The second major adjustment problem in marriage is sexual adjustment. This is unquestionably one of the most difficult adjustments to marriage, and it is the one most likely to lead to marital discord and unhappiness if it is not satisfactorily achieved. Usually the couple has had less preliminary experience related to this adjustment than to the others, and they may be unable to make it easily and with a minimum of emotional tension.
For women, sexual adjustments tend to be more difficult to make and the end results less satisfactory than for men. Rubin has explained why women find sexual adjustments especially difficult: “Socialized from infancy to inhibit and repress their sexuality, women can’t just switch to uninhibited enjoyment as the changing culture of their husbands dictate”.
The present trend toward accepting premarital intercourse as a part of the dating pattern, as discussed in detail in the chapter on adolescence, has helped to ease the adjustment problem arising from this area of marriage for women. Cohabitation which many young people regard as a form of “trial marriage,” has likewise helped to overcome the sexual adjustment problems which most young women and some young men in the past had to solve before making good adjustments to their marriages.
Many factors influence sexual adjustments to marriage, the most important of which are given in below:
Some Important Factors that Influence Sexual Adjustments
Attitudes toward Sex
Attitudes toward sex are greatly influenced by the way men and women received sex information during childhood and adolescence. Once unfavourable attitudes have developed, it is difficult if not impossible to eradicate them completely.
Past Sexual Experiences
The way adults and peers reacted to masturbation, petting, and premarital intercourse when men and women were younger and the way they themselves felt about them affect their attitudes toward sex. If a woman’s early experiences with petting were unpleasant, for example, this may have colored her attitude toward sex unfavourably.
Sexual desire develops earlier in men than in women and tends to be persistence, while that of women is periodic, fluctuating during the menstrual cycle. These variations affect interest in and enjoyment of sex, which in turn affects sexual adjustments.
Early Marital Sexual Experiences
The belief that sexual relations produce states of ecstasy unparalleled by any other experience causes many young adults to be so disillusioned at the beginning of their married lives that later sexual adjustments are difficult of even impossible to make.
Attitudes toward Use of Contraceptives
There will be less friction and emotional conflict if husband and wife agree concerning the use of contraceptives than if they feel differently about this matter.
Effects of Vasectomy
When men have had vasectomy operations, it eliminates any fear of an unwanted pregnancy. This has a favourable effect on women’s sexual adjustments but it may make men question their virility.
While these factors have a greater influence on men and women who have had no premarital sexual experiences, they can and often do affect the early premarital sexual experiences that accompany dating and cohabitation.