Forgiveness and conflict resolution effect on sexual satisfaction in marriage

Institute for family studies continues to put out some gems here and there. One of the common ones most cited I usually cite is their pre-marital sex and marriage stability one which does some more analysis on the Heritage study like Social Pathologist’s posts.

For forgiveness, our results indicate that wives’ forgiveness showed no significant impact on their sexual satisfaction. However, we found that husbands who are more forgiving tend to report that they are more sexually satisfied, as illustrated by Figure 1 below. 

Reading the chart from left to right, we see that husband’s sexual satisfaction varies depending on how forgiving husbands tend to be. In this chart, husband’s predicted sexual satisfaction at varying levels of husband’s forgiveness is represented by the blue bars. Specifically, we observed that husbands with high levels of forgiveness tended to have greater than average sexual satisfaction, where the average level of sexual satisfaction is at zero. In contrast, we observed that husbands with low levels of forgiveness tended to have lower than average sexual satisfaction.

Of note, greater conflict resolution quality was connected to greater sexual satisfaction for both husbands and wives. This finding for husbands is represented above with the orange bars and below for wives with the green bars. 

The narrative is the same for both husbands and wives: individuals with high levels of conflict resolution quality tend to have above average levels of sexual satisfaction, while individuals with low levels of conflict resolution quality tend to have below average levels of sexual satisfaction.

This one in particular yields some good insights. 

Obviously, conflict resolution generally depends on how well a person can think outside of themselves and understand the other person. In particular, for Christians this also means choosing to put on the fruit of the Spirit in the midst of hard circumstances rather than default to conflict, anger, and strife.

Husband forgiveness and conflict resolution ability are both positively correlated with sexual satisfaction. This seems to relate back to some of the Biblical commands, aside from the fruit of the Spirit:

Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives and do not become bitter against them.

1 Peter 3:7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

Indeed, husbands shouldn’t become bitter toward their wives which hinders forgiveness. Those husbands that can understand that the wife is different and weaker will tend to have a better time forgiving her and working things out since she is not like you.

Conflict resolution makes sense in that if the couple are fighting they’re not likely to be having sex or satisfied with having sex as much. Negative emotions are typically a turn off.

Ironically, only wife conflict resolution relates to sexual satisfaction while forgiveness does not. I suspect there may be several reasons for this. This probably follows along the old saying “it is better to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission.” In other words, men who are assertively doing things and acting as the leader have much more leeway for forgiveness from their wives than men who are timid and asking for permission.

This seems a bit counterintuitive, but the former assertive man would be more attractive and hence her forgiveness — even if it’s a lot or a little — would be less correlated with her desire to have sex with him. Whereas the undecisive man who is asking for permission all the time and screwing things up — even if it’s a lot or little — does not get the benefit of the doubt in terms of sex. He’s always going to be trying to seek approval of his wife for things, so her forgiveness matters little in terms of sexual satisfaction as she’s not going to be wanting to have sex with him anyway.

It seems in either case, forgiveness is not correlated with the good or the bad which is why it seems to be a wash in this case.

All this is to say, obey God’s marital roles and responsibilities as they’re not just about pleasing God, but they typically help with sexual satisfaction too.

Although many studies have examined the association between religion and sexuality, the majority of these studies have focused on nonmarital sex. Unfortunately, despite the fact that a satisfying sexual relationship plays a critical role in married couples’ relationship quality and stability, the associations between religiosity and marital sexual satisfaction are not well understood. Thus, to examine the association between religiosity and couples’ reports of married sexual satisfaction, the authors of this study used dyadic data from a nationally representative sample of married couples (N = 1,368) between the ages of 18 and 45. They used both joint and individual measures of religiosity as well as examining the relationship mechanisms that might link religiosity and sexual satisfaction. In the models, individual-level reports of marital sanctification were positively associated with wives’ and husbands’ reports of sexual satisfaction. Furthermore, joint religious activities done in the home were positively associated with husbands’ reports of sexual satisfaction. Marital commitment, relationship maintenance behaviors, and spousal time fully mediated these associations for husbands, while commitment partially mediated the association for wives.

Furthermore, Joint religiosity and married couples’ sexual satisfaction in the abstract above that is linked in the IFS post seems to indicate that doing religious activities in the home increases sexual satisfaction. This lends some good credence to Deuteronomy 6 as well as the NT Biblical marital roles and responsibilities.

In particular, the man acting as the leader and setting an example to follow (commitment, maintenance behaviors, spousal time) fully associated with improved sexual satisfaction. Whereas on the other hand, commitment only partially mediates the association for wives.

Genesis 3:16b Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.

I think the partially mediated commitment makes sense in that a wife can choose to follow or not (rebellious and discontent vs fighting against those) is the duality of the choice wives make everyday. For the wives that do, it’s correlated. For the wives that don’t, it’s not.

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3 Responses to Forgiveness and conflict resolution effect on sexual satisfaction in marriage

  1. Lexet Blog says:

    I am skeptical of the study and it’s definitions. I am even more skeptical of a dc institution claiming that conflict resolution = increased sexual satisfaction

  2. Lexet Blog says:

    And of forgiveness turned women on, weak beta men would be a hot commodity

  3. @ Lexet

    I am skeptical of the study and it’s definitions. I am even more skeptical of a dc institution claiming that conflict resolution = increased sexual satisfaction

    Could be the case, though, at least at face value it aligns with Scripture so far.

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