Frequent sex protects marital happiness for neurotic newlyweds

December 8, 2010, SAGE Publications

People who are neurotic often have more difficulty with relationships and marriage. But if neurotic newlyweds have frequent sexual relations, their marital satisfaction is every bit as high as their less neurotic counterparts, according to a study in the current Social Psychological and Personality Science (published by SAGE).

Neuroticism is the tendency to experience negative emotion, and people who are high in it get upset and irritated easily, change their mood often, and worry frequently. People who score high in neuroticism are less satisfied in romance and relationships, and when they get married they are more likely to divorce. "High levels of neuroticism are more strongly associated with bad marital outcomes than any other factor," said Michelle Russell and James McNulty of the University of Tennessee, authors of the study.

But sex in marriage seems to make people happy—other research has shown that sexual interactions improved the next day's mood. Russell and McNulty wanted to know if frequent sexual activity would erase the negative effects of neuroticism. They followed 72 newlywed couples over the first four years of their marriage; both spouses reported—separately and privately—on their and sexual frequency every six months.

On average, couples reported sexual intercourse about once a week during the first six months of marriage, and about 3 times a month by the fourth year of marriage. Couples were considered satisfied when they agreed that they "have a good marriage" and "My relationship with my partner makes me happy."

Marital satisfaction was not associated with sexual frequency—not at the start of the marriage, or four years later. Highly satisfied marriages sometimes had high levels of sexual activity, and sometimes low levels—sexual contact alone was not a good indicator of marital satisfaction.

But Russell and McNulty found one important exception. For spouses with high levels of neuroticism, frequent sexual intercourse improved their marital satisfaction. The effect of frequent sexual activity was enough to completely wipe away the "happiness deficit" that neurotic spouses usually have. "Frequent sex is one way that some neurotic people are able to maintain satisfy relationships," the authors write. The newlywed period is a time when are particularly important, and for some—but not all—frequent sex improves their happiness with the marriage. This happiness-by–sex effect occurred regardless of how strong or happy the was at the beginning of the study—frequent sex protects marital happiness for neurotic newlyweds.

More information: The article "Frequent Sex Protects Intimates from the Negative Implications of Their Neuroticism" in Social Psychological and Personality Science is available free for a limited time at spp.sagepub.com/content/early/ … 387162.full.pdf+html

Related Stories

Recommended for you

How bullying affects the brain

December 12, 2018
New research from King's College London identifies a possible mechanism that shows how bullying may influence the structure of the adolescent brain, suggesting the effects of constantly being bullied are more than just psychological.

What social stress in monkeys can tell us about human health

December 11, 2018
Research in recent years has linked a person's physical or social environment to their well-being. Stress wears down the body and compromises the immune system, leaving a person more vulnerable to illnesses and other conditions. ...

Trying to get people to agree? Skip the French restaurant and go out for Chinese food

December 11, 2018
Here's a new negotiating tactic: enjoy a family-style meal with your counterpart before making your opening bid.

You make decisions quicker and based on less information than you think

December 11, 2018
We live in an age of information. In theory, we can learn everything about anyone or anything at the touch of a button. All this information should allow us to make super-informed, data-driven decisions all the time.

Using neurofeedback to prevent PTSD in soldiers

December 11, 2018
A team of researchers from Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. has found that using neurofeedback could prevent soldiers from experiencing PTSD after engaging in emotionally difficult situations. In their paper published in the ...

The richer the reward, the faster you'll likely move to reach it, study shows

December 11, 2018
If you are wondering how long you personally are willing to stand in line to buy that hot new holiday gift, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine say the answer may be found in the biological rules governing how animals typically ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.