A new study on sex and marriage reveals that for preventing divorce, a husband's sexual satisfaction matters most. A wife's sexual satisfaction seems to have a more complex effect, and frequency of sex may not matter much at all.
According to the Huffington Post, researchers followed 1,000 young straight couples in Louisiana from 1998 to 2004. They looked at how often the couples had sex, how satisfied each partner was with their sex life, and whether the couples agreed on the quality of their sex lives. Frequency turned out not to matter much, and neither did agreement. Whether a husband was sexually satisfied, however, mattered a lot — say the study authors, "a couple with a husband who has the highest self-rated satisfaction with physical intimacy, compared to a husband with the lowest self-rated satisfaction with physical intimacy, decreases their odds of experiencing a marital disruption by around 83.7%." Of all the factors studied, a husband's sexual satisfaction was the best predictor of marital survival.
It would be easy to take this as proof of the old stereotype that men care about sex in marriage and women only care about security. But it's more complicated than that. The study authors found that women's sexual satisfaction did matter, but, according to HuffPo, "marital quality and satisfaction with sex could not be teased apart for wives." That is, women's happiness with their sex lives seemed to be inextricably tied up with their satisfaction with their marriage as a whole, in a way that wasn't true for men. This finding could be stereotype-reinforcing too — ladies get their emotions all mixed up with everything — but really it's a call for further research. We tend to assume we know what we mean by "sexual satisfaction," but the term actually encompasses a whole bunch of complicated factors, from desire to closeness to actual number of orgasms. Until we know what people are talking about when they say they're "satisfied," we won't really have a full picture of how sex affects marriage, for men or women.
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