It's easiest to make sense of the low divorce rates of people with minimal sexual experience prior to marriage

The highest five-year divorce rates of all are associated with s and having ten or more premarital sex partners: 33 percent. Perhaps it is not unexpected that having many partners increases the odds of divorce. The greater surprise is that this only holds true in recent years; previously, women with two partners prior to marriage had the highest divorce rates.

How can these findings be explained? Obviously, one of the most common reasons for premarital abstinence is religion, and NSFG data support such an interpretation. 2 Figure 2 shows that women who marry as virgins are far more likely than other women to attend church at least once a week. It's also noteworthy that virgin e the domain of religious women between the 1980s and 2000s-and during the same years, the divorce rate for virgin brides continued to drop. These findings make sense in light of the fact that people who attend church frequently have lower divorce rates than do non-participants.

Generally speaking, women who have multiple sex partners are less likely to be regular churchgoers

Since women with many partners don't consistently have high divorce rates, there is little reason to suspect that religion is an important explanation for the relationship between sex partners and divorce outside of women who marry having had one or no partners.

Women who marry having had just one sex partner are unlikely to have had children with another man. Getting married with a child already in tow has a profound negative effect on marital happiness. And marriages preceded by nonmarital fertility have disproportionately high divorce rates. This is another reason why divorce rates are lower for women who marry having had only one sex partner, or none at all. Ultimately we're left to speculate about why having exactly two partners produces some of the highest divorce rates.

My best guess rests on the notion of over-emphasized comparisons. That second sex partner is first-hand proof of a sexual alternative to one's husband. These sexual experiences convince women that sex outside of wedlock is indeed a possibility. The man involved was likely to have become a partner in the course of a serious relationship-women inclined to hook up will have had more than two premarital partners-thereby emphasizing the seriousness of the alternative. Of course, women learn about the viability of nonmarital sex if they have multiple premarital partners, but with multiple partners, each one represents a smaller part of a woman's sexual and romantic biography. Having two partners may lead to uncertainty, but having a few more apparently leads to greater clarity about the right man to marry. The odds of divorce are lowest with zero or one premarital partners, but otherwise sowing one's oats seems compatible with having a lasting marriage.

But not too many oats, if one married after the start of the new millennium. The highest divorce rates shown in Figure 1, 33 percent, belong to women who had ten or more premarital sex partners. This is the result most readers of this brief probably expected: a lot of partners means a lot of baggage, which makes a stable marriage less tenable. It's also entirely likely that the correlation is spurious, the product of certain personal characteristics. For instance, people who suffered childhood sexual abuse are more likely to have extensive sexual histories. Childhood abuse also increases the odds of a problematic marriage.

In most cases, a woman's two premarital sex partners include her future husband and one other man

This is an extreme example. Most of the time, spuriousness probably has less measurable causes. Some people may just have a high level of sexual curiosity, an attribute that doesn't appear to bode well for a stable marriage, at least since the start of the new millennium.

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