Here's What Your 'Number' Says About Your Likelihood of Getting Divorced

man and woman unhappy in bed

Think your "number" -- aka, the amount of men (or women) you slept with before settling down -- is too high or too low? When it comes to the success of your marriage, there may really be a right answer. New research shows that your "number" could indicate whether or not you're going to stay hitched.


Here's what you probably already know about premarital sex:

  • Uh, it's widely accepted. Even expected.
  • Most people have three or more partners before tying the knot.

No surprises there. But when researchers for the Institute for Family Studies looked through data from several surveys conducted since the start of the millennium, they were like, "Wait. What?" Because there was a pattern between the number of partners a woman had and whether her marriage worked out.

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We won't keep you in suspense. Here's the breakdown:

  • Women with 10 or more partners were the MOST likely to divorce. (But only in recent years.)
  • Women who'd slept with three to nine men were LESS likely to divorce, compared to women who'd only slept with two partners.
  • And women who'd only done the deed with one man (or even none!) were the LEAST likely to divorce.

As to WTF, researchers have some theories. One is that women with super-few sexual experiences tend to be religious. And women who attend church religiously are less likely to divorce than non-churchgoers. See what just happened there? Just because these women haven't had as many partners doesn't mean their marriages are happier -- just that they don't get divorced. 

But it's less clear why having lots of premarital partners (no judgment! Good for you!) can doom a woman's marriage. Researchers have some theories on that, too. It could indicate that a woman has a higher than normal sexual curiosity, which could maybe interfere with her marriage. Or she could have a history of sexual or childhood abuse, since both also correlate with higher divorce rates. 

All that seems crystal clear is that more research is needed and that this data brings up more questions than it does answers.

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Until then, CafeMom asked Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, a psychotherapist and relationship coach in McLean, Virginia, for her take.

One factor to consider, she says, is that women today who've had 10+ partners "are greater risk takers and have a less conventional attitude about relationships in general -- and marriage and its permanence in particular."

In addition, Coleman adds, "women who have had many partners are more likely to have had a child -- and marriages between people who have children from past relationships have unique struggles and a higher divorce rate."

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Okay, so what's up with the higher divorce rate for women who've only slept with two men (including their husband) before marriage? Coleman has a hunch about that.

"To begin with, these women obviously move more cautiously and have a more serious attitude about sexual involvement before commitment and marriage," she explains.

Their first sexual partner is probably pretty significant and seen as their "first love." And when that relationship ends, they probably move on to a rebound relationship, motivated by "a belief that there will never be anyone like [their first love] so they have to compromise or have a distress about being alone," Coleman notes.

Meaning they rush full-on into a serious commitment.

Unfortunately, "when someone's trying to fill a void," adds Coleman, "they're choosing a relationship, not really a person."

True, people who go this route may get lucky and find that they did meet their soul mate. "But this is often not the case and the relationship falters," Coleman says.

Consider yourself informed.


Image via Syda Productions/Shutterstock

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