Perceptions of Partner Sexual Satisfaction in Heterosexual Committed Relationships
Sexual script theory implies that partners’ ability to gauge one another’s level of sexual satisfaction is a key factor in determining their own sexual satisfaction. However, relatively little research has examined how well partners gauge one another’s sexual satisfaction and the factors that predict their accuracy. We hypothesized that the degree of bias in partner judgments of sexual satisfaction would be associated with quality of sexual communication. We further posited that emotion recognition would ameliorate the biases in judgment such that poor communicators with good emotion recognition would make less biased judgments of partner satisfaction. Participants were 84 married or cohabiting heterosexual couples who completed measures of their own and their partners’ sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, quality of communication about sexual issues within their relationships, and emotion recognition ability. Results indicated that both men and women tended to be accurate in perceiving their partners’ levels of sexual satisfaction (i.e., partner perceptions were strongly correlated with self-reports). One sample t-tests indicated that men’s perceptions of their partners’ sexual satisfaction were biased such that they slightly underestimated their partners’ levels of sexual satisfaction whereas women neither over- nor underestimated their partners’ sexual satisfaction. However, the gender difference was not significant. Bias was attenuated by quality of sexual communication, which interacted with emotion recognition ability such that when sexual communication was good, there was no significant association between emotion recognition ability and bias, but when sexual communication was poor, better emotion recognition ability was associated with less bias.