Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 81–91 | Cite as

On the Relationship Among Social Anxiety, Intimacy, Sexual Communication, and Sexual Satisfaction in Young Couples

  • Jennifer L. Montesi
  • Bradley T. Conner
  • Elizabeth A. Gordon
  • Robert L. Fauber
  • Kevin H. Kim
  • Richard G. HeimbergEmail author
Original Paper


This study was conducted to better understand why socially anxious individuals experience less sexual satisfaction in their intimate partnerships than nonanxious individuals, a relationship that has been well documented in previous research. Effective communication between partners is an important predictor of relationship satisfaction. Sexual communication, an important aspect of communication between romantic partners, is especially sensitive for couples given the vulnerability inherent in being open about sexual issues. Because socially anxious individuals characteristically report fear of evaluation or scrutiny by others, we hypothesized that the process of building intimacy by sharing personal information about oneself with one’s partner, including when this information relates to one’s sexuality and/or the sexual domain of the relationship, would be particularly difficult for socially anxious individuals. The present study examined fear of intimacy and sexual communication as potential mediators of the relationship between higher social anxiety and lower sexual satisfaction. Self-report data were collected from 115 undergraduate students and their partners in monogamous, heterosexual, committed relationships of at least 3 months duration. Multilevel path modeling revealed that higher social anxiety predicted higher fear of intimacy, which predicted lower satisfaction with open sexual communication, which, in turn, predicted lower sexual satisfaction. Additionally, there was evidence of mediation as there were significant indirect effects of the antecedent variables on sexual satisfaction. The path model had excellent fit. Implications for social anxiety, intimate relationships, and couples therapy are discussed.


Social anxiety Intimacy Self-disclosure Sexuality 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer L. Montesi
    • 1
  • Bradley T. Conner
    • 1
  • Elizabeth A. Gordon
    • 1
  • Robert L. Fauber
    • 1
  • Kevin H. Kim
    • 2
  • Richard G. Heimberg
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology in EducationUniversity of Pittsburgh School of EducationPittsburghUSA

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