Sex Remains a Factor in Long Term Relationships

Most studies that explore sexual relationships focus on individuals, not couples. This study examined sexual as well as other relationship factors in middle aged or older couples who are in a committed relationship. The results indicate that men who had a long relationships with their partners were happier and sexually more satisfied. The women in relationships that continued for 20 to 40 years were, on the other hand, less happy. Women tend to experience lower sexual satisfaction in the beginning of their relationship, and greater sexual satisfaction later on.

The difficulty in studying and following up couples, as opposed to individuals, could be the reason there are few studies of sexual and relationship satisfaction in older, long term couples. Most of the studies involving couples focused only on AIDS or sexually transmitted diseases, prevention of disease transmission, treatment of sexual dysfunction or infertility. No research has evaluated the happiness and satisfaction derived from a long term, committed relationships among middle aged or elderly couples. This study claims to be the first to look at relationships and sexual satisfaction in such couples who have been together for one to 51 years.

* The study included 1,009 couples from Germany, Brazil, Japan, the United States and Spain.
* On average, the men were 55 years old and the women were 52 years old. The average duration of a relationship was 25 years.
* All participants were questioned about their general health, level of physical intimacy with their spouses, sexual function and behavior, and sexual histories. These factors were analyzed to estimate happiness and satisfaction with their sexual lives and relationships.
* Sexual satisfaction was determined by analyzing the frequency of sexual activity and the number of sexual partners in a lifetime.

Key findings
* The results showed that males derived satisfaction from their relationships if they were healthy, had a good level of physical intimacy and had normal sexual functioning. For women, sexual functioning was the only factor that determined satisfaction from the relationship.
* Valuing a partner’s orgasm, frequent cuddling, caressing and kissing, were shown to increase happiness and sexual satisfaction in men.
* A longer relationship was linked to relationship-related happiness and sexual satisfaction in the males. Women who were in the same relationship from 20 to 40 years, however, were less happy with their relationships.
* In the early years of the relationship, women were less sexually satisfied, but the satisfaction rose after 30 years.

Next steps/Shortcomings
According to the authors, different modes of survey and sampling methods were used for studying participants in different countries. Therefore, the results cannot be generalized. In addition, the sample size was fairly small. Future studies should focus on larger and more generalized populations.

This is the first time couples from five different countries have been surveyed to evaluate factors that affect happiness and sexual satisfaction in a committed and long-term relationship with an average duration of 25 years. The authors conclude that sexual functioning is a common predictor of sexual as well as relationship satisfaction. However, physical intimacy was a significant predictor of satisfaction in men but not in women.

For More Information:
Sexual Satisfaction and Relationship Happiness in Midlife and Older Couples in Five Countries
Publication Journal: Archives of Sexual Behavior, January 2011
By Julia R. Heiman; J. Scott Long, et al.; Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

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