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Cornell University policy researcher Sharon Sassler and her research team recently decided to study relationship “tempo.” Based on the hypothesis that churning leads people to enter less than satisfactory relationships, they investigated the connection between the timing of when couples first had sex to their later perceptions of relationship quality.

For women, but not men, the factor most related to early sexual involvement was later sexual satisfaction.

Having sex early in a relationship, followed by cohabitation, sets the stage for women to be less satisfied with the sex they’re having now.

Couples tend to move quickly into sexual relationships.

Over one-third reported having sex within one month after they started dating.

It’s not so much the sex, however, but the cohabitation itself that it leads to which then leads the couple to slide, unthinkingly, into wedlock (or continued cohabitation).

When couples are led by sexual desire, financial need, or an unexpected pregnancy to get married, they are less likely to stop and examine whether they share similar life values, goals, compatibility, and emotional intimacy.

For men, having sex early in the dating period didn’t actually have that same meaning. Entry into cohabitation accounted for the negative effect of relationship tempo on quality.

Couples who had sex early in the game were more likely to decide to live together and, in turn, had less satisfying relationships.

It’s that process of assessing whether they’ll make it for the long haul that ultimately will impact their relationship quality, especially for the women.

Since women are generally the ones to initiate divorce proceedings, it means that their satisfaction in the relationship is especially crucial to its long-term viability.

The rush of infatuation leads people to take the next steps in their relationship without looking objectively at the odds of the relationship succeeding.