sexual desire, sexual satisfaction, relationships, sexual frequency, marriage


Previous studies have found associations between the individual discrepancy of desired sexual frequency and actual sexual frequency and relational outcomes among premarital couples. The present study extended this research by using a sample of 1,054 married couples to explore how actor and partner individual sexual desire discrepancy (SDD) scores were associated with relationship satisfaction, stability, communication, and conflict during marriage. All participants took an online survey which assessed both couple sexual dynamics and relationship outcomes. Findings suggested that higher actor individual SDD was generally associated with negative relational outcomes, including lower reported relationship satisfaction, stability, and more reported couple conflict. These effects were found after controlling for background factors, baseline sexual frequency and desire, and couple desire discrepancies. Some partner effects were also found and were generally in the same direction. Marital length did not moderate the effects found although gender moderated associations between individual SDD and reported couple communication. Negative associations between individual SDD and communication were particularly strong when the husband reported high discrepancies between desired and actual sexual frequency. Results suggested that higher individual sexual desire discrepancies among married individuals may undermine relationship well-being. Applications of these findings to a clinical setting are also discussed.

Original Publication Citation

Willoughby, B. J., Farero, A., & Busby, D. M. (2014). Exploring the effect of sexual desire discrepancy among married couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 551-562.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Archives of Sexual Behavior




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor