There appears to be a strong correlation between happiness and frequency of intimacy in a marriage. In fact, some of you already know this, by the looks of a large-scale national study, which showed married people have more and better sex than do their unmarried counterparts. (And singles think they’re having all the fun.)
Sociologist Denise A. Donnelly explains, “While sex isn’t the only important thing in a marriage, it matters more than many believe. Couples who don’t have satisfying sex lives are more likely to get divorced. Plus, regular, intimate sex can help increase general happiness.” Donnelly adds, “Happy couples have more sex, and the more sex a couple has, the happier they report being.”
Certain transition periods for couples are likely to reduce the frequency of intimacy, such as when dealing with significant health problems or becoming new parents. A BBC study detailed 500 women’s experiences with pregnancy and how their sex lives were affected. On average, they had sex half as frequently during pregnancy as they did before pregnancy, and that dropped further after the baby was born. The biggest obstacles they cited were feeling too tired, stressed, suffering from depression, or having post-baby body image issues. However, three-fourths of them reported being tired but very happy.
Researchers of the study (conducted for Prima Baby magazine) said there is a perfectly normal period of adjustment for couples as they become new parents, when their focus on naturally on their new child. Also, it may take months for the woman’s hormones to come back into balance after birth. Women who experience pain, discomfort or complete lack of libido should see their physician.
The responsibilities of parenthood notwithstanding, couples who focus for years on their little ones and neglect their own relationships will likely see a significant decline in marital happiness. Experts warn of treating one another like roommates, which can happen when household and work responsibilities consistently take higher priority than the marriage.
The good news is that most married couples are doing something right. Not only do married couples have sex more often, but they enjoy it more, both physically and emotionally. 1
1 Linda J. Waite and Kara Joyner, “Emotional and Physical Satisfaction with Sex in Married, Cohabitating, and Dating Sexual Unions: Do Men and Women Differ?” Pp. 239-269 in E. O. Laumann and R.T. Michael, eds., Sex, Love and Health in America (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001); Edward O. Laumann, J.H. Gagnon, R.T. Michael and S. Michaels, The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the Unites States (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1994).