Sorry, Slut-Shamers: Lots of Sex Before Marriage Doesn’t Mean You’re Headed for Divorce

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In another study that shows changing American attitudes toward sexuality, researchers at the University of Utah have discovered that—contrary to previous research—women who have had a decent number of sex partners before getting married may have higher odds of staying together for the long haul.

Women who’ve only had two premarital sex partners have consistently higher divorce rates than women who had three to nine sex partners before settling down and tying the knot, according to the data. This was the study’s most noteworthy and surprising finding, according to the researchers. “In short: If you’re going to have comparisons to your [future] husband, it’s best to have more than one,” says study author Nicholas H. Wolfinger, a professor in the Utah Department of Family and Consumer Studies.

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The study also found that women who’ve gotten married between 2002 and 2013 have far more sexual experience before marriage than women from previous decades. (Shocker!) “It’s almost beside the point that millennials tend to have fewer sex partners than people born in the 1950s and 1960s,” says Wolfinger. Public perceptions emphasize youthful licentiousness, and today’s young adults do have lengthier sexual biographies than do people born prior to 1950. Still, the extent of hooking up has been exaggerated by a prurient and overheated media and sometimes by young people themselves.”

However, this over-exaggeration of today’s hookup culture might actually be changing people’s attitudes for the better, strangely. “All of the fanfare associated with hooking up is evidence that some young people have become comfortable with the idea of sex outside of serious relationships.” And it’s about time.

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But before you go getting too excited about all this #socialprogress, we have to disclose one caveat bummer finding from the study: Although having three to nine premarital partners indicated lower divorce rates, having more than 10 upped the odds of divorce to 33 percent. Bummer. “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,” says Wolfinger.

Well, at least the latter part isn’t true anymore—but we’ve still got work to do if having more than 10 partners before putting a ring on it lowers your marriage’s chance of success.

MORE: Why Seeing Multiple People at Once Could be the Key to Dating

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