Sexual Closeness Discrepancies: What They Are and Why They Matter for Sexual Well-Being in Romantic Relationships

Abstract

This study examined the impact of sexual closeness on sexual well-being. We developed a nuanced and multifaceted conceptualization of sexual closeness in the form of a constellation of ideal sexual closeness with a partner, actual sexual closeness, and the discrepancy between the two. Data were obtained from a diverse sample of N = 619 participants who took part in the Lives and Relationships Study: A longitudinal survey of men and women in relationships living in the U.S. and Canada. Increases in sexual closeness discrepancies over a period of 1 year predicted concomitant decreases in two indicators of sexual well-being: sexual satisfaction and orgasm frequency evaluations. Decreases in sexual closeness discrepancies resulted in improvement in sexual well-being. Individuals who reported no sexual closeness discrepancies and experienced no changes in sexual closeness discrepancies tended to have the highest levels of sexual well-being. Importantly, sexual closeness discrepancies were robust predictors of sexual well-being, above and beyond individuals’ actual sexual closeness, general relationship closeness, and other demographic and relationship characteristics known to be associated with sexual well-being. The present findings demonstrate that how close people feel sexually to their relationship partners is part of a general constellation of factors related to relationship closeness that, only when considered together, sufficiently explain the ways in which experiences of closeness impact sexual well-being in romantic relationships.

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Correspondence to David M. Frost.

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David Frost declares that he has no conflict of interest. Sara McClelland declares that she has no conflict of interest. Miranda Dettmann declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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Frost, D.M., McClelland, S.I. & Dettmann, M. Sexual Closeness Discrepancies: What They Are and Why They Matter for Sexual Well-Being in Romantic Relationships. Arch Sex Behav 46, 2353–2364 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-0960-2

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Keywords

  • Sexual satisfaction
  • Orgasm
  • Closeness discrepancies
  • Self-expansion theory