Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

The Impact of Anger on Sexual Satisfaction in Marriage

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

The Impact of Anger on Sexual Satisfaction in Marriage

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to explore the influence of different forms of anger on sexual satisfaction in marriage. The sample consisted of 192 French-Canadian heterosexual couples recruited from clinical and non-clinical populations. Regression analyses suggested that the wife's sexual satisfaction is best explained by her disposition to perceive a wide range of situations as annoying or frustrating (Trait Anger), and by how often her angry feelings toward her partner are held or suppressed (Anger-in) or expressed in an angry manner (Anger-out). Her sexual satisfaction was also explained by the intensity of angry feelings from her husband (State Anger). Furthermore, the husband's State Anger, his Anger-in and his wife's Anger-out expression predicted a significant part of the variance in his sexual satisfaction. Results and clinical implications are analyzed in view of gender differences. Recommendations for future research are discussed.

Key words: Anger Sexual satisfaction Dyadic adjustment Gender differences


There have been few studies on the role of anger in sexual adjustment within marriage and, to our knowledge, no study has specifically examined the relationship between anger and sexual satisfaction within stable marital relationships. Our research group has previously investigated the relationship between anger and marital adjustment (Laughrea, Belanger, & Wright, 1996a,b; Laughrea, Belanger, Wright, & McDuff, 1997) and in the current study we propose here to adapt the methodology used in those studies to explore linkages between the ways partners deal with angry feelings in their relationship and their level of sexual satisfaction. Our studies on anger and marital adjustment employed a self-report measure of anger based on Spielberger's (1988) widely used State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory which we translated into French and adapted for research on marital adjustment (Laughrea et al., 1996a). Spielberger's scale assesses three dimensions of anger: state anger, personality trait anger, and anger expression style. In the context of our adaptation, state anger refers to angry feelings toward a partner at a particular time, trait anger refers to an individual's disposition to perceive a wide range of situations as annoying or frustrating, and anger expression style encompasses three categories of anger management, anger-in (holding in or suppressing angry feelings toward a partner), anger-out (expression of anger toward a partner, particularly in the form of sarcastic remarks), and anger control (attempts to control expressions of anger toward a partner).

Research on anger and marital adjustment has shown a relationship between anger traits and intensity of anger, and between anger repression and marital adjustment, for the spouse who is repressing anger (Laughrea et al., 1997). To a lesser extent, anger also impacted on the partner's assessment of his/her own dyadic adjustment. A subsequent study showed that couples in distress had more problems controlling their anger than nondistressed couples (Laughrea, Wright, Belanger, & McDuff, 2000). Collectively, these findings underlined the importance for marital adjustment of individuals being able to acknowledge and manage their own anger rather than attributing their marital distress to the other's anger. The current study was prompted by the need for further research to explore the relationship between anger and other specific aspects of marital interaction such as sexual satisfaction.

Research has shown an interrelationship between the quality of communication in regard to sexuality, sexual satisfaction and marital well-being (Cupach & Comstock, 1990). In addition, Sprecher and McKinney (1993) reported that effective communication, feelings of control and empowerment, and self-control within a relationship are all linked to sexual satisfaction. In addition, Henderson-King and Veroff's (1994) study of newlyweds revealed that sexual satisfaction and adaptation during the first year of marriage were predicted by the number of episodes in which a partner felt good because she/he could be assertive in relations with the partner and felt valued. …

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