Relationship and sexual satisfaction: A developmental perspective on bidirectionality
Researchers have investigated the directionality between relationship and sexual satisfaction; however, there remains no definitive conclusion. Previous longitudinal studies have not conceptualized relationship and sexual satisfaction as systematic developmental processes and have focused on predicting scores at later time points. Instead, researchers should be concerned with understanding how relationship and sexual satisfaction change together over time. The objective of this study was to use longitudinal data from midlife American marriages to test the directionality of the association between relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction. Multivariate latent growth curve modeling of 1,456 midlife Americans married for 20 years from the Midlife in the United States study was used to compare directionality models. Findings support that long-term, stable marriages of midlife Americans at the sample level were characterized by a linear increase in relationship satisfaction over 20 years and a linear decline in sexual satisfaction during the same time frame. A co-change model, wherein relationship and sexual satisfaction changed together over time, fit the data best. Trajectory correlations showed that changes in relationship and sexual satisfaction were strongly interconnected. High initial levels of sexual satisfaction protected against declines in relationship satisfaction over 20 years. Results support that relationship and sexual satisfaction change together over time and highlight that the longitudinal association between these outcomes is dynamic rather than static.