rhoades, one of the study's co-author who is a research associate professor of psychology at the University of Denver.

The findings were based on an analysis of new data from the Relationship Development Study, a national study based at the University of Denver and funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

More than 1,000 unmarried Americans who were in a relationship, and between the ages of 18 and 34, were recruited for the study between 2007 and 2008. Over the course of the next five years and 11 waves of data collection, 418 of those individuals got married. The authors looked closely at those 418 new marriages, examining the history of the spouses' relationship, their prior romantic experiences and the quality of their marriages. The 418 subjects were reasonably representative of unmarried adults in the United States in terms of race/ethnicity and income.

Rhoades and her co-author, Scott M. Stanley, speculate that people who have had many relationships prior to their current one can compare that person in areas such as conflict management, dating style, physical attractiveness, sexual skills and communication ability.

Since marriage involves leaving other options behind, more experience could make it harder for some individuals to do well in marriage. Individuals with more relationship experience are also more experienced with breaking up and may develop a "more jaundiced view of love and relationships," according to Rhoades.

Having more guests at one's wedding, according to the study, is also associated with higher marital quality, even after controlling for income and education, the study also found.

Among couples who had weddings, the sample was divided into those who had weddings with 50 or fewer attendees, 51 to 149 attendees, or 150 or more attendees. Among each grouping, 31 percent, 37 percent, and 47 percent, respectively, reported high marital quality, explained the authors.

"In what might be called the 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' factor, this study finds that couples who have larger wedding parties are more likely to report high-quality marriages," W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, said.

"One possibility here is that couples with larger networks of friends and family may have more help, and encouragement, in navigating the challenges of married life. Note, however, this finding is not about spending lots of money on a wedding party, it's about having a good number of friends and family in your corner."

Stanley added, "Our bottom-line advice to Americans hoping to marry is this: Remember that what you do before you say 'I do' may shape your odds of forging a successful marital future."

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by on Apr. 8, 2016 at 2:48 AM
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