In a previous post, I discussed the health benefits of sex, and now, new research suggests that combating the negative consequences of neuroticism can be added to the list.
As far as partner’s personalities go, neuroticism, or the tendency to experience negative emotional states such as anxiety and depressed mood, has the strongest impact on romantic relationship quality. People who are higher in neuroticism tend to be less satisfied in their relationships, and as you’d expect, so are their partners.1 If you are interested in learning your score on a measure of neuroticism, check out this page.
Interestingly, neurotic individuals do not often experience negative outcomes in other relationships (with friends, family, co-workers), leading researchers to wonder whether the sexual aspects of romantic relationships contribute to the link between neuroticism and relationship satisfaction. It turns out it does. Specifically, neurotic individuals are often less sexually satisfied in their relationships, and these lower levels of sexual satisfaction account for lower levels of relationship satisfaction.2 In a recent study, 72 newlyweds reported on their levels of neuroticism, frequency of sex, and relationship satisfaction over 4 years. Neuroticism was associated with less satisfaction but these associations differed based on the couple’s sexual frequency. Essentially, more highly neurotic couples who engaged in more frequent sex experienced levels of satisfaction similar to levels of satisfaction reported by couples lower in neuroticism.3
Take home point? To buffer against the negative effects of neuroticism in your relationship, have a lot of sex!3
1Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (1995). The longitudinal course of marital quality and stability: A review of theory, method, and research. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 3-34.
2Fisher, T. D., & McNulty, J. K. (2008). Neuroticism and marital satisfaction: The mediating role played by the sexual relationship. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 112-122.
3Russell, M. V., & McNulty, J. K. (2011). Frequent sex protects intimates from the negative implications of their neuroticism. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 220-227.
Dr. Amy Muise – Sex Musings | Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Muise’s research focuses on sexuality, including the role of sexual motives in maintaining sexual desire in long-term relationships, and sexual well-being. She also studies the relational effects of new media, such as how technology influences dating scripts and the experience of jealousy.