Couple communication, emotional and sexual intimacy, and relationship satisfaction

J Sex Marital Ther. 2014;40(4):275-93. doi: 10.1080/0092623X.2012.751072. Epub 2013 Oct 10.


Emotional and sexual aspects of intimacy in romantic relationships are important correlates of couples' relationship satisfaction. However, few studies have examined the effect of emotional and sexual aspects of intimacy on relationship satisfaction within the context of the interpersonal relationship processes. In addition, the association between emotional and sexual aspects of intimacy remains unclear. With a sample of 335 married couples from the Flourishing Families Project, the authors examined the associations between couple communication, emotional intimacy, sexual satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction, using the couple as the unit of analysis. The results of path analysis suggested that sexual satisfaction significantly predicted emotional intimacy for husbands and wives, while emotional intimacy did not appear to have a significant influence on sexual satisfaction. Further, mediation associations were suggested within as well as between spouses. Within spouses (for each spouse), emotional intimacy and sexual satisfaction mediated the association between spouses' appraisal of their partners' communication and their own relationship satisfaction. Gender differences were revealed in terms of how a spouse's perception of sexual satisfaction is associated with his or her partner's relationship satisfaction. In this study, although wives' relationship satisfaction was not associated with their husbands' sexual satisfaction, husbands tended to report high levels of relationship satisfaction when their wives reported greater sexual satisfaction. Findings suggest that both components of intimacy--emotional and sexual--should be comprehensively addressed in research and clinical work with couples.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult