The purposes of this study were to explore low-sex marital relationships and to offer a voice to the population of couples participating in low-sex marriages. A phenomenological qualitative approach was used to examine the lived experiences of ten married couples that participated in penile-vaginal intercourse with the marriage partner ten or fewer times in the last calendar year.
Three research questions were employed in this study: (a) what meanings do couples give to sexual relationships in marriage? (b) what does infrequent intercourse mean to couples in low-sex marriages? and (c) how do couples develop patterns of infrequent intercourse? The participant couples described the manner in which their frequency of penile-vaginal intercourse fit their lifestyle. These descriptions were transcribed and analyzed by the researcher.
Data analysis in the study was achieved through the examination of verbatim transcriptions of the participant couple interviews. The transcriptions were read multiple times and categorized by content using a color coding scheme and Nvivo 7 qualitative data analysis. The analysis identified statements that best describe the experiences of the low-sex participants.
Three themes emerged from the interviews: (a) We don't talk about sex, (b) We have distorted sexual signals and messages, and (c) We have common purposes. The conclusions and findings of the study highlight important considerations for future research and theoretical formulations about the role of penile-vaginal intercourse and sexuality in marriage.
The results of the study indicate that couples do not talk to each other about sex. It also indicates that symbols and messages that denote an interest in penile-vaginal intercourse are not recognized by marriage partners. The study also revealed that some couples have a common purpose in the marriage that supersedes the demand for a greater frequency of penile-vaginal intercourse. These findings are significant for marriage and family therapists as they work systemically with couples, families, and individuals addressing patterns and meanings of behavior in marriage.