A new study published in the Journal of Sex Research explores the relationship between sex and communication within marital relationships. The findings indicate that feeling valued by your partner is an essential factor in marital satisfaction, and that both sex and communication can help improve this feeling.
Previous research has demonstrated that sexual frequency and communication quantity are positively associated with relationship satisfaction. However, there is little research on how these two factors interact with each other to affect relationship satisfaction. Haeyoung Gideon Park and colleagues propose that perceived mattering, or the belief that one is important to their partner, may be a critical factor in understanding this interaction.
The study was conducted in two parts. In Study 1, 307 married Koreans and 277 married Americans completed an online survey measuring their sexual frequency, communication quantity, perceived mattering, and relationship satisfaction. In Study 2, 203 married couples completed a similar survey but also completed measures of sexual quality and communication quality.
Couples who had frequent sex and communication felt more cared for and relied upon by their spouse, which led to greater satisfaction with their marriage overall. The study also found that when couples had less frequent sex, more communication could make up for it by making them feel valued, and vice versa.
Both studies showed that sexual frequency and communication quantity were positively associated with relationship satisfaction. Additionally, perceived mattering was found to mediate the relationship between sexual frequency and relationship satisfaction and between communication quantity and satisfaction.
In other words, when individuals felt that they mattered to their partner, they were more likely to report higher levels of relationship satisfaction regardless of their sexual frequency or communication quantity.
The research team suggests that these findings have important implications for understanding the dynamics of marital relationships. They argue that perceived mattering may be a key factor in explaining why some couples can maintain high levels of relationship satisfaction despite differences in sexual frequency or communication quantity. Additionally, they suggest that interventions to increase perceived mattering may effectively improve overall marital satisfaction.
The authors note some limitations to their study. First, data was self-reported, which may introduce bias into the results. Second, the sample was limited to heterosexual married couples, which limits generalizability to other populations. Finally, the study was cross-sectional, which limits the ability to draw causal conclusions about the relationships between variables.
Future research could build on these findings by exploring other factors that may mediate the relationship between sexual frequency, communication quantity, and relationship satisfaction.
“Despite the large body of literature emphasizing the importance of frequent sex and communication to marital quality, limited research has examined the core psychological component that explains the overlapping nature of these two dyadic interactions,” the researchers concluded. “The present study sheds light on the psychological overlap between sex and communication by exploring the role of perceived mattering in explaining the complementarity between sex and communication within marriage.”
“In this regard, the findings of the current study pave the way for future research by offering insight into understanding the sense of mattering as a core psychological foundation of committed relationships. In addition, the findings demonstrate the importance of considering the broader context of the components of relationships to provide a more comprehensive understanding of their dynamics.”
The study, “Darling, come lay with me or talk with me: Perceived mattering and the complementary association between sex and communication within marital relationships“, was authored by Haeyoung Gideon Park, Hye Won Suk, Jeong Eun Cheon, and Young-Hoon Kim