Lots of sex is not necessarily a prerequisite for a happy marriage. But apparently, if you are neurotic or the spouse of a neurotic, it really, really helps. That’s the conclusion of a new study out of the University of Tennessee that followed 72 newlyweds for four years.
People who are neurotic — those who tend to view life as a state invented so that bad things could happen to them — make substandard marital partners. It makes sense: if you judge all your experiences negatively, you’re not only going to dislike marriage but you’re going to be a downer to live with. “High levels of neuroticism are more strongly associated with bad marital outcomes than any other personality factor,” said Michelle Russell and James McNulty, authors of the new study [PDF] published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Russell and McNulty checked in with the 72 newly married couples every six months, asking them to rate their marital happiness, and the amount of sex they were having. They found that on average, couples reported rolling in the hay about once a week during the first six months of marriage, and about three times a month by the fourth year of marriage. For many couples, the decline made little difference in how content they felt about their marriage. (More on Time.com: Is a Rose-Tinted View of Your Spouse Good for Newlyweds?)
For neurotics, however, the figures were a bit different. After the initial honeymoon period, they and their spouses say their marriages did not bring them much joy. But those who maintained a high-frequency sex life had no such issues. “Frequent sex is one way that some neurotic people are able to maintain satisfying relationships,” the authors write. The sex seems to make up for the happiness deficit under which neurotics usually labor.
The authors speculate that the gladdening effect could be because of the oxytocin and endogenous opioids that are released during sex. Some of McNulty’s former studies suggest that copulating often improves wives’ body image, thereby boosting both partners’ marital satisfaction. Copious sex can also mitigate the effects of attachment disorder in a marriage. (More on Time.com: Can an iPhone App Save Your Marriage?)
There’s a lesson in here for married people somewhere…
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