The new research was conducted by Amy Delaney, Ph.D., a Millikin University communication professor, who surveyed both partners in 106 different-sex couples where one or both had been diagnosed with depression.
While relationship uncertainty and interference were both linked to lower sexual satisfaction, she found there was a mediating factor: sexual communication.
She asked the couples a bunch of questions to understand how they felt about talking about sex, how often they did it, and how successful those conversations tended to be. Turns out, relationship uncertainty and interference didn’t just automatically make a couple’s sex life worse—they did so by way of stamping out conversations about sex.
The more uncertain partners felt about the relationship and the more they perceived interference in their lives because of the relationship, the less likely they were to talk openly about sex—and the less likely it was for any sex talk they did have to go well.
“When individuals in the context of depression grapple with ambiguity about the status of their partnership, they are less likely to engage in conversations about sex,” Delaney writes in the paper on her findings. “When facing disruptions to day-to-day routines and goals as a result of interdependence with their partner, people might feel embarrassed, frustrated, or hesitant to engage in a conversation about sex.”
That lack of sexual communication (and lack of effective sexual communication) was largely what was associated with a worse sex life.
And understandably so: it’s hard to have good sex if you’re not feeling comfortable talking about what turns you on, what you want, and don’t want. Many past studies have shown that not being able to have open conversations about sex is linked with less satisfying sex. It seems simple, but the truth is, talking about sex is something many people struggle with. And when you add depression to the mix, it can only make these conversations feel all the more difficult.