Sexual desire discrepancy in married couples
Sytsma, Michael R.
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Distress related to sexual desire is the most common sexual issue in marital therapy. Despite its prevalence and the age of the subject, current outcome studies on treating low sexual desire suggest the dearth of effective interventions. There is an increasing move toward integrative and systemic approaches to understanding and treating problems with sexual desire. The lack of dyadic research focused on sexual desire leaves little support for current systemic theories or intervention strategies. This study surveyed 150 married, predominantly conservative Christian couples exploring the role sexual desire discrepancy had on marital distress related to sexual desire. Instruments included the Dyadic Sexual Desire subscale of the Sexual Desire Inventory-2 (SDI-2, DSD), the Revised Dyadic Adjustment Scale (RDAS), and the GRISS Sexual Dissatisfaction scale. Additionally a scale was developed for this study, the Couple Sexual Desire Distress index (CSDD) to assess the amount of distress a couple experienced in their relationship due to sexual desire issues. The CSDD was determined to have sufficient reliability and validity in this sample. The primary research question used a series of multiple regression analyses to determine if individual sexual desire levels, the discrepancy between couple’s sexual desire levels, or the perceived discrepancy between sexual desire levels were more predictive of distress related to sexual desire issues in a couple. A large percentage of couples in this non-clinical sample expressed concern about their level of sexual desire with wives reporting greater frequency of distress. A husband’s level of sexual desire was not predictive of distress in the couple, whereas a wife’s level was. The largest predictor was the perceived discrepancy score of the individual with the highest desire level in a couple. As sexual desire distress increases in a couple, the congruence between the low desire spouses’ self report and their partner’s report of the spouse decreases. In addition, sexual desire distress was found to correlate stronger with relationship adjustment for wives and stronger for sexual dissatisfaction for husbands. Implications for future research and therapy are discussed.