Kiss and Makeup? Examining the Co-occurrence of Conflict and Sex
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Although conflict and sex frequently occur in relationships, little research has examined their interconnectedness. Some evidence suggests their co-occurrence can benefit relationships, whereas other evidence suggests the opposite. We sought to clarify such contrasting evidence by conducting a dyadic daily-diary study of 107 newlywed couples that included a 6-month follow-up assessment. Although conflict (operationalized as one partner doing something the other did not like) was unassociated with the likelihood of sex on a given day, it predicted a lower likelihood the following day. Moreover, despite the fact that sex co-occurring with (vs. occurring independent of) conflict was less enjoyable, it partially reduced the negative effects of conflict on both spouses' daily relationship quality. The extent to which sex and conflict co-occurred was unassociated with intimates' changes in marital satisfaction 6 months later. The implications of engaging in post-conflict sex are nuanced: although such sex is less enjoyable, it temporarily buffers relationship quality in that moment.
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