We concern ourselves with getting dating right, but why are so many of us failing to find intimate life partners?
Sex is easy but love is hard to find. In our current high-supply sexual economy, sexual opportunity is everywhere, sexual restraint out of fashion, and love, the illusive Holy Grail, has a generation addicted to dating.
In fact, western culture is obsessed with dating and mating. Dating has become an internet commerce, a television reality-show, and a hobby for many, many people. But is it getting the intended results: the creation of intimate life partners? Do the plethora of revolving dating partners and sex without dating help us find romantic partners that last more than a few weeks or months? Sadly, no.
I began my research on the state of our unions by looking at the growing number of early life attachment injuries that predispose adults to avoid or obsess over intimacy. Both types swim in the same dating pool. Children of emotional neglect or abuse can grow up to become vigilant clock-watchers, obsessively reading texts like tea leaves, ever the ready to perceive a threat of abandonment, while others behave like skilled surgeons on a quest for no-love-attached sex, cleverly slicing into hearts until the genitals become available and then slipping out the door before the triage.
Knowing the underpinnings of relationship dysfunction was only the beginning. While I am fascinated with why things don’t work out, I am perhaps more interested in why things do go well. The deck seems so stacked against real love and long-term exchanges of care that the data on what actually works in relationships jumped out at me. And from this data, I have fashioned a kind of prescription for slow-love, a sex detox, if you will, based on plenty of good research studies. Bottom line, if you are betting on a healthy relationship, wait at least thirty days of constant contact before jumping in the sack. Here’s why:
1. It increases the chances you’ll be together longer
In Mark Regnerus’ work at the University of Texas, he found that people who have sex within thirty days of meeting have almost a ninety per cent chance of breaking up within one year. Waiting only 31-90 days gives you a one in four chance that you’ll be together one year later.
2. It screens out the players
Anthony Paik at The University of Iowa, who teaches Gender and Women’s Sexuality, discovered data that indicate the onset of sex AFTER the first month of dating can lead to commitment. “In one of my studies, it turned out that the longer couples delayed sex the more exclusive the relationship. And if men engage in sex within the first month of dating they are 4.5 times more likely to be nonexclusive later.”
3. It helps you not get fooled by good sexual chemistry
Many people believe that jumping into bed in the early stages of a relationship is a way to test sexual compatibility, a way to audition a partner, if you will. If this theory were true then people who do not test out sexual chemistry before commitment should have shorter, more unhappy, relationships. But psychology professor Dean Busby and his colleagues at Brigham Young University were unable to make this connection in a study of more than 2,000 couples. People with good sexual chemistry early on did not stay together longer. He explained his results to me this way. “The mechanics of good sex are not particularly difficult or beyond the reach of most couples, but the emotions, the vulnerability, the meaning of sex and whether it brings couples closer together are much more complicated to figure out.”
4. You avoid a giant let down
Renowned evolutionary psychology professor David Buss at the University of Texas at Austin and Martie G. Haselton at the University of California, Los Angeles found that the more previous sexual partners a man has, the more likely he is to quickly perceive diminished attractiveness in a woman after first intercourse. Sex doesn’t lead to love for men. If the guy is a player, sex more often leads to distain for his partner.
5. There’s a greater chance you’ll fall in love
While women can sometimes fall in love through sex because oxytocin, the female bonding hormone, is excreted in large doses during orgasm, men don’t fall in love through sex. In fact, men can have sex with the same women every week for months and never like her one bit more. That’s because men fall in love through trust. And growing trust is something that takes time. While it’s wonderful to imagine that the sexual double standard has been erased, the truth is that, for most men, it is alive and well. The ancient hunter/gatherer fear that a sexual woman might knock him out of evolution’s chain by putting him in the losing position of having to raise another man’s offspring, is hard-wired in most men. When a man can trust that a woman is sexually exclusive, honest and protective of him, that’s when he’ll fall in love. And having sex fast negates that.
Photo by e-basak.