8 Ways Sex and Relationship Satisfaction Connect Over Time

Oct 2, 2019

| Psychology Today – Researchers have long pondered how relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction influence one another during long term relationships.

Studies have looked at various aspects in isolation, but it isn’t clear how they interact with each other.

Is a good sexual relationship necessary for overall relationship satisfaction? Does having a quality relationship make a married couple’s sex life better? Is it possible to stay married and be sexually satisfied?

To look at how relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction play out, Christopher Quinn-Nilas (2019) from the University of Guelph, Canada analyzed data collected over two decades from over 700 couples in stable marriages, drawing upon the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study …

Key findings 

  1. Sexual satisfaction declined over time while relationship satisfaction rose. Older participants had lower sexual satisfaction compared with younger ones, but had greater relationship satisfaction.
  2. Sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction were correlated at the start of the study. Individuals who rated their relationship satisfaction high also rated sexual satisfaction high.
  3. Sexual satisfaction started out mid-range. Over time, sexual satisfaction declined, dropping by over 0.7 at each time point. Where people started out—whether higher or lower in sexual satisfaction—did not determine where they ended up. Initial sexual satisfaction did not predict the course of change in sexual satisfaction over time.
  4. As marriages progressed, sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction changed in the same direction. On average, sexual and relationship satisfaction rose or fell together.
  5. Sexual satisfaction at the start of the relationship had a protective effect on the relationship. Couples who started with a better sex life maintained relationship satisfaction compared with those who started off less sexually satisfied. Read more. 


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