Sexuality is an essential part of most marriages. Many young people see marriage as an unproblematic feast of sexual pleasure; after all, you have your partner there all the time, and you just make love anytime you want to. (Figure 9.2 illustrates frequency of sex in marriage as compared to other types of relationships.) But others wonder whether sex with the same person might not become boring af – The introduction of children can affect relationship quality, ter a while. The number of books

promising to teach couples how to put zing back into the marital bedroom indicates that marriage is not always an unend­ing string of sexual encounters.

Although many marriages start out high on passion, these feelings slowly dissipate over time (Starling, 1999). Laumann and colleagues (1994) found that 40% of married people have sexual intercourse two or more times a week, whereas 50% engage in it a few times each month. No matter how often couples had sex, most reported a decline over time—only 6% reported an increase in sexual frequency over time. More than a third reported that they made love less than 60% as often as they did in the first year of marriage.

When one partner is unhappy with the amount of sex in a relationship there can be trouble (Deveny, 2003). The reason it decreases in long-term relationships has less to do with getting bored with one’s partner than it has to do with the pressures of children, jobs, commuting, housework, and finances. However, even with these life changes, after

Подпись: ReviewQuestion Explain how children may affect ^relationship quality. Подпись:Text not available due to copyright restrictions

Подпись: The most frequently kept secret between husbands and wives involves money. Almost half of all spouses say that they've hidden specifics on the real price of something they had bought (Lague, 2001). Подпись:Подпись:10 years or more of marriage only 15% of married couples have sex less than once a month, and 63% report having sex once a week or more (Heiman & LoPiccolo, 1992). Another study found that 40% of married women have sex once every few weeks; 22% have it once a week or so; and 34% have it two to three times a week (J. Carroll, 2002).

The frequency of sexual activity and satisfaction with a couple’s sex life have been found to be positively correlated (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983); that is, the more fre­quent the sexual behavior, the greater the sexual satisfaction. However, it is not known whether increased sexual frequency causes more satisfaction, or whether increased mar­ital satisfaction causes increased sexual behavior. Some couples feel that decreasing fre­quency of sexual behavior is a positive change:

Maybe it’s not a necessity anymore. We have other ways of expressing our feelings, and intercourse is one of the ways. When we first got married we thought it was the only way, and now we realize it is not. And the quality of our sex life has improved. Now it gives us so much satisfaction, it’s not really necessary that we have it every single night. (Greenblat, 1989, p. 187 )

Ellen Frank and Carol Anderson (1989) studied 100 couples and found that sexual­ity changes as one moves through different stages of marriage. During the early years, about the first 5 years, sex is more frequent and generally satisfying, with both partners feeling that they can satisfy the other. During the next 15 or so years, the middle stage, other aspects of life take precedence over sex, and the couple may experience difficulty in maintaining sexual interest in each other. In this stage, the couple begins to report more sexual dissatisfaction, with husbands troubled by an increasing interest in other women and wives troubled by a decreasing interest in sex itself. In the later years, 20 or more, sex gets more difficult as frequency and potency decline; still, men report being generally satisfied with their sex lives. Women, on the other hand, report being much less satisfied, saying they feel a sense of resignation that their sex lives are not exciting to them anymore.

Frequency and type of marital sex have been found to differ by social class (R. Collins, 1988). The upper classes tend to have marital sex more frequently, use more sex­ual positions, and practice more oral sex and other varieties of sexual contact. This may be because of more leisure time, because of more space and privacy, or perhaps because lower classes tend to have more traditional gender roles. Still, class differences in mari­tal sexuality have been decreasing in recent years.

Some marriages are asexual relationships, which means the partners do not engage in sexual behavior (we discussed a slightly different definition of asexuality in Chapter 3, which dealt with the concept of having no assigned gender). This is usually a mutual decision, and it may be because the partners do not have sexual desire for each other anymore.

Finally, masturbation is often taboo in marital relationships. The myth is that if a married man masturbates, his wife cannot be satisfying him sexually. However, this is not true. Forty-four percent of American husbands masturbate weekly or more often, whereas only 16% of wives do (Janus & Janus, 1993). Michael and colleagues (1994, p. 165) found that masturbation is often stimulated by other sexual behavior—“[T]he more sex you have of any kind, the more you may think about sex and the more you may mas­turbate.” (We will discuss masturbation more in Chapter 10.)