Emotional and physical satisfaction in noncohabiting, cohabiting, and marital relationships: the importance of jealous conflict

J Sex Res. 2011 Jan;48(1):29-42. doi: 10.1080/00224490903370602.


This article examines whether associations between marital status and emotional and physical satisfaction depend on jealous conflict associated with expectations about sexual exclusivity. Using data from a representative sample of 681 women and men drawn from the city of Chicago and its inner suburbs, this study estimated logistic regression models of jealous conflict and ordered logistic regression models of adults' reported emotional and physical satisfaction of their relationships. The results show that marriages are less exposed to jealous conflict than cohabiting and noncohabiting relationships. Regarding emotional and physical satisfaction, their associations with marital status were contingent upon whether individuals reported jealous conflict in their relationships. Specifically, in relationships without jealous conflict, married couples were more emotionally satisfied than noncohabiting couples. Married couples, but not cohabiting and noncohabiting couples, had significantly lower emotional and physical satisfaction when jealous conflict occurred. Cohabitors were not less emotionally or physically satisfied than married respondents. Overall, this research supports the argument that sexual exclusivity expectations are important for understanding the link between marital status and relationship quality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chicago
  • Courtship / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Jealousy*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Marriage / ethnology
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Marriage / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Single Person / psychology
  • Single Person / statistics & numerical data
  • Spouses / psychology
  • Young Adult