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Kiss and Makeup? Examining the Co-occurrence of Conflict and Sex

Abstract

Although conflict and sex frequently occur in relationships, little research has examined their interconnectedness. Some evidence suggests their co-occurrence can benefit relationships, whereas other evidence suggests the opposite. We sought to clarify such contrasting evidence by conducting a dyadic daily-diary study of 107 newlywed couples that included a 6-month follow-up assessment. Although conflict (operationalized as one partner doing something the other did not like) was unassociated with the likelihood of sex on a given day, it predicted a lower likelihood the following day. Moreover, despite the fact that sex co-occurring with (vs. occurring independent of) conflict was less enjoyable, it partially reduced the negative effects of conflict on both spouses’ daily relationship quality. The extent to which sex and conflict co-occurred was unassociated with intimates’ changes in marital satisfaction 6 months later. The implications of engaging in post-conflict sex are nuanced: although such sex is less enjoyable, it temporarily buffers relationship quality in that moment.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Throughout, we use the term gender to refer to gender/sex differences. During study enrollment, marriage licenses were afforded to unions of a man and a woman, which likely reflects one’s sex assigned at birth. To avoid confusion with “sex” the action, we opt to use the term gender.

  2. 2.

    Data are available upon request to the second author.

  3. 3.

    We inadvertently omitted the question: “How satisfied were you with your relationship with your partner today?” from paper diaries. Thus, for the diaries completed on paper (n = 123 diaries), we averaged the two questions they answered (satisfaction with their partner and their marriage, α = .92).

  4. 4.

    We report results using actor and partner reports of conflict in the SM section 5.

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Funding

This study was funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral fellowship awarded to the first author.

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Andrea L. Meltzer designed the broader study, prepared materials and collected the data. Jessica A. Maxwell formulated hypotheses, performed data analyses, and drafted the manuscript. Both authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jessica A. Maxwell.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Approval was granted by the Ethics Committee of Southern Methodist University.

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

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Data to reproduce the results are available upon email request to Andrea L. Meltzer (meltzer@psy.fsu.edu). Code is available in the supplemental materials.

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Maxwell, J.A., Meltzer, A.L. Kiss and Makeup? Examining the Co-occurrence of Conflict and Sex. Arch Sex Behav 49, 2883–2892 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01779-8

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Keywords

  • Sex
  • Conflict
  • Makeup sex
  • Marriage
  • Daily diary