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The Importance of Sexual Self-Disclosure to Sexual Satisfaction and Functioning in Committed Relationships


Uzma S. Rehman, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada. Tel: 519-888-4567 (38361); Fax: 519-746-8631; E-mail:


Introduction.  Past research indicates that sexual self-disclosure, or the degree to which an individual is open with his or her partner about sexual preferences, is a key aspect of sexual satisfaction and that partner's lack of knowledge about one's sexual preferences is associated with persistent sexual dysfunction.

Aims.  To replicate and extend past research by examining (i) how one's own levels of sexual self-disclosure are related to one's own sexual health (after controlling for partner's levels of sexual self-disclosure); (ii) how one's partner's levels of sexual self-disclosure are associated with one's own sexual health (after controlling for one's own levels of sexual self-disclosure); and (iii) whether gender moderates the associations between sexual self-disclosure and sexual health.

Main Outcome Measures.  Scores from the Golombok Rust Inventory of Sexual Satisfaction and the Sexual Communication Satisfaction Scale.

Methods.  A cross-sectional dyadic study using a convenience sample of 91 heterosexual couples in long-term committed relationships. Data were analyzed using the Actor–Partner Interdependence Model.

Results.  One's own level of sexual self-disclosure is positively associated with one's own sexual satisfaction, β = −0.24, t(172.85) = −3.50, P < 0.001. Furthermore, partner's level of sexual self-disclosure is associated with men's sexual satisfaction but not with women's sexual satisfaction, β = −0.45, t(86.81) = −4.06, P < 0.001 and β = 0.02, t(87.00) = 0.20, ns, respectively. The association between own self-disclosure and sexual problems is stronger for women as compared with men, β = −0.72, t(87.00) = −6.31, P < 0.001 and β = −0.24, t(86.27) = −3.04, P < 0.01, respectively.

Conclusions.  Our results demonstrate that sexual self-disclosure is significantly associated with sexual satisfaction and functioning for both men and women, albeit in different ways. Our findings underscore the importance of sexual self-disclosure and highlight the importance of the interpersonal level of analysis in understanding human sexuality. Rehman US, Rellini AH, and Fallis E. The importance of sexual self-disclosure to sexual satisfaction and functioning in committed relationships. J Sex Med 2011;8:3108–3115.