Longitudinal Associations Among Relationship Satisfaction, Sexual Satisfaction, and Frequency of Sex in Early Marriage

Abstract

The current research used two 8-wave longitudinal studies spanning the first 4–5 years of 207 marriages to examine the potential bidirectional associations among marital satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and frequency of sex. All three variables declined over time, though the rate of decline in each variable became increasingly less steep. Controlling for these changes, own marital and sexual satisfaction were bidirectionally positively associated with one another; higher levels of marital satisfaction at one wave of assessment predicted more positive changes in sexual satisfaction from that assessment to the next and higher levels of sexual satisfaction at one wave of assessment predicted more positive changes in marital satisfaction from that assessment to the next. Likewise, own sexual satisfaction and frequency of sex were bidirectionally positively associated with one another. Additionally, partner sexual satisfaction positively predicted changes in frequency of sex and own sexual satisfaction among husbands, yet partner marital satisfaction negatively predicted changes in both frequency of sex and own sexual satisfaction. Controlling these associations, marital satisfaction did not directly predict changes in frequency of sex or vice versa. Only the association between partner sexual satisfaction and changes in own sexual satisfaction varied across men and women and none of the key effects varied across the studies. These findings suggest that sexual and relationship satisfaction are intricately intertwined and thus that interventions to treat and prevent marital distress may benefit by targeting the sexual relationship and interventions to treat and prevent sexual distress in marriage may benefit by targeting the marital relationship.

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Correspondence to James K. McNulty.

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McNulty, J.K., Wenner, C.A. & Fisher, T.D. Longitudinal Associations Among Relationship Satisfaction, Sexual Satisfaction, and Frequency of Sex in Early Marriage. Arch Sex Behav 45, 85–97 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0444-6

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Keywords

  • Sexual satisfaction
  • Marital satisfaction
  • Frequency of sex
  • Sex differences