Original Paper

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 477-486

First online:

Sexual Desire Discrepancy: The Effect of Individual Differences in Desired and Actual Sexual Frequency on Dating Couples

  • Brian J. WilloughbyAffiliated withSchool of Family Life, Brigham Young University Email author 
  • , Jennifer VitasAffiliated withSchool of Family Studies and Human Services, Kansas State University

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The present study used a sample of 8,096 dating couples from the United States to explore how sexual desire discrepancy was associated with relationship satisfaction and stability. Sexual desire discrepancy was the difference between an individual’s desired level of sexual intercourse and the actual frequency of sexual intercourse within a given relationship. Actor and partner effects were explored. Results suggested that higher discrepancy between sexual desire and frequency was associated with higher relationship satisfaction and lower relationship stability but that these associations were moderated by gender and relationship length. Female sexual desire discrepancy had a particularly strong effect on relationship satisfaction. It was also found that high discrepancies tended to be associated with negative outcomes in relationships with longer relationship length.


Sexual desire Sexual satisfaction Relationships Sexual frequency Premarital