Study finds more sex helps in marriage with neurotic partner
Researcher warns that solutions aren't that simple
Scripps Howard News Service
Frequent sex could ease tensions in relationships where at least one partner is neurotic, a new study suggests.
Surveys of 72 newlywed couples in Ohio over the first four years of marriage showed that those who experience neuroticism or whose spouse is neurotic reported higher marital satisfaction when they had sex more often.
Neuroticism, according to the study published online in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science in October, is a personality trait that includes frequent negative feelings.
Those negative feelings often put strain on a relationship, said Michelle Russell, a co-author of the study, which was done by the University of Tennessee department of psychology.
The report, part of a larger multi-university study examining a variety of questions about newlyweds, also looked at other variables, such as problem-solving skills and stress levels of neurotic couples.
Researchers were unable, however, to find correlations between satisfaction and those other variables, said Russell, a psychology doctoral student at the university.
One theory for why the correlation between sex and marital satisfaction between these couples was so strong is that sex is improving their moods, she said.
Because many people seek comfort and relaxation in sex, the findings of the study are not surprising, said David Yarian, a licensed clinical psychiatrist and certified sex therapist in Nashville, Tenn.
Still, he warned, it's important not to oversimplify the role of sex in the marital satisfaction of these couples.
"If someone were to bring that up in the first (therapy) session, it would be the beginning point of the discussion," he said. "I would say, 'So tell me more ... like what is it you're wanting to feel and what are you seeking and what's it like when you and your spouse connect in this way? Do you talk more?' It's a beginning point for a pretty long discussion."
Rather than encouraging people to have more sex, Yarian said it's important to focus on quality.
"I'm a therapist, so I talk to people, and every person's story is unique. So studies that have findings like this are of limited applicability," Yarian said. "Overall, the goal is to have highest quality of connection possible. Our culture has a pretty limited way of thinking about this, so with frequency, more is better is seen as the bottom line. I think it's more complex than that."
Megan Boehnke is a reporter for The Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee
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