Does Sex Really Matter? Examining the Connections Between Spouses' Nonsexual Behaviors, Sexual Frequency, Sexual Satisfaction, and Marital Satisfaction

Arch Sex Behav. 2017 Feb;46(2):489-501. doi: 10.1007/s10508-015-0672-4. Epub 2016 Jan 5.


We examined the interplay between husbands' and wives' positive and negative nonsexual interpersonal behaviors, frequency of sexual intercourse, sexual satisfaction, and feelings of marital satisfaction. To do this, we conducted an in-depth face-to-face interview and completed a series of telephone diaries with 105 couples during their second, third, and fourteenth years of marriage. Consistent with the argument that women's sexual response is tied to intimacy (Basson, 2000), multilevel analyses revealed that husbands' positive interpersonal behaviors directed toward their wives-but not wives' positivity nor spouses' negative behaviors (regardless of gender)-predicted the frequency with which couples engaged in intercourse. The frequency of sexual intercourse and interpersonal negativity predicted both husbands' and wives' sexual satisfaction; wives' positive behaviors were also tied to husbands' sexual satisfaction. When spouses' interpersonal behaviors, frequency of sexual intercourse, and sexual satisfaction were considered in tandem, all but the frequency of sexual intercourse were associated with marital satisfaction. When it comes to feelings of marital satisfaction, therefore, a satisfying sex life and a warm interpersonal climate appear to matter more than does a greater frequency of sexual intercourse. Collectively, these findings shed much-needed light on the interplay between the nonsexual interpersonal climate of marriage and spouses' sexual relationships.

Keywords: Interpersonal behaviors; Marital satisfaction; Marriage; Sex; Sexual satisfaction.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Spouses / psychology*