The decline of sexual desire in recently married women and subsequent reduction in marital satisfaction for both spouses were documented by a recent Archives of Sexual Behavior study.
Sex is an important aspect of marital life and is linked to the quality of the relationship between spouses and marital satisfaction. At the same time, the quality of sex life in married couples is known to decline with time. While previous research has noted the increased stress of married life and child-rearing as possible reasons for this decline, a group of researchers headed by James K. McNulty sought to examine how changes in the levels of partners’ sexual desire affect sex life and marital satisfaction in newlywed couples.
The study involved 207 newly married couples. Participants were asked to complete a series of questionnaire-based assessments measuring marital satisfaction, sexual desire, and whether children were born in the family. The assessments were completed every 6-8 months over a period of approximately four years.
The obtained results revealed that newly married women but not men report reduced levels of sexual desire. This trend precedes decreased marital satisfaction in both spouses via lowering sexual satisfaction over time.
Notably, the frequency of sex in the couple was not affected by changes in wife’s sexual desire. This suggests that engaging in sexual behaviors despite wife’s lowered sexual desire does not increase the quality of sex life and marital satisfaction in the couple.
Researchers found that changes in sexual desire predict declines in marital satisfaction. Simultaneously, changes in marital satisfaction did not have a notable effect on sexual desire in spouses. Hence, the researchers concluded that couple’s sex-life plays a more important role in marital satisfaction than marital satisfaction in sex-life.
Contrary to expectation, the levels of sexual desire declined in newly married women in couples with and without children. This indicates that couple’s transition to parenthood does not account for the observed decline in a wife’s sexual desire.
“Here, we provide novel empirical evidence that one source of declining marital satisfaction is that wives’ sexual desire declines over the early years of marriage, while husbands’ sexual desire remains relatively high and stable,” the researchers said.
“Although childbirth predicted declines in women’s but not men’s sexual desire and thus accentuated these sex-differentiated declines, even couples who remained childfree over the course of the study showed a divergence of sexual desires. We suspect many couples see this as a sign that their marriage has serious problems, for which they may blame themselves and each other.”
“Insofar as neither couple member anticipates this issue, both may come to feel that the partner is changing the rules. Our findings might reassure some couples that the emerging mismatch in marital sexual desire is normal and typical,” the authors of the study concluded.
The study, “Sex-Differentiated Changes in Sexual Desire Predict Marital Dissatisfaction“, was authored by James K. McNulty, Jessica A. Maxwell, Andrea L. Meltzer, and Roy F. Baumeister.