Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy Vol. 4, No. 2, Summer 1978

Personality Correlates of the Marital Sexual Compatibility of Professional Men Douglas H . Heath, PhD

ABSTRACT: The relationship between personality and sexual compatibility in 60 married men in their early 30s was studied as part of a longitudinal study of maturing. Sexual compatibility was assessed by the men’s ratings of their own and spouses’ sexual pleasure, of the similarity of their sexual values, of their mutual faithfulness, and of the consideration by the spouse of the men’s sexual needs. The measure was independently validated by the judgments of the men’s wives of the men’s excellence as sexual partners and lovers. Extensive psychological test, questionnaire, and judge ratings from the men’s wives, closest male friends, and colleagues were secured. Sexual compatibility was significantly related to 39% of the more than 400 measures of adult personality and interpersonal relationships. Sexual compatibility was moderately related to sexual pleasure and satisfaction, but not to marital coital frequency. Increasing sexual compatibility was consistently related to increasing psychological maturity, interpersonal maturity, and the mutuality of the marital relationship, to effectiveness in fulfilling various adult roles, and to marital happiness.

Although the term “sexual incompatibility” is widely used legally to justify divorce, it is infrequently used in the psychological literature. If the rarity of the term’s occurrence in the Psychologzcal Abstracts accurately indexes its scientific status, then it seemingly has no status among researchers. T h e term euphemistically embraces a variety of sexual topics, each of which is, however, a major source of research interest, e.g., frigidity, impotence, sexual “adjustment.” Until recently, the overwhelming preoccupation of researchers has been with the physiology of sexuality and, of course since Kinsey,’ the frequency of different sexual outlets. Although clinicians since Freud have long been concerned with the psychology of sexuality and its relation to healthy functioning, the number Dr. Heath is Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology, Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania 19041. Reprint inquiries should be directed to the author at 21 Matlack Lane, Villanova, Pennsylvania 19085. The research for this article was sponsored by the Spencer Foundation, W. Clement and Jessie Stone Foundation, and the National Institute of Mental Health Grant No. 11227. 0092-623X/78/1400-0067$00.95 0 1978 Human Sciences Press




of Sex i 3 Marital Therapy

of scientific studies reported about the personality and interpersonal attributes of different sexual experiences and activities is, with the exception of the burgeoning research on homosexuality,2 remarkably sparse. As late as 1971, Eysenck3s4could justifiably claim that the psychological significance of sexuality had been almost totally neglected by researchers. , ~ the sexRecently, the personality correlates of male sexual a ~ o u s a land ual frequency rates of unmarried college s t ~ d e n t s , ~and , ~ , of ~ married adults’ have been studied. Masters and john son'^^^^^"-' evolving stance toward sexual pleasure typifies not only the emerging sensitivity of researchers to the importance of the personality and interpersonal context within which sexual relations occur, but also, paradoxically, the singular lack of objective data about personality and sexuality. Masters and Johnson initially claimed on the basis of their laboratory studies that the degree of male sexual pleasure was directly related to the amount of accumulated semen following lengthening periods of continence. Their more recent work, based on clinical counseling with marital sexual problems, focuses almost exclusively on the personality and interpersonal determinants of sexual pleasure. T h e irony is that their rich and perceptive hunches are not supported by the citation of one objective personality measure o r scientifically established finding in their principal publication on sexual pleasure.‘O Sociologists, like Cuber,”.’* have studied adult marital sexual behavior, but their interest has been almost exclusively focused on social and demographic determinants, e.g., effect of birth of child or of career on coital frequency. Recently, however, Edwards and Booth,13 using a stratified probability sample of Toronto families, identified decline in marital coital frequency to be more associated with psychological, i.e., perceived decline in love of spouse, than with traditional sociological variables. N o one has yet objectively examined in detail the specific complex personality and interpersonal variables that Masters and Johnson identified to be critical to experiencing marital sexual pleasure fully, e.g., psychological healthiness, interpersonal maturity, mutual fulfillment of needs. ‘The term “sexual compatibility” connotes the complexity of the personality and interpersonal factors clinically induced to be associated with fulfilling marital sexual relations. Neither sexual frequency nor degree of sexual pleasure adequately connotes the quality of the marital sexual relationship. Marital sexual frequency has not been found to be consistently related to degree of sexual pleasure.’ And it remains a moot question whether degree of sexual pleasure is equivalent to the connotations of sexual compatibility, particularly in men other than those with upper social and educational backgrounds. An intensive longitudinal study of the psychological health of professional men provided the opportunity to examine the personality and

Douglas H . Heath


interpersonal correlates of marital sexual compatibility as well as its relation to marital sexual frequency, pleasure, and frustration. T h e lack of established measures for assessing sexual compatibility and of supporting research suggests that we should be conservative in our statistical evaluations and consider the study to be exploratory. Since the study focused in depth on only the male partners, marital sexual compatibility was defined by the judgments of the men, though validated against those of their wives. As a working definition, perceived sexual compatibility was assumed to be a complex attitude that included feelings of enjoying marital sexual relations and beliefs that one’s spouse was considerate of one’s sexual needs and also enjoyed sexual relations, that one was wellmated sexually, and that both spouses had been sexually faithful to each other.

PROCEDURE Sample All entering freshmen for five successive classes had been given a test battery that included the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a test of psychological adjustment. Subsequently when upperclassmen, three groups of men, totaling 80 men, were selected to represent the range of maturity and social competence present within the college. Two groups, totaling 44 men, had been selected by 18 faculty and student judges using regularized objective sorting procedures, described elsewhere,” to represent exemplars of mature and immature men. Each group contained equal numbers of such exemplars. A third group of 36 men was randomly selected to represent the middle range of maturity. At the typical age of 32% 68 of the men were restudied. Of the 12 nonparticipants, 1 had died, 2 could not be located, and the remaining 9 were disinterested or “too busy.” The nonparticipants did not differ statistically from the participants beyond chance expectation from each other on more than 100 measures of their adolescent personalities. Since the three groups did not differ significantly beyond chance expectation from each other on more than 400 measures of their adult personalities, they were combined to enhance the reliability of the results and simplify their presentation. Similar proportions of formerly identified mature, intermediate, and immature men were in the adult groups as had been included earlier. Of the men studied, 60 were or had been married; 7 had been divorced, but 4 had resumed a long-term relation with a woman. The typical husband had been married when 24, had two preschool children, and had been married for 8 years. Two men had been married only a year and two 13 years. With only several exceptions, all of the men were in professions or managerial positions. Of the 81% who had received advanced degrees, 22% had their PhDs and were teaching and doing research, 16% their MDs, 16% their LLBs; the remainder were in fields like theology, social work, engineering, and accounting. The men were very technically competent, as judged by their professional colleagues. Many had published creative and scholarly works, secured patents, and received rewards recognizing their achievement. The typical wife was two and a half years younger, had completed college, and had remained home to fulfill the traditional roles of housewife and mother.

Measures As adults the men had been assessed for 10-12 hours with focused interviews that provided objective scores of their maturing, questionnaires about their marriages, parenting,


Journal of Sex &3 Marital Therapy

vocational adaptation, financial planning, and physical health, and a multifaceted battery of psychological tests, most of which had been administered earlier when the men were under- or upperclassmen. The men’s wives, closest friends, and colleagues who knew their work most intimately also completed many of the same questionnaires and some of the personality tests. Interviews were held with 60% of the wives using the same scheduled interviews about the men’s marital and parenting effectiveness. T h e novelty and sheer number of the measures preclude their detailed description here; technical information about the measures, their reliabilities and validities, have been reported e l s e ~ h e r e . ~Explanation ”~~ of some of the cited measures are given later. Since the adolescent measures did not predict marital sexual compatibility beyond chance expectation, the earlier phases of the study will not be discussed.

Personality. T h e study was organized by a model of psychological maturity that had been validated transculturally on mature and immature exemplars in five cultural areasla as well as longitudinally. l 7 Very briefly, the model assumed that any person, when helshe was growing healthily, matured on five interdependent dimensions-i.e., symbolization, allocentricism, integration, stability, and autonomy-in the four principal sectors of the personality-i.e., cognitive skills, values, self-concept, and interpersonal relations. A variety of tests, including specially designed ones, were used to assess the 20 hypothesized components of maturing. T h e MMPI provided objective measures of psychological adjustment; the Rorschach provided measures of primary process thinking, drive intensity, and defense effectiveness (Holt’s scores) and a clinical evaluation of overall psychological healthiness; the Self-Image Questionnaire (SIQ), composed of 30 bipolar trait scales completed by each man and his three judges, provided an indirect measure of the man’s maturity; the SIQ when completed by each man under varying instructional conditions also provided direct measures of the dimensional maturity of his self-concept, e.g., accuracy of symbolization was indexed by the size of the discrepancy between his private self-ratings and the ratings of judges like his wife. Other tests included the Perceived Self Questionnaire (PSQ), a 50-item bipolar scale that measured dimensional m a t ~ r i n g , ’ ~a. ’Valuator ~ test1R that measured the dimensional maturity of the men’s values; self- and judge-ratings of the men’s psychological healthiness. A 2 ‘/2 hour focused interview was independently and reliably coded by three trained judges for statements about each component of the model of maturing that could be summed to give a total percent score of dimensional maturing.lg Numerous other measures and ratings, typically of 5-point scales, about the men’s interpersonal relations and marital relations were also completed by the men. Examples and explanations of them are given later. Sexual compatibility. Each man completed Terman’s Ideal Marriage Questionnaire; it included items about sexual attitudes and behavior. He subsequently completed a modified version of the items to describe his actual marriage and sexual life. He also completed a sex questionnaire used by Kellyz0in his study of married couples and other questionnaire items, which the wives also completed. To optimize the participation of

Douglas H . Heath


Table 1 I n t e r c o r r e l a t i o n of Sexual C o m p a t i b i l i t y F r u s t r a t i o n , P l e a s u r e and Frequency

N gegree s e x u a l f r u s t r a t i o n Degree s e x u a l p l e a s u r e o f husband o f w i f e , husband rtg E a r i t e l c o i t a l frequency y e a r s 1-3 y e a r s 4-6

55a 58 58

r -393"

557"b 731°0b




2 54

gears 7-9 25 560 y e a r s 10-12 9 560 s i g n i f i c a n t a t l e a s t a t two-tailed .05 g l e v e l * * s i g n i f i c a n t a t l e a s t a t two-tailed , 0 1 2 l e v e l a Ns vary due t o incomplete d a t e from some men and wives b B i s e r i e l c o r r e l a t i o n used on d i v i d i n g skewed d i s t r i b u t i o n s i n t o extremely p l e a 2 u r a b l e c a t e gory and c o l l a p s i n g four remaining r a t i n g s i n t o a l e s s p l e a s u r a b l e category.

the wives, none of whom I had known, personally sensitive information about their sexual experience had been omitted from their materials. Table 1 indicates some of the sexual information secured from the men and their wives. T h e men's perceived sexual compatibility was measured by compositing weighted scores for four items taken from the modified Terman and three from the Kelly sex questionnaires. Each item had been constructed to give a total score of 5 so that when summed a total score of 35 indicated optimal sexual compatibility. T h e Sexual Compatibility score adequately discriminated among the men, ie., the range was from 8 to 34, SD = 5.5, though the distribution was skewed toward the sexually compatible end, M = 28.8. T h e items and their weights were: 1 . Which of the following best describes your feelings about sexual relations with your spouse during the last 3 years? Great enjoyment Mild pleasure Indifference


(4) (3)

Mild displeasure Disgust or aversion

(2) (1)

2. Which of the following best describes the feelings of your spouse about sexual relations with you during the last three years? Great enjoyment Mild pleasure Indifference


(4) (3)

Mild displeasure Disgust or aversion

a: Score values in parentheses not included on original questionnaire.

(2) (1)


Journal ofsex &? Marital Therapy

3. How considerate do you feel your spouse is of your feelings about sexual relations? Extremely considerate Quite considerate Somewhat considerate


(4) (3)

Not too considerate Not at all considerate

(2) (1)

4. The same standard of sexual morality applies to both husband and wife.

5. Since marriage, the wife has been 100% faithful to her husband in regard to sex.

6. Since marriage, the husband has been 100% faithful to his wife in regard to sex.

7. You both are well mated sexually.

FINDINGS Sexual Attitudes and Behavior

The men reported one-third fewer sexual relations a month than Kinsey's 30-35 year old urban college graduates reported (6.6 vs. 9.6). The men preferred to have had about 12 sexual relations a month during the 3 years preceding the study, a number that was significantly higher than the actual number of relations that most men had actually had. The frequency of marital sexual relations declined consistently since the first 3 years of marriage, i.e., 10.8 relations for years 1-3, 7.5 for years 4-6; 6.3 for years 7-9; and 5.1 for years 10-12. However, one-third of the men maintained a high stable rate throughout their marriages. The 60 men rated their own and their wives' sexual relations to be between mildly and extremely pleasurable, 4.47 and 4.3. The men' also rated their wives to be quite, though not extremely, considerate of their sexual needs. That they

Douglas H . Heath


were sexually well mated with their wives was reported by 66% of the men, 22% were not sure how well mated they were, and 12% believed that they were definitely not sexually fitted for each other. When asked if the same sexual morality should apply to their wives as to them, 85% of the men replied yes. In fact, 82% of them had, been faithful in contrast to Kinsey’s reported 66% for college graduates; 91% of the men believed that their wives had been faithful to them. When comparable data were available from both the men and their wives about their sexual attitudes, it was clear that they did not differ in their assessment of their sexual relationships. They did not disagree significantly about how important it was to a marriage for both to be adequate lovers, nor did they disagree about how well each actually fulfilled the role of lover and sexual partner to the other. Nor did they disagree about the extent to which either had had to change his or her ideas about sexual relations since they were married nor about who had the most to say about initiating their sexual relations. Both agreed that each had an equal say about their sexual relations, which reflects the basic equality in decision making that marked most of the marriages. Given the wide-ranging agreement in their sexual attitudes, it is understandable that they did not disagree about the extent to which they disagreed about their sexual lives.

Sexual Compatibility, Frustration, Pleasure, and Frequency All reported findings in the article are significant at least at a two-tailed . 0 5 p level. Incomplete data from some men and their wives for some variables resulted in reduced Ns, as indicated in the tables. Sexual compatibility cannot be equated with either sexual frustration and pleasure or marital sexual frequency. Sexual frustration was measured by the size of the discrepancy between the preferred and actual number of marital coital relations for the 3-year period immediately preceding the study. Table 1, which reports the Pearson T S , shows that sexual compatibility is significantly but only moderately related to minimal sexual frustration. Even though sexual pleasure was a component of the compatibility measure, it was not related strongly enough to the total compatibility score to be considered equivalent to compatibility. Quite intriguingly, the men’s judgments of their wives’ degree of sexual pleasure, also a component of the compatibility measure, was more highly related to the total score. This finding is consistent with Kinsey’s hypothesis that for 30-35 year old men the perception of the responsiveness of their wives is a critical determinant of their own sexual arousal and frequency; it is also consistent with other-data that a husband’s sexual pleasure is quite dependent upon what he perceives his wife to have.21 Although sexual compatibility understandingly becomes increasingly as-


Journal of Sex

V Marital Therapy

sociated with frequency of coital relations the longer the marriage, the nonsignificance of the frequency correlations in Table 1 confirms our hunch that sexual compatibility cannot be equated with sexual frequency, at least during the first decade of marriage.

Validity of Sexual Compatibility measure Table 2 reports all of the significant correlates between the measure of sexual compatibility and other independent indices of sexual attitudes and behavior. T h e most powerfully supportive evidence of the validity of the husbands' judgments of their own compatibility is the congruence of their judgments with those of their wives. Increasing sexual compatibility was directly related to increasing excellence by the men in fulfilling their roles as sex partners and lovers, as their wives judged their effectiveness. T h e sexual mutuality implied by the components of the compability measure, e.g., faithfulness, well-matedness, mutual enjoyment, is further supported by the significant relations between the men's compatibility and the excellence of their wives as sexual partners and lovers, as independently rated by both the husbands and wives. T h e other findings in Table 2 consistently demonstrate that increasing sexual compatibility is related to increasing agreement between the spouses about their sexual values. Apparently, both spouses in the sexually compatible marriage entered it

Table 2 P e r s o n a l i t y C o r r e l a t e s Between Sexual C o m p a t i b i l i t y and Other Sexual A t t i t u d e s ra r Adequacy J p r e p a r a t i o n Important d be e x c e l l snt sex partner, for s e x a t marriage, 304.b H rtg 259. H rtg d a n t i c i p a t e d s e x be J considerate of H enjoyable, B r t g 410" s e x needs, H r t g 564. J change i d e a s about H excellent sex s e x s i n c e marriage partner 463' *d Y rtg -2970C d r t g H rtg -487'. H rtg 517" H change i d e a s about W e x c e l l e n t sex s e x s i n c e marriage partner 3354 il r t g -602.. 'rl r t g 616.' D i f f e r e n c e i n views H rtg about s e x between spouses J rtg -374"O H rtg -538" * s i g n i f i c a n t a t least a t t w o - t a i l e d .05 p l e v e l * * s i g n i f i c a n t a t l e a s t a t two-tailed .01 level a n 60 a l l e n t r i e s u n l e s s noted o t h e r w i s e ; b I = 59; c !l 55; d B = 56; e N 57.



Douglas H . Heath


basically agreeing about their sexual attitudes and relationships. Of interest is that neither the adequacy of the husband’s preparation for marital sexual relations nor the importance to the wife that h e be an excellent sexual partner was related to his self-judged sexual compatibility. Thc pattern of the findings independently confirms that the measure of sexual compatibility may validly assess the sexual mutuality of the men’s relationships.

Sexual Compatibility and Personality Of the more than 400 correlations between marital sexual compatibility and adult personality traits, 39% were statistically significant. I have found to date no other personality measure that is so pervasively related to such a variety of adult traits. Even more impressively, not one of the significant findings contradicted our expectations or was counterinluitive. These remarkable findings clearly tell us that the seven items proposed to measure sexual compatibility are measuring more general personality and interpersonal qualities. To summarize a large number of findings economically, I rely where possible on composited measures. More sophisticated statistical combinatorial methods were inappropriate, given the small size of the sample and the large number of measures. Sexual Compatibility and tests of maturity. A composite z score indexing maturity (based on the MMPI score of adjustment, Rorschach clinical evaluation of psychological healthiness, PSQ measure of dimensional maturity, and SIQjudge ratings of mature traits) was significantly related to sexual compatibility, r(58) = .573,p < .01. Every principal measure of maturity was significantly related to sexual compatibility. T h e consistency with which very diverse measures converge to predict compatibility is a powerful confirmation of the latter’s generality, i.e., the highly standardized, objective, and atheoretical MMPI composited total score based on 8 basic pathological scales, r(58) = -.477, p < .01; the theoretically grounded PSQ self-report, r(58) = .348,p < .01; the independent judge ratings of the SIQ, r(58) = .407, p < .01; clinical evaluations of the Rorschach inkblots, r(58) = .515, p < .01; and independently coded interview statements about maturity, r(58) = .257, p < .05. Table 3 reports the correlations between sexual compatibility and specific test scores which I have organized in terms of the dimensional model of maturing. T h e more sexually compatible men were able reflectively to control their behavior, had more accurate self-insight, and were more aware of their values. They were more allocentric than the less sexually compatible men. Their thinking was less infused by unrealistic, selforiented, primary process modes and images; they accurately took the perspective of the judges toward themselves; their views of themselves were positive; their values were more other-centered; and their personal relationships were socially responsible, warm, and tolerant. They tended


Journal of Sex t 3 Marital Therapy

Table 3 C o r r e l a t i o n s Between Sexual C o m p a t i b i l i t y and Dimensional Maturitj' Dimenaiona of m a t u r i t y rb r Symbolization Values, V a l u a t o r t e s t 321. Cog s k i l l , MMPI K (reflective control) 291. Self-concept, SIQ wife ( a c c u r a c y s e l f - i n s i g h t ) 474.*c Allocentricism Cog s k i l l , Rorschach Values, V a l u a t o r 276. P e r s R e l a t i o n , MMPI Rer Holt Lld ( s o c i a l l y ( s o c i a l l y r e s p a n s i b l e ) 309' unacceptable thought) -257' Self-concept, SIQ Judge MMPI Sc ( a l o o f ) -429.. (accuracy p r e d i c t MMPI To ( t o l e r a n t ) 261. judge r t g s ) 272' Summary a l l o c e n t r i c 312 S o c i a l s e l f 427'' s c o r e , PAQ 269. 3IQ P r i v a t e s e l f 344.. InteRration Self-concept, S I 2 wife 413.. Values, Valuator 261. Stabilitg Cog s k i l l , WlPI I e Values, V a l u a t o r 732" -418** ( i n t e l l e c t e f f i c i e n c y ) 328. NKPI A t ( a n x i e t y ) Self-concept, fIP)PI P t Summary s t a b i l i t y (self-doubt) -270' s c o r e , PSQ 586'. Au t onomg Cog s k i l l , Rorschach Values, Valuator 407' l i o l t Mean DI: ( e f f e c t i v e Pers Relation defenses) 262. MMPI Dy (dependency) -389.' Agg DE ( c o n t r o l s MMPI Pd ( a n t i - s o c i a l ) -523" a g g r e s s i o n well) 271. ,;elf-concept -294. MIIPI D (moodiness) IIMPI Ye ( h y p e r a c t i v e ) -705' MMPI I n ( i m p u l s i v e ) -357" s i g n i f i c a n t a t l e a s t a t t w o - t a i l e d .05 E l e v e l

* * s i g n i f i c a n t a t l e a s t e t two-tailed .01 E l e v e l


a R a t i o n a l e and v a l i d a t i o n of use of t e s t s c o r e s given

b N

60 a l l e n t r i e s u n l e s s noted otherwise; c N


i n 18


to be more integrated persons as well. They rated themselves as they believed that their wives would describe them; and their values were more harmonious and consistent. Increasing sexual compatibility is directly related to increasing intellectual efficiency, decreasing anxiety and physiological signs of tension. Finally, sexual compatibility is directly related to the ability to maintain effective control of one's impulses, particularly of aggressive ones, to freedom from dominance by moods, to more autonomous values, and to independent, less impulsively determined personal relationships.

Doughs H . Heath


Sexual compatibility and interpersonal maturity. Table 3 reports the objective test scores indexing the relation of sexual compatibility to interpersonal maturity. A sampling of the nontest self- and judge-ratings make more amply salient the interpersonal maturity of the sexually compatible men. A composite measure of the men’s and their wives’ independent ratings of the men’s closeness and warmth of their varied familial and own parental relations was significantly related to sexual compatibility, r(56) = .440, p < -01, a finding also confirmed by the men’s closest friends’ ratings of their relationships. Relying on just the ratings of the wives, the more in contrast to the less sexually compatible husbands were judged to have closer, more intimate relations with their wives, r(55) = .469,p < .01, to be excellent friends to their wives, r(55) = .359,p < -01, and to be closer to their first child, r(33) = .374, p < .05. T h e men’s ratings confirm those of their wives. Increasing sexual compatibility is directly related to feeling close to one’s wife, r(57) = .552,p < .01, to being a good friend and companion to her, r(58) = .442,p < .O 1, and to being close to one’s first child, r(38) = .663, p < .01, as well as to the second one, r(20) = .574,p < .01. The more sexually compatible husband rates himself to be more empathic and understanding in his closest relationships, r(58) = .449,p < -01, a judgment confirmed by his wife, r(57) = .286,p < .05. Sexual compatibility and interpersonal mutuality. Although the measure of sexual compatibility is based on the men’s perceptions of their relations with their wives, the essentially dyadic nature of the measure is no more clearly reflected than in its consistently significant statistical relations with measures of the couple’s interpersonal mutuality. The wives of the sexually compatible men not only believe that they understand their husbands better than do the wives of the less compatible men, r(55) = .430,p < -01, but their husbands agree that they do understand them more intimately r(58) = .465, p < .01. Their wives believe they are better friends and companions to their husbands, r(55) = .407, p < .Ol; their husbands agree with their wives’ ratings, r(58) = .559, p < .01. Table 4, which summarizes the principal dyadic measures of the couple’s ability to communicate and understand each other, is composed of items that sought to measure the actual degree of understanding between the spouses. For example, degree of agreement about parental decision making was assessed by a Parental Child-Rearing Questionnaire that listed 35 socialization decisions.22The measure reported in Table 4 summarizes the degree of agreement between the spouses about who was most likely to make each decision. Or the composite z score summarizing mutuality in agreement actually measured the degree to which each spouse agreed about the numbered items in Table 4. For example, each spouse rated the degree to which each of them had changed since they had been married in the 10 important areas of their lives, e.g., religion,

J a u m l $Sex €3 Marital Therapr


Table 4 C o r r e l a t i o n s of Sexual C o m p a t i b i l i t y with I n t e r p e r s o n a l Flutuality S e m D l e item6

Adequacy communication, composite spouse rt Agreement b a s i c v a l u e s , composite spouse r t g s Degree j o i n t f i n a n c i a l


r Composite 1 s c o r e m u t u a l i t y i n agreement 536" 1. About q u a l i t y e a c h other's relations 358*Ob



2. About d e g r e e change

planning Agreement p a r e n t a l decision-making F r e e l y d i s c u s s e s with


spouse, H r t g S a t i s f i e d way s e t t l e


arguments H rtg


ment i n v e l u e s 579" 4. About d e g r e e m a r i t a l



5. About agreement i n 479.





n' rt? 359" * s i g n i f i c a n t a t l e a s t a t a two-tailed .05 level * * s i g n i f i c a n t a t l e a s t a t a two-tailed .01 e l e v e l a N 57 for a l l e n t r i e s u n l e s s noted o t h e r w i s e ; b N c N 60; d N = 53; e N 44.



by each spouse

3 . About amount agree-



recreation. Their degree of agreement about change was measured by the sum of the differences between the husband's self-rated change and his wife's independent ratings of his change plus a similar score for his wife's ratings. Such measures are awkward and scarcely precise; but to measure directly a dyadic variable requires such complicated weighting procedures. Table 4 demonstrates that increasing sexual compatibility of a husband is directly and very significantly related to interpersonal mutuality. The sexually compatible couple communicates well, is satisfied with the way it resolves disagreements, agrees about its basic values, and agrees about the extent of its agreements and disagreements about many of the topics that are principal sources of strain within a marriage, e.g., how each relates to others, who has been most accommodating in the marriage, how to rear the children. Sexual compatibility and adult effectiveness. Increasing marital sexual compatibility is significantly related to a variety of measures of the effectiveness with which the men filled a number of different adult roles. The vocational adaptation of each man was independently assessed by each of the three judges and each man by completing a Vocational Adaptation Scale (VAS)I5 that listed 28 attributes of a man's adaptation to his work, e.g., fulfilling self in work, vocational competence. Increasing sexual compatibility was directly related to increasing vocational adaptation as measured by a composite score of the three judges and of each man, r(58)

Doughs H . Heath


= 266, p < .05. Each husband and spouse had also rated on 5-point scales the adequacy with which helshe and hidher spouse had fulfilled the demands of the seven principal roles that a married person may play, e.g., parent, host or hostess. Again, the more in contrast to the less sexually compatible husband was judged by both himself and his wife to fulfill more competently these roles, r(55) = .541,p < -01. We have seen that he is also a more effective sexual partner, lover, and friend. A summary composite z measure of the men’s generalized competence was formed based on the wives’ and friends’ ratings of the men’s marriages, the wives’ ratings of the men’s adequacy in filling their seven marital roles, the wives’ ratings of the quality of the men’s familial relationships, the wives’ and friends’ ratings of the warmth of the men’s closest relationships, and the judge-rated VAS scores as well as other ratings by the judges of the quality of the men’s professional relationships. Increasing sexual compatibility was directly related to judged generalized competence, r(58) = .324, p < .05. Sexual compatibility and marital happiness. Not surprisingly, increasing sexual compatibility is directly related to a variety of indirect and direct measures of marital happiness. It is inversely related to decreasing fulfillment of one’s expectations of an ideal marriage as measured by the discrepancy between the Terman Ideal and actual marriage ratings, r(58) =-.569, p < .01. A composited measure of the husbands’ and wives’ ratings of various items about marital happiness was directly related to sexual compatibility, r(55) = .611, p < .01. The men’s wives and their closest male friends similarly rated on composited items the marriages of the sexually compatible men to be happier, r(57) = .620,p < .01. The wives of the compatible men said, for example, that their feelings toward their husbands had become deeper and more loving over the years, r(54) = .336, p < .05, and that if they had to choose over again, they would definitely marry the same person, r(53) = .526, p < .01. The husbands responded similarly. N o wonder, increasing sexual compatibility is directly related to a husband’s self-rated general happiness with his life, r(58) = .475,p < .01.

DISCUSSION The generality of the findings may be limited by the special qualities of the sample and study. The men may be typical of American professionals generally, for they responded to questions about marital, parental, and vocational adaptation in much the same way that a national sample of professionals had responded.23But we do not know if the findings hold for less well-educated men. Increasing education is known to affect adversely the frequency of sexual relations;’ it may also alter qualitatively


Journal of Sex C3 Marital Therapy

the relation of psychological and interpersonal variables to sexual compati bilit y. One factor that may make the findings difficult to replicate is the nature of the experimenter’s relation to those being studied. The men were unusually cooperative, open, and self-disclosing. Many claimed that no other person knew them as intimately. When such trust and rapport are found in a generally healthy, sensitively aware, and articulate sample, then self-report data may be much more valid than is considered to be the case by researchers whose relationships with those that they study are typically impersonal and detached. Studies of psychologically healthy groups in different cultures have convinced me that researchers have too facilely underestimated the validity of self-report data, particularly when they are obtained under conditions of trust from healthy persons. That so many of the findings were independently confirmed by the men’s wives, friends, and colleagues as well as by divergent types of assessment methods provides support for the potential validity, e.g., relative freedom from halo effects, of self-report, and even of judge data when secured under optimal conditions. It may not be as critical to find explanations for potential limitations of the study as it is to explain why such a simple seven-item scale of a vague term like “sexual compatibility” should have produced an unexpectedly large number of highly significant findings that objectively confirm so many of the hypotheses that counselors and researchers like Masters and Johnson have clinically induced from a different type of observation. As a researcher of personality, I am, in fact, embarrassed by the substantial convergent consistency of such diverse measures; it is a too rare occurrence in personality research to be trusted-almost. (Reanalysis of the data confirmed that the original analysis was reliable.) Several clues help to explain the pervasiveness of the findings. The substantial convergent consistency among the varied measures of the men’s psychological maturity tells us that the seven items are assessing behaviors dependent upon such maturity. Also, the husbands’ sexual compatibility was very significantly related to their evaluations of their wives’ psychological health during their marriage, r(58) = .58 1 , p < .O 1, to their wives’ emotional health at the time of the study, r(58) = .558, p < .O 1, and inversely to their wives’ tendency to become easily emotionally upset, r(58) = -.555,p < .01. Now assume that the quality of a sexual relationship is to the personality like the eye is to the brain; it provides a clearer, deeper, direct insight into our most vulnerable selves. Assume furthermore that the quality of such relationships is not just an instant happening but is the product of a long-term persistent adaptive effort to learn how to create a respectful, reciprocal bbt deeply vulnerable relationship in which one trusts being one’s self with another. Then the clue to understanding the pervasive congruence of the findings may be the maturity of the men and their spouses. Two mature persons attracted to

Douglas H . Heath


and trusting each other will have learned the skills, values, and selfattitudes to be able to create, in Masters and Johson’s terms, a “vital, growing” marriage.’O T h e model of maturing is actually a model of the adaptive process and makes explicit the cardinal personality qualities that facilitate effective adaptations. Other aspects of the longitudinal study have clearly identified the psychological maturity of the men when adolescents as well as adults to be the single most powerful predictor of the widest range of adult competencies s t ~ d i e d . ’ There ~ ~ ’ ~ is, in other words, a core set of traits that mediates effectiveness in creating adaptations to complex adult roles that optimize fulfillment of one’s own needs while accommodating to the demands of such roles. If we analyze the typical process of adaptation, we note that it is initiated by novel, frustrating situations for which past modes of adaptation are unsuccessful. We begin to reflect, analyze, articulate the nature of the problem. We examine why our spouses are irritable following sexual relations; we examine our own style and values (Symbolization). We search for alternative solutions; we empathize with our spouses to understand how they are feeling; we search out others for advice; we gradually increase our understanding and acceptance of our spouses’ desires and inhibitions (Allocentricism). Such understanding and sensitivity lead to alternative and more mutually satisfying solutions. We share more openly, risk trying new ways, expand our interests and skills (Integration). We test our new ways, repeat the more satisfying ones that resolve the impasse, develop greater certainty, more self-confidence, about our own competence, and create more enduring relations with our spouses as a consequence (Stability). Finally, our new ways come under our own conscious control; now less self-conscious, more graceful, we easily adapt our altered selves to whatever new situation arises if we choose to d o so (Autonomy). The result is the release of energy formerly used in the process of adaptation itself. The energy is available for joyful play with our spouses, for developing new interests, and for extending ourselves into the lives of others or into new commitments. T h e model of maturing identifies the specific traits that optimally contribute to each stage of the adaptive process. Sexually compatible spouses have learned over the years how to adapt to the problems of their marriages, to fashion an integrative “we-ness” in their values and relationships that endures, and, in Masters and Johnson’s words,10 to give of themselves to the other to get more pleasure in return. The items that compose the Sexual Compatibility scale apparently tapped these fundamental adaptive skills, values, and attitudes. If this analysis of the meaning of sexual compatibility has merit, then it is not just the acquisition of new sexual techniques but the enhancement of the maturing of the marital partners themselves that is the route through which mutually considerate, enjoyable, and faithful marital sexual relationships will grow.


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REFERENCES 1. Kinsey, AC, Porneroy. WB, Martin, CE: Sexual Behuuior in Ihe Human Male. Philadelphia, Saunders, 1948. 2. Bullough, VL, Legg, WD, Elcano, BW: An Annotated Bibbography of Homosexuality. New York, Garland, 1976. 3. Eysenck, HJ: Personality and sexual adjustment. Bn'fJ Psychiahy 118:593-608, 1971. 4. Eysenck, HJ: Personality and sexual behavi0r.J Psychosom Res 16: 141-152, 1972. 5. Husted, JK,Edwards, AE: Personality correlates of male sexual arousal and behavior. Arch Sex Beh 5 :149-156, 1976. 6. Zuckerman, M, Tushup. K,Finner, S: Sexual attitudes and experience: Attitude and personality correlates and changes produced by a course in sexua1ity.J Consult Clin Psychol 44:7-19, 1976. 7. Heath, DH: Personality and interpersonal correlates of marital coital frequency of professional men. Article in preparation. 8. Masters, WH, Johnson, VE: Human Sexual Inadequacy. Boston, Little, Brown, 1970. 9. Masters, WH, Johnson, VE: Human Sexual Response. Boston, Little, Brown, 1966. 10. Masters, WH, Johnson, VE: The Pleasure Bond. Boston, Little, Brown, 1974. 11. Cuber, JF: The natural history of sex in marriage. Med Aspects Human S e m l 9:51-73, 1975. 12. Cuber, JF: Sex in the upper middle class. Med Aspects Human Sexual 8:8-34, 1974. 13. Edwards, JN, Booth, A. Sexual behavior in and out of marriage: An assessment of corre1ates.J M a w Fam 38:73-81, 1976. 14. Heath, DH: Explmationr of Maturity. New York,Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1965. 15. Heath, DH: Adolescent and adult predictors of vocational adaptati0n.J Vocat Behav 9:l-19, 1976. 16. Heath, DH: Competent fathers: Their personalities and marriages. Human Deu 19:26-39, 1976. 17. Heath, DH: Grow'ng Up in College. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1968. 18. Heath, DH: Maturity and Competence: A Tramcultural View. New York, Gardrier (Wiley), 1977. 19. Hearh, DH: Some possible effects of occupation on the maturing of professional men.] Vocat Behav 11l263-281, 1977. 20. Kelly, EL: Consistency of the adult personality. Amer Psychol 10:659-681, 1955. 21. Heath, DH: Sexual enjoyment and frustration of professional men. Article in preparation. 22. Heath, DH: Maternal competence, expectation, and involvement.] Gmet Psychol 13 1: 169-182, 1977. 23. Gurin. G, Veroff, J, Feld, S: American View Their Mental Heallh. New York, Basic Books, 1960.

Personality correlates of the marital sexual compatibility of professional men.

Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy Vol. 4, No. 2, Summer 1978 Personality Correlates of the Marital Sexual Compatibility of Professional Men Douglas H...
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