“Having sex on the first date may harm relationships over the long-term, a new study suggests.”
That’s the opening line of an article from the health section on the Today Show’s website— and it seems like a reasonable enough statement. Plenty of us have hooked up on a first date only to have things fall apart shortly thereafter. As a result, many people say they want to get to know the other person before jumping into bed, implying that they understand the negative consequences of having sex too early in a relationship.
It’s only at the end of the article that one actually questions these findings, because the study was conducted by researchers at the Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life. In case you didn’t know this, BYU is a private university owned by the Mormon church, which espouses the law of chastity, which means abstinence until marriage. So is this study accurate or simply pushing a religious agenda?
The BYU study included nearly 11,000 unmarried people in steady or serious relationships. Among those who had been together for at least one year, those who had engaged in sex before or within the first few weeks of dating had lower levels of relationship satisfaction, communication and stability compared with couples who waited longer to have sex or who abstained from sex. In the article, the researchers said these findings agree with earlier studies that found the longer couples waited to have sex before marriage, the higher their martial satisfaction. No source for that information was offered.
To Today’s credit, they do present another opinion, this one from Justin Lehmiller, a social psychologist at Harvard University, who studies relationships and was not involved in the BYU study. He says this:
The overall difference in satisfaction and communication scores between those who had early sex and those who waited was one-tenth of one point on a five-point scale. Does one-tenth of one point really mean having sex on the first date will kill your relationship? No, and it would be disingenuous to suggest that based upon these results… It may have nothing to do with sex. Perhaps there are personality differences between those who jump into bed and those who wait that could explain the association.
The bottom line? Since we’ll probably never know if this study was actually biased or not, it’s probably best to trust your own instincts and experiences when it comes to sex on the first date. If even a small part of you is warning against the hook up, listen to it. If you’re right, then you’ve dodged a bullet. And if you’re wrong, then your actual first time will be all the sweeter.