Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 7, pp 2007–2019 | Cite as

Interpersonal Goals and Well-Being in Couples Coping with Genito-Pelvic Pain

  • Natalie O. RosenEmail author
  • Marieke Dewitte
  • Kathleen Merwin
  • Sophie Bergeron
Original Paper


In the context of genito-pelvic pain, consideration of interpersonal goals is particularly relevant given that couples’ distress is often predicated upon the relational setting. However, relationship goals have not been examined in this population. We investigated (1) the associations between relationship goals and women’s pain during intercourse as well as the sexual, relational, and psychological well-being of women with provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) and their partners and (2) the moderating role of sexual goals in these associations. Women with PVD (N = 134) and their partners completed measures of relationship goals, sexual goals, sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and depressive symptoms. Women also reported on their average pain intensity during intercourse. Women with stronger relationship approach goals reported more sexual satisfaction. When the partner pursued more relationship approach goals, both women and partners reported more sexual and relationship satisfaction and partners reported less depression. Stronger relationship avoidance goals in the partner were associated with less sexual satisfaction in women. Several significant interactions showed that the combination of relationship and sexual approach goals was associated with greater relationship and sexual satisfaction, and fewer depressive symptoms, whereas the combination of relationship and sexual avoidance goals was related to lower relationship satisfaction as well as to greater pain during intercourse for women. Targeting relationship approach and avoidance goals as well as those goals specific to sexual activity may improve the quality and efficacy of couples-based psychological interventions for PVD.


Relationship goals Sexual goals Provoked vestibulodynia Vulvodynia Genito-pelvic pain 



This study was funded by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (FRN: 130338) awarded to N. O. Rosen. The authors would like to thank Kathy Petite, Myléne Desrosiers, and Gillian Boudreau for their assistance as well as the couples who participated in this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Natalie O. Rosen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Marieke Dewitte
    • 3
  • Kathleen Merwin
    • 1
  • Sophie Bergeron
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceDalhousie UniveristyHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Department of Obstetrics and GynaecologyIWK Health CentreHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.Department of Clinical Psychological ScienceMaastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada

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