Is frequent sex a key ingredient required in maintaining marital bliss? Psychologists have debated this topic for decades and the data on the matter are about as divided as they come. Roughly half of the studies exploring the this query reveal evidence that sex makes married partners more satisfied with one another and roughly half show that sexual frequency has not effect whatsoever. Now a new study aimed at studying why the conflict itself exists is arguing that all of the controversy is arising form the fact that psychologists are asking the wrong questions.
The new work started off by doing what all other studies have done. It gathered up married couples, asked them how often they had sex and then gave them a whole bunch of surveys that well known to measure marital satisfaction. All of this provided precisely the same unclear picture that has been seen time and time again. However, where the new work differed was in the addition of an automatic partner attitude test.
This test measured instant feelings. It started by presenting participants with a series of words and asking them to rate on a seven point scale how positive or negative each word was as quickly as they possibly could. Periodically, an image would flash up on the screen before more words were shown. Sometimes this picture was of the participant's spouse, sometimes it was of a hot member of the opposite sex, sometimes it was of a neutral image like a tree.
What the researchers found was that participants ranked words more positively after they saw an image of their spouse if they had frequent sex with them but did not do so if they have infrequent sex. You can read more in The Economist article that I wrote on this subject here.