Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 1649–1661 | Cite as

When Self-Worth Is Tied to One’s Sexual and Romantic Relationship: Associations with Well-Being in Couples Coping with Genito-Pelvic Pain

  • Maria Glowacka
  • Sophie Bergeron
  • Justin Dubé
  • Natalie O. Rosen
Original Paper


Contingent self-worth (CSW; the pursuit of self-esteem via a particular domain in one’s life) impacts well-being based on one’s perceived success or failure in the contingent domain. In a community sample, individuals with sexual problems reported greater sexual CSW—self-worth dependent on maintaining a sexual relationship—than those without problems. Couples coping with provoked vestibulodynia (PVD), a genito-pelvic pain condition, perceive failures in their sexual relationship, which could be associated with more pain and poorer well-being. In contrast, relationship CSW—self-worth dependent on the overall romantic relationship—may act as a buffer against adverse outcomes. Eighty-two women with PVD and their partners completed online standardized measures of sexual and relationship CSW, sexual distress and satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and depressive symptoms, and women reported their pain intensity. Analyses were based on the actor–partner interdependence model. Women with PVD who reported greater sexual CSW experienced more sexual distress and pain. Additionally, when partners reported greater sexual CSW, they were less sexually and relationally satisfied and more sexually distressed, and women had greater depressive symptoms and lower relationship satisfaction. In contrast, when partners reported higher relationship CSW, they were more sexually and relationally satisfied and less sexually distressed, and women reported lower depressive symptoms and greater relationship satisfaction. Results suggest that couples’ (particularly partners’) greater sexual CSW is linked to poorer sexual, relational, and psychological well-being in couples affected by PVD, whereas partners’ greater relationship CSW is associated with better well-being. Thus, sexual and relationship CSW may be important treatment targets for interventions aimed at improving how couples adjust to PVD.


Sexual contingent self-worth Relationship contingent self-worth Provoked vestibulodynia Couples Genito-pelvic pain 



The authors would like to thank the couples who participated in this study. The authors would also like to extend their gratitude to Kathy Petite, Gillian K. Boudreau, Mylène Desrosiers, Myriam Pâquet, and the members of the Couples and Sexual Health Laboratory, Dalhousie University, and the Sexual Health Laboratory, Université de Montréal, for their assistance with this project. This research is supported by an operating grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), held by Natalie O. Rosen and Sophie Bergeron. Maria Glowacka was supported by doctoral awards from the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation (NSHRF), the IWK Health Centre, and the Maritime SPOR Support Unit (MSSU, which receives financial support from CIHR, the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness, the New Brunswick Department of Health, NSHRF, and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation). The opinions, results, and conclusions reported in this article are those of the authors and are independent from the funding sources.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Glowacka
    • 1
  • Sophie Bergeron
    • 2
  • Justin Dubé
    • 1
  • Natalie O. Rosen
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceLife Sciences CentreHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada
  3. 3.Department of Obstetrics and GynaecologyIWK Health CentreHalifaxCanada

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