Wives’ orgasm frequency has a unique positive association on the sexual satisfaction of newlywed couples

A new study has found that a large proportion of newlywed husbands misperceive how often their wives experienced orgasm. The research, which was published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, also provides several new insights into the importance of orgasms in married couples.

“Sexuality is often the biggest thing that distinguishes a romantic relationship from any other type of relationship. Because most couples expect some level of sexual exclusivity, learning to navigate the sexual domain together is an important ingredient for sustaining a long-term relationship,” said Nathan D. Leonhardt of the University of Toronto, the corresponding author of the study.

“Issues surrounding orgasm can be particularly tricky to navigate for mixed sex couples (a man and a woman), as research has long documented that the average man reaches orgasm more easily than the average woman. With the good fortune of having a nationally representative sample of newlyweds, we wanted to take a deeper look at how a variety of dynamics surrounding orgasm are connected to satisfaction for mixed sex couples.”

The researchers examined data from 1,683 newlywed heterosexual couples, which was collected during the Couple Relationships And Transition Experiences (CREATE) study.

The study asked each partner how frequently they had an orgasm in their sexual relationship and how frequently they perceived that their partner experienced an orgasm. The CREATE study also included measures of relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and sexual communication.

Leonhardt and his colleagues found misperception of a partner’s orgasm frequency was associated with reduced sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction. They also found that husbands reported a higher frequency of orgasms than their wives.

“The orgasm gap still exists, as 87% of newlywed husbands in comparison to 49% of newlywed wives reported experiencing orgasm on a consistent basis (at least 80% of their sexual encounters). It turns out that her report of how often she has orgasm is important for her satisfaction and his report of how often he thinks she has orgasm is important for his satisfaction,” Leonhardt explained.

“In other words, her orgasm experience seems to be important for both husbands and wives. It may be challenging to completely eliminate this gap due to some of the anatomical differences between men and women. But considering how her orgasm plays a role in both partners’ satisfaction, it would likely be wise to help the wife experience orgasm more frequently.”

Husbands, however, were relatively bad at estimating how often their wives’ orgasmed.

“One big advantage of our study is that we had both partners’ perspectives, meaning we could look at how accurate participants were at guessing how often their partner experiences orgasm. Wives were relatively accurate, as approximately 14% inaccurately guessed their husbands’ orgasm frequency. Husbands were less accurate, as approximately 43% inaccurately guessed their wives’ orgasm frequency,” Leonhardt continued.

“Also, misperceptions by either the husband or the wife tended to be problematic for satisfaction in the relationship. We need more research to follow up on this, but additional analyses suggest that discomfort surrounding sexuality and a lack of communication might be driving some orgasm misperceptions that are problematic for the relationship.”

“We understand that the vulnerability and intimacy of the sexual relationship can make it scary to open up about how things are going, particularly with as sensitive a topic as orgasm. Generally, both partners care about each other, want to please each other, and it can be uncomfortable telling a partner that things didn’t go particularly well in a sexual experience,” Leonhardt said.

“But if both partners (1) are comfortable with and knowledgeable about their own sexuality, (2) accurately communicate their feelings about the sexual experience, and (3) are attentive to their partners’ sexual desires, the couple will likely limit misperceptions and experience higher sexual fulfillment.”

The study includes some limitations. The research was cross-sectional, but future longitudinal studies could help the researchers determine cause-and-effect relationships.

“We need to follow these couples over time to see how one thing leads to another. For example, we need to figure out the extent that dynamics surrounding orgasm are leading to higher satisfaction, or satisfaction is leading to better dynamics surrounding orgasm,” Leonhardt explained.

“We are planning on following these couples over the next few years, so hopefully we can get a better sense of the direction of these results in the future. People should also be aware that the study focused on mixed sex, newlywed couples. It would be interesting to see how dynamics differ for same sex couples and couples who have been together for a longer period of time.”

It is also unclear why husbands are having trouble estimating their wives’ frequency of orgasms. But Leonhardt does not believe it is because men don’t care.

“One of the biggest things we still need to figure out is why so many husbands misperceive how often their wives have an orgasm. For now, all we can do is speculate. Some might think the husband is simply is an inattentive partner who is unaware of her sexual experience, though this seems less likely, as other research suggests that men in a committed relationship consider it an important priority to ensure their partner has a pleasurable experience,” he explained.

“Many other factors could serve as an explanation. For example, for husbands overestimating her orgasm frequency, it may be a matter of wives faking an orgasm in hopes of him feeling more satisfied with the experience. For husbands underestimating her orgasm frequency, watching pornography may have given him an inaccurate sense of what orgasms look like. We simply need more data to understand what is going on.”

Though orgasms are important, Leonhardt cautioned that they’re not the only thing that matters in a relationship.

“Our study shows that the woman’s orgasm experience plays an important role in dynamics of the sexual relationship. It would be a mistake to underemphasize the importance of orgasm in having a fulfilling sexual experience,” he remarked.

“It also is important to not go too far the other direction and overemphasize the importance of orgasm. Too much focus can put unnecessary pressure on a couple’s performance that paradoxically makes it more challenging to enjoy the experience. There are many avenues that couples can take to a fulfilling sexual experience. Dynamics surrounding orgasm are just one piece of the puzzle.”

The study, “The Significance of the Female Orgasm: A Nationally Representative, Dyadic Study of Newlyweds’ Orgasm Experience,” was authored by Nathan D. Leonhardt, Brian J. Willoughby, Dean M. Busby, Jeremy B. Yorgason, and Erin K. Holmes.