Intimate love — 07 November 2010
The impact of anger on men’s and women’s sexual satisfaction

Sexual satisfaction in marriage is an important factor in relationship happiness. Spouses whose sexual life is rewarding tend to be more connected and emotionally closer to each other. Or, is it the reverse? Couples who are emotionally more intimate tend to have a better sex life? Though emotions are only partial contributors to sexual satisfaction, some emotions, such as anxiety and anger have been shown to have negative a impact on physical pleasure.

Anger is a reaction to a perceived physical or emotional threat. It is the motivating energy that springs forth and empowers us to act in self-defense. Anger is our response to feeling hurt or defending our perceived discounted esteem or self-worth. It makes sense that feeling threatened is not compatible with being open and receptive to love at the same time.

Yet, there are those whose fights are preludes to passionate lovemaking. Those who share this type of intensity report that the threatened feelings get released through their intensely shared intimacy.

Studies identified gender differences in participants’ reactions to both their own internal anger towards the spouse and their perceived anger from the partner in influencing their sexual satisfaction.

Researcher Clause Belanger and associates found, “Women’s sexual satisfaction appeared to be more closely related to the intensity of angry feelings as manifested by their spouse as opposed to their own angry feelings. On the other hand, the wives’ anger expression was apparently less connected with their husbands’ sexual satisfaction.”

Gayle Beck and Alan Bozman reported that anger curtailed sexual desire for both men and women, but also decreased women’s sexual arousal that was not found in men.

Claude Belanger adds, “It may be suggested that women are more vulnerable to anger manifestations by their spouses. Such vulnerability may imply that women need to be in relationships where there is good communication and lower levels of conflict in order to have a satisfactory sexual response. On the other hand, the link between anger and sexual satisfaction may be weaker for men and their sexual response may be less influenced by their partner’s anger expression.”

Anger between spouses is most commonly born out of poor communication and misunderstanding that contribute to each partner feeling self-protective and reactive.

Dealing with your anger will improve your sexual satisfaction.

• Realize that though anger is a normal reaction to a perceived threat, it inhibits sexual arousal for women and satisfaction for both genders.
• Assess your anger style to help alleviate it. Is it a State anger (about current situation), Trait anger (being annoyed and frustrated easily), Anger-in (withheld anger) or Anger-out (expressed directly or sarcastically).
• Develop “Anger-freeing” time when you can openly and safely express and listen to each other’s anger issues.
• Agree on ways to reduce your frustrations so they are not held in, or become explosive and hurtful.
• Better communication and considerate solutions to anger reduction will make you emotionally closer and sexually more satisfied.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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