chapter  3
Conflicts with Heterosexual Partners about Sexual Discrepancies: Conflict Avoidance, De-escalation Strategies, Facilitators to Conversation
ByMoon Sook Son, Lynne M. Webb, Patricia Amason
Pages 17

Sexual discrepancies can be defined as partners’ differences in sexual desire, attitudes, and preferred activities (Cupach & Metts, 1995; Davies et al, 1999; Sprecher & Cate, 2004). Many romantic partners encounter sexual discrepancies (Sprecher & Cate, 2004) such as one person’s desire for more types of sexual behaviors than the partner (Hatfield et al, 1988). The small body of research on sexual discrepancies examines primarily the association between sexual discrepancies and relationship quality (e.g., sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction; Cupach & Metts, 1995; Davies et al, 1999; Purnine & Carey, 1997). The purpose of our study was to extend this line of research to examine, from the perspective of the female partners, the communication between heterosexual partners as they address sexual discrepancies – specifically, how partners avoid and manage conflicts surrounding sexual discrepancies. Cupach and Metts (1995) posited that sexual partners are likely to frame sexual

discrepancies as “relationship problems” (e.g., Why does my partner not want/desire me?). Furthermore, Sprecher and Cate (2004, p248) noted that “when discrepancies exist between partners, there is either increased conflict or the potential for conflict”. Conflicts can arise concerning any aspect of sexual activities, including how sexual desire is initiated, how sexual initiations are accepted or rejected, as well as the partners’ communication about sexual likes and dislikes (Byers & Lewis, 1988; Morokoff et al, 1997; Tschann, & Adler, 1997). Despite this commonly agreed-upon assumption of a potential causal relationship between sexual discrepancies and sexual conflicts, no previously published studies document conflicts about sexual discrepancies or the possible mediating role of effective communication in ameliorating such conflicts. Perhaps sexual discrepancies do not necessarily become sexual conflicts if couples talk about discrepancies in a constructive way. Our study investigated female partners’ reports of communication with their heterosexual partners about sexual

discrepancies and the potential ameliorating effects of communication in preventing or diffusing conflicts about sexual discrepancies.