London - If the stereotype is to be believed, it’s women who feign a headache and turn to their spouse with the words: "Not tonight, dear."
But research suggests that it’s actually men who are often responsible for the lack of sex in a marriage - because they feel under pressure to perform.
A review of 64 studies into couples’ love lives has found that men are put off sex by the expectation that they will make the first move.
And, just like women, a lack of emotional connection or fear that their partner finds them unattractive may also turn them off from a night of passion. The results of the analysis confound stereotypes by showing it is women, not men, who are likely to go off sex because they have been with their partner for a long time. They also show emotional connection is important to both halves of a couple.
The authors, led by Dr Kristen Park at the University of Kentucky, state: "There are assumptions in our culture that women have lower sexual desire than men, and that it is abnormal for women to have high sexual desire, or for men to have low sexual desire.
"However, research in recent years has clearly shown that these gender-based assumptions about sexual desire are not supported by data."
Men feel pressure from their wife, girlfriend or society in general to initiate sex, even when they do not want it, the research suggests. They worry they won’t have erotic feelings or that they will fail to perform, and this can create a ‘negative feedback loop’ which ruins their love life.
Women are expected to be put off sex if they do not feel emotionally close to their husband, the experts write in the Journal of Sex Research.
But men who have more emotional intimacy with their partner are also more likely to want to sleep with them. The authors state: "Men who felt a lack of emotional connection with their partners experienced lower sexual desire as well."
The advice for both sexes, the authors conclude, is to accept that desire ebbs and flows in a relationship.
The authors added: "The assumption that men have higher sexual desire than women overall is simply not consistently supported by the data in the context of relationships."