Why One Partner's Sexual Satifaction Is Much More Important Than the Other's

Diverse research on sexual experience suggests women's experiences matter more.

Posted Oct 21, 2019

Henri Meilhac/Unsplash
Source: Henri Meilhac/Unsplash

In sexual relationships, it is natural to assume that both partners' experiences will strongly impact relationship duration and satisfaction. However, diverse research in different areas of sexual experience suggests otherwise. In heterosexual relationships, women's sexual experience has a larger impact than men's on both relationship maintenance and relationship satisfaction.


Women's experience when kissing has a larger impact on their future sexual and romantic relationships than men's experience when kissing. While kissing is not exclusively a sexual behavior, it is often an important part of the sexual experience. Heterosexual men and women view kissing differently; Hughes et al. (2007) found that when kissing, women rate the taste and smell of a partner’s mouth and breath as a more important factor than men do in deciding whether to continue kissing.

Furthermore, kissing is an important factor in women's decisions about whether to engage in sex. Most women (but not most men) say they would not consider having sex without first kissing a potential partner and would not have sex with a bad kisser. Additionally, although kissing remains important to women over the course of their relationships, for men, kissing becomes less important as relationships progress. 

Women’s experience with kissing seems to be more important than men’s to their future sexual behavior, as well as their long-term relationships. The authors suggest that kissing helps women to evaluate the health and quality of potential male partners, as well as their potential for commitment to the relationship.


Women’s orgasms may also function to help evaluate the quality of potential long-term partners. Women whose male partners are more attractive and symmetrical also report experiencing more frequent orgasms (Puts et al., 2012; Sela et al., 2015; Thornhill et al., 1995). Because both bodily symmetry and physical attractiveness are associated with genetic quality, women’s orgasms may help to guide them toward better long-term partners (Puts et al., 2012; Sela et al., 2015; Thornhill et al., 1995).

Research also shows that women who share fewer immune genes with their male partners report more frequent orgasms (Garver-Apgar et al., 2006); therefore, women’s orgasms may help them to conceive a child with a stronger immune system. 

Although research reveals these potential benefits to women’s orgasms, there is no corresponding effect for men’s orgasms. Because men more frequently climax during sex than women do, men’s orgasms do not seem to reflect the quality of their female partners. For more detail on the benefits of women's orgasms, click here.


Women's sexual desire is more strongly linked to couples' relationship satisfaction than men's. In two longitudinal studies, researchers found that women’s levels of sexual desire were much more variable than men’s over time (McNulty et al., 2019). While men’s levels of sexual desire stayed higher and more constant than women’s throughout the duration of both studies, women’s levels of desire tended to decline over the first few years of marriage.

These declines in women’s desire were associated with declining marital satisfaction for both members of the couple. However, because men's levels of desire stayed constant over time, men's desire was unrelated to the couples' relationship satisfaction. 

Interestingly, the authors found that despite women’s declining desires, sexual frequency remained constant over the course of the research. The authors suggest that because marital satisfaction tends to decline for both spouses, even as sexual frequency remains constant, that sex which occurs when women do not desire it may be unsatisfying for both members of the couple. Both men and women care about their partner’s sexual experience and feel more sexual satisfaction when their experiences are mutually pleasurable (Heiman et al., 2011; Pascoal et al., 2014). For more information on the mismatch in sexual desire between genders, click here.

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Garver-Apgar, C. E., Gangestad, S. W., Thornhill, R., Miller, R. D., & Olp, J. J. (2006). Major histocompatibility complex alleles, sexual responsivity, and unfaithfulness in romantic couples. Psychological science, 17(10), 830-835.

Heiman, J. R., Long, J. S., Smith, S. N., Fisher, W. A., Sand, M. S., & Rosen, R. C. (2011). Sexual satisfaction and relationship happiness in midlife and older couples in five countries. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(4), 741-753.

Hughes, S. M., Harrison, M. A., & Gallup, G. r . (2007). Sex differences in romantic kissing among college students: An evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary Psychology, 5(3), 612–631.

McNulty, J. K., Maxwell, J. A., Meltzer, A. L., & Baumeister, R. F. (2019). Sex-Differentiated Changes in Sexual Desire Predict Marital Dissatisfaction. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 1-17.

Pascoal, P. M., Narciso, I. D. S. B., & Pereira, N. M. (2014). What is sexual satisfaction? Thematic analysis of lay people's definitions. Journal of Sex Research, 51(1), 22-30.

Puts, D. A., Welling, L. L., Burriss, R. P., & Dawood, K. (2012). Men's masculinity and attractiveness predict their female partners' reported orgasm frequency and timing. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33(1), 1-9.

Sela, Y., Weekes-Shackelford, V. A., Shackelford, T. K., & Pham, M. N. (2015). Female copulatory orgasm and male partner’s attractiveness to his partner and other women. Personality and Individual Differences, 79, 152-156.

Thornhill, R., Gangestad, S. W., & Comer, R. (1995). Human female orgasm and mate fluctuating asymmetry. Animal Behaviour, 50(6), 1601-1615.