Sexuality & Couples

Sophie Bergeron  Ph.D


Did you know that couples seeking relationship therapy have lower sexual well-being than couples in the general population?

It is now recognized that sexual well-being is associated with relationship quality and quality of life. As such, sexual difficulties are a frequent reason for seeking relationship therapy. To this date, however, little is known about the sexual well-being of these couples. A study conducted in Katherine Péloquin’s lab looked at the sexual well-being of these couples. More specifically, this research explored the sexual problems they experience, their sexual satisfaction and examined the contribution of both partners’ dyadic adjustment and sexual problems on their sexual satisfaction. To do this, 298 mixedsex couples seeking relationship therapy completed questionnaires on dyadic adjustment, sexual satisfaction and sexual functioning (desire, arousal, erection, lubrication, orgasm, and satisfaction).

What did we find?

We found that 30% of couples seeking therapy had at least one of the two partners who experienced a sexual problem that is clinically significant. This statistic is a lot more than what we can find in the general population. Low sexual desire was the most frequently reported sexual problem for both men (26%) and women (54%). These couples also reported lower levels of sexual satisfaction than couples in the general population. Finally, women reported more sexual problems and lower sexual satisfaction than their partners.

Our results show that dyadic adjustment and sexual problems are associated with sexual satisfaction. More specifically, a sexual problem in one partner was associated to lower sexual satisfaction in both partners. A lower dyadic adjustment in a partner was also associated with that individual's sexual satisfaction, but not that of their partner. Finally, we found that both partners report higher sexual satisfaction when they both report a sexual problem or when neither of them report a sexual problem. Conversely, they are both more sexually dissatisfied when there is discrepancy in both partners’ sexual functioning. Overall, these results highlight the importance for couple therapists to directly assess and treat sexual well-being difficulties as they are common in couples with relationships problems and they do not appear to be the result of relationship dissatisfaction only.

For more details, we invite you to read the full article:

Péloquin, K., Byers, E. S., Callaci, M., & Tremblay, N. (2019). Sexual portrait of couples seeking relationship therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 45(1), 120-133.


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