The researchers looked at more than 1,000 couples from five countries, the United States, Brazil, Germany, Japan and Spain who were together an average of 25 years. Participants were 40 to 70 years old with men and women answering gender-specific questionnaires. They were assured that their responses would not be shared with their partner.
"You hear repeated research and commentary about divorce; but it's important to note that though divorce rates are high in the U.S., couples tend to stay married -- more than 50 percent of U.S. couples remain in their first marriage, and that number goes up to 90 percent in Spain," said Julia Heiman, director of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction and lead author of the article. "We know from other research that being in a long-term relationship has some value to health. Perhaps we can learn more about what makes relationships both sustainable and happy."
"This study on heterosexual couples provides a basis for future research on sex and gender, such as how same-sex couples may or may not show similarities and differences in relationship and sexual satisfaction," Heiman said.
For men, relationship happiness was more likely if the man reported being in good health and if it was important to him that his partner experienced orgasm. Surprisingly, frequent kissing or cuddling also predicted happiness in the relationship for men, but not for women. Both men and women reported more happiness the longer they had been together, and if they themselves scored higher on several sexual functioning questionnaires.
Across all five nationalities, for both men and women, the Japanese were significantly happier with their relationships than Americans, and Brazilians and Spanish reported less relationship happiness than Americans.
Men and women both were likely to report sexual satisfaction if they also reported frequent kissing and cuddling, sexual caressing by the partner, higher sexual functioning, and if they had sex more frequently. On the other hand, for men, having had more sex partners in their lifetime was a predictor of less sexual satisfaction.
Men did report more relationship happiness in later years, whereas for women, their sexual satisfaction increased over time. Women who had been with their partner for less than 15 years were less likely to report sexual satisfaction, but after 15 years, the percentage went up significantly.
"Possibly, women become more satisfied over time because their expectations change, or life changes with the children grown," Heiman said. "On the other hand, those who weren't so happy sexually might not be married so long."
Compared with the U.S. men, Japanese men reported significantly (2.61 times) more sexual satisfaction in their relationships. For women, Japanese and Brazilian women were more likely to report being satisfied sexually than Americans.
"We recognize that relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction may not be the same thing for all couples, and in all cultures," Heiman said. "Our next step is to understand how one person's health, physical affection and sexual experiences relate to the relationship happiness or sexual satisfaction of his or her partner. So, we hope for more couple-centered than individual-centered understanding on relationship functioning and satisfaction."
On Monday, July 11, 2011, Stephen Colbert the comedian announced at the beginning of his show The Colbert Report: A new study says that men like to cuddle. Another study says that men will say anything to get a researcher into bed. - Sorry, I had to throw that one into the mix. :-)
I find it interesting that women report greater sexual satisfaction with time. I have long conjectured that the so-called norms imposed by society on women (be a "demure" woman; hide your sexuality) prevents them from expressing themselves sexually and even fully enjoying sex. Over time in a secure relationship with an accepting partner, a woman has fewer reservations, less fear of violating the rules of so-called norms.
I also find it interesting for men that other signs like kissing and hugging which could be interpreted as being needed, desired, wanted are important. Later in life, a man's career may be less important, it may be winding down, the children may have left the nest and how a man determines his own worth may be changing to other more personal things. We men tend to define ourselves, define our self-worth through our careers and even though the career may be gone, we still like to feel important as in being needed and desired.
As a curiosity, I noted that for men, having had more sex partners in their lifetime was a predictor of less sexual satisfaction. If you have nothing to compare something to, does it not follow logically that you can't be dissatisfied? Then again, if women supposedly feel more liberated in the long-term, maybe a couple could talk more frankly and all parties could arrive at a "happy ending".
It seems to be a common view and sometimes a humorous view that men only think about sex. The results may give one pause to consider that we men do have a tender side.
Arch Sex Behav (2011) 40:741–753
Sexual Satisfaction and Relationship Happiness in Midlife and Older Couples in Five Countries
Julia R. Heiman, J. Scott Long, Shawna N. Smith, William A. Fisher, Michael S. Sand, Raymond C. Rosen
Received: 1 July 2009 / Revised: 19 October 2010 / Accepted: 19 October 2010 / Published online: 26 January 2011
Indiana University News Room - July 5/2011
Couples report gender differences in relationship, sexual satisfaction over time
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