Sexual satisfaction and dysfunction in marriages of male alcoholics: comparison with nonalcoholic maritally conflicted and nonconflicted couples

J Stud Alcohol. 1997 Jan;58(1):91-9. doi: 10.15288/jsa.1997.58.91.


Objective: This study examined the contribution of alcoholism and marital conflict to male alcoholics' sexual problems.

Method: Married couples with an alcoholic husband (n = 26) were compared with 26 maritally conflicted and 26 nonconflicted couples without alcohol-related problems on both sexual dysfunction and sexual satisfaction.

Results: The male alcoholics and their wives experienced less sexual satisfaction across a range of variables and more sexual dysfunction-specifically husbands' diminished sexual interest, impotence and premature ejaculation, and wives' painful intercourse-than nonconflicted couples. However, impotence was the only aspect on which alcoholics reported more difficulties than did maritally conflicted couples. When husbands' age was considered, more frequent retarded ejaculation with older age was unique to the alcoholics since it did not occur in conflicted or nonconflicted husbands; and there was a greater decline in frequency of intercourse with older age among the alcoholic than among the conflicted couples.

Conclusions: These findings are consistent with a biopsychosocial formulation of alcoholics' sexual adjustment problems that implicates (1) marital conflict as a major contributing factor to most of these problems and (2) the combined role of both marital conflict and the physical effects of chronic alcohol abuse as most relevant to the elevated rates of impotence and retarded ejaculation (among older alcoholics) and the steeper decline in intercourse frequency with age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Therapy
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Counseling
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / psychology*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / rehabilitation