Flashback Friday: Can differing levels of sexual experience doom your relationship?

By Seriously Science | August 8, 2014 9:50 am
Photo: flickr/inottawa

Photo: flickr/inottawa

Everyone has their number — how many people you were “with” before your current relationship. This number is usually not revealed to one’s partner… for good reason! But even if you don’t tell, can it still impact your relationship? In this study, the researchers surveyed married, cohabitating, and dating couples to find out whether couples with different levels of sexual experience were more or less happy. As you might have guessed, many couples were pretty well-matched in terms of their sexual experience. However, those couples with very different numbers reported significantly lower levels of satisfaction with and commitment to their relationship. So, you might be wondering, how do most couples end up with matching levels of experience if they don’t talk about it? The authors speculate that “because sexual experience is correlated with religiosity, social–political attitudes, and other variables, it is possible that as couples match on these variables, they also indirectly are matching on sexual experience.” 

Matching in sexual experience for married, cohabitating, and dating couples.

“The present study examined heterosexual romantic partners’ number of intercourse partners prior to the initiation of their relationship to determine if a significant positive correlation (matching) occurred between partners, and if this matching was associated with their level of love, satisfaction with, and commitment to the relationship. One hundred and six couples who were dating, cohabitating, or married participated in this study. Results indicated that, with the exception of cohabitating couples, romantic partners showed a significant level of matching in the prior number of intercourse partners. Further, among the married couples, a higher discrepancy between men’s and women’s number of previous intercourse partners was related to lower levels of love, satisfaction, and commitment in the relationship.”

Related content:
Women can judge sexual unfaithfulness from unfamiliar men’s faces.
NCBI ROFL: The sea lion solution to sexual harrassment: keep fewer males around.
NCBI ROFL: Men without a sense of smell exhibit a strongly reduced number of sexual relationships.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings, told you so
  • Mary Cileeti

    Yes! I’ve been with a few guys who don’t take sex for granted, have a low number of sexual partners and don’t sleep around. This makes for very satisfactory intimacy, and easier for the relationship to blossom, and more trust. Seems to me those guys who are constantly jumping from woman to woman and having different sexual partners frequently bring problems to a relationship. (sometimes) They tend to watch more porn…I’m not saying that’s a problem, but when it’s something they do all the time, they seem to expect a lot more, and don’t seem satisfied with just the closeness and feelings from being with someone they care about. They bore faster…make suggestions that make some women lift an eyebrow. lol Like “what do you want me to do???!!” Really now…. so yes it makes a big difference. Being with someone who is more along the lines of what you have experienced yourself seems to be more successful.

    • anon anon

      Hmm, my wife had been with much more than I when we first got together, about triple mine, and I wasn’t very happy, but three were a lot of factors to that, more than just your number, emotional openness for example, communication, I felt I wasn’t done exploring and she was okay with slowing down but also not done exploring, so we were on and off for about ten years, still to this day she had double or triple my number, but I let her think I caught up to help us stay happy, I love her so I don’t want to cause problems by telling her that I don’t feel done


Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
Send us paper suggestions: srslyscience[at]gmail.com.

See More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar