A couple of weeks ago, I talked about an article I’d seen about how sexual intimacy is linked to marital happiness. The research, by Adena M. Galinsky and Linda J. Waite, found that continued healthy sex-lives help couples dealing with physical illness, especially chronic health problems.
Couples who had sex frequently (and sex was defined broadly—it didn’t need to include vaginal intercourse) were more likely to say they had a good relationship.
This is, of course, a chicken and egg: More sex doesn’t automatically make a relationship good. It’s more likely—and perfectly reasonable—that an unsatisfying relationship will include less sex. And the women I meet through my practice as well as the rest of life show me that this is often a time when our relationships get some re-evaluation.
Sometimes it’s the empty nest, and the change in schedules and priorities that comes with it. Sometimes it’s retirement, for one or both partners, which means a lot more together time. Sometimes it’s the stress of caring for aging parents along with everything else. Whatever the prompt, when some of us look at our relationships, we say, “Is this really what I want?”
So it was interesting to me to read the details of the Galinsky Waite study, to see how they measured the quality of relationships. These are the questions they asked:
- How close do you feel your relationship with your partner is?
- How often can you open up with your partner if you want to talk about worries?
- How often can you rely on your partner for help with a problem?
- How often does your partner make too many demands?
- How often does your partner criticize you?
- How happy is your relationship with your partner?
- Do you like to spend your free time together, separately, or some of both?
- How emotionally satisfying is your relationship?
- How often does your partner get on your nerves?
If you’re feeling some vague discontent, those questions might help you with a conversation with your partner—or with a couples therapist if you decide some outside perspective and coaching would be helpful. If you’re feeling angry, or resentful, or isolated in your relationship, it’s no surprise that you’re not feeling sexy.
And you deserve to.