Research indicates that sexual satisfaction and marriage go hand in hand.1 Surprised? Probably not. From a woman’s perspective, it makes perfect sense that people are much more sexually satisfied when they have a good relationship. Before drawing too many conclusions from this fact, let’s take another look at it.
In graduate school, I took several classes to learn how to conduct and understand psychological research (not my favourite classes by any stretch of the imagination!). One of the most important principles that stuck with me was "correlation does not mean causation." Correlation means that two events tend to coincide. For our purposes, sexual and marital satisfaction are correlated. Our assumption that a good relationship leads to good sex is making the leap from correlation to causation. It’s just as possible (especially from the male perspective) that great sex causes a satisfying marriage, not the other way around. In fact, some biological research supports this theory.
Just like sexual drive, the warm feelings of connectedness, trust, and bonding that we associate with good relationships are also impacted by brain chemistry. Oxytocin is often called the "cuddle hormone." The presence of this hormone causes people to feel bonded to each other and experience relationships as emotionally gratifying and positive. Both men and women have oxytocin in their bodies. However, the presence of oestrogen in a woman’s body makes the impact of oxytocin much more powerful. This partly explains why women are far more likely than men to seek emotional intimacy in their relationships.
In women, levels of oxytocin skyrocket during labour and breastfeeding, encouraging the maternal behaviours and bonding so powerfully experienced in new mums. The only time levels of oxytocin significantly increase in men is right after orgasm. (Women’s oxytocin levels spike after orgasm as well.)
Have you ever noticed that your husband seems to treat you differently after sex? He’s more attentive (perhaps after a brief nap), more affectionate, and more appreciative? This isn’t just your imagination. He is biologically wired to bond with you after sex. He literally feels emotionally closer to you after orgasm — and that’s not just a line!
The lack of regular sex is a significant barrier to emotional connectedness and intimacy for men. Likewise, sex is perhaps the most powerful force bonding a man emotionally and relationally to his wife. Beyond just the act of having sex, sharing and embracing your husband’s sexuality is perhaps the most powerful way to build the intimacy you so desire in your marriage. How can you truly be connected with him if you ignore or minimise the one aspect of his life that dominates him physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally?
- Archibald D. Hart, Catherine Hart Weber, and Debra L. Taylor, Secrets of Eve (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 162–63.