Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 489–501 | Cite as

Does Sex Really Matter? Examining the Connections Between Spouses’ Nonsexual Behaviors, Sexual Frequency, Sexual Satisfaction, and Marital Satisfaction

  • Elizabeth A. SchoenfeldEmail author
  • Timothy J. Loving
  • Mark T. Pope
  • Ted L. Huston
  • Aleksandar Štulhofer
Original Paper


We examined the interplay between husbands’ and wives’ positive and negative nonsexual interpersonal behaviors, frequency of sexual intercourse, sexual satisfaction, and feelings of marital satisfaction. To do this, we conducted an in-depth face-to-face interview and completed a series of telephone diaries with 105 couples during their second, third, and fourteenth years of marriage. Consistent with the argument that women’s sexual response is tied to intimacy (Basson, 2000), multilevel analyses revealed that husbands’ positive interpersonal behaviors directed toward their wives—but not wives’ positivity nor spouses’ negative behaviors (regardless of gender)—predicted the frequency with which couples engaged in intercourse. The frequency of sexual intercourse and interpersonal negativity predicted both husbands’ and wives’ sexual satisfaction; wives’ positive behaviors were also tied to husbands’ sexual satisfaction. When spouses’ interpersonal behaviors, frequency of sexual intercourse, and sexual satisfaction were considered in tandem, all but the frequency of sexual intercourse were associated with marital satisfaction. When it comes to feelings of marital satisfaction, therefore, a satisfying sex life and a warm interpersonal climate appear to matter more than does a greater frequency of sexual intercourse. Collectively, these findings shed much-needed light on the interplay between the nonsexual interpersonal climate of marriage and spouses’ sexual relationships.


Sex Sexual satisfaction Marital satisfaction Interpersonal behaviors Marriage 



This study was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (SBR-9311846) and the National Institute of Mental Health (MH-33938).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth A. Schoenfeld
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Timothy J. Loving
    • 2
  • Mark T. Pope
    • 2
  • Ted L. Huston
    • 2
  • Aleksandar Štulhofer
    • 3
  1. 1.Youth & Family Alliance dba LifeWorksAustinUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human Development & Family SciencesThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  3. 3.Department of SociologyUniversity of ZagrebZagrebCroatia

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