Marital satisfaction is believed to contribute to the overall life satisfaction of individuals, and is affected by various factors. This study examined the influence of marital stages, health status, and sexual dysfunction on marital satisfaction. The sample for this study were married university lecturers who were selected from five Universities in Edo state using a multistage sampling technique. Four research questions and hypotheses were formulated and tested at alpha level of 0.05. The study utilized a correlational design and a total of 664 married lecturers participated in this study. Three instruments were used to gather the data for this study and they include: Health Status Questionnaire (HSQ), Sexual Dysfunction Rating Scale (SDRS)and Index for Marital Satisfaction (IMS). The three instruments were validated using a test re-test method which yielded correlation coefficients of 0.72, 0.76 and 0.80 respectively.
The data collected were analyzed using frequency counts, percentages, means, Standard Deviation, Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficient Formula, Regression Analysis and Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). The findings of the study revealed a significant relationship between the independent variables (marital stages, health status, sexual dysfunction) and marital satisfaction.
Guided by the findings, it was therefore recommended among others that intending and married couples be assisted through pre-marital and family counselling to avoid problems from the start of their marriage and educate them on how to overcome the challenges that may come with each stage of the marital relationship. Also, individuals/partners with sexual dysfunction could be encouraged to seek help from counsellors and medical practitioners.

Background to the Study                        
Marriage is a socially recognized union, legal contract or agreement between a male and a female to be husband and wife for as long as they live. The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures especially with the advent of gay marriages, but it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually sexual, are acknowledged. The Stanford Encyclopedia (2009) therefore defined marriage as the institution regulating sex, reproduction and family life.
Marriage is also called matrimony or wedlock, and is a social, religious or ritually recognized union between spouses (male or female) that establishes rights and obligations between them and their in-laws. This is one of the reasons why marital relationships are considered the most important kind of relationship that exists among human beings. Alao (2000) described it as the most intimate of all relationships and it takes precedence over the relationship that exists between parent and child. On the other hand, the relationship is meant to establish feelings of accomplishment, contentment and gratification. As such, couples are supposed to derive satisfaction in being together as husband and wife.
Incidentally, events occurring in the society would suggest that marriage, an institution that is meant to last for a life time, has continued to experience lots of challenges making it quite difficult to achieve some of its purposes. It would seem that once the novelty and excitement of getting married wear off, and couples begin to grow in their relationships, there is a constant reduction in the satisfaction couples derive in their relationship. A long and lasting marriage ought to give many couples a sense of accomplishment, security and comfort, though not every couple can say the same of their union.
Marital satisfaction as a concept has been a topic of interest to many researchers as they endeavor to investigate the level of satisfaction that exists in marriages. Dillion and Beechler (2010) defined marital satisfaction as a special case of relationship contentment, and the degree to which partners in marriages assess their approval of different aspects of their marital relationship. In the M-Baumeister Encyclopedia (2007) marital satisfaction is described as a mental state that reflects the perceived benefits and costs of marriage to a particular person. The higher the cost a marriage partner inflicts on the partner, the less satisfied that partner is with the marriage and marriage partner. Similarly, the greater the perceived benefits are, the more satisfied one is with the marriage and marriage partner. According to Kaplan & Maddux (2002), it is an individual’s experience in marriage that can only be assessed by each person’s response to the degree of pleasure obtained in the marriage. It is the degree of satisfaction married individuals feel in their relationships. It would seem that satisfaction is one of the reasons people go into the marital relationship and it is not assessed jointly as a couple, but individually. This would suggest that in a marital relationship, one of the partners may experience a high level of marital satisfaction, while the other may be less satisfied or not satisfied at all.
However, it may be observed that for many couples, marital satisfaction peaks during the time of the wedding and declines from that point on (Knowles, 2002). Most newly wedded couples, apart from those in a “marriage of convenience” are happy and optimistic about their marriage. Earlier researchers (Hirschberger, Srivastava, March, Pape &  Cowan 2009, Bagwell 2006) posited that marital satisfaction follows a U-shaped pattern, starting high in the early stages of marriage, waning in the middle age with the rearing of children and associated financial pressures and then steadily increasing after children leave home. Marital satisfaction is usually measured in various aspects of marriage such as communication, sexuality, social circle, time spent together, occupation, finances and expenses, parenthood, leisure times attitudes toward life, religious beliefs, relationship with spouses’ family, relationship with ones’ family, spouses habits, manners and overall appearance among others.  A wide variety of factors related to marital satisfaction that have been identified are feelings of love, trust, respect, fidelity and commitment. Other components are more tangible, such as social support, shared interest in leisure, presence of children, equity of tasks, general wellbeing, gender roles and sexual interaction. Communication and interpersonal processes have also been found to be significant contributors to marital satisfaction, still other elements of long-term satisfying marital relationships include similar religious beliefs, philosophy of life and cognitive processes (Bradbury, Fincham & Beach 2000, Greef, 2000, Kaslow & Robinson 1996).
Furthermore, marital stages have also been linked to marital satisfaction, though very few studies have been carried out to ascertain the relationship between the stages of marriage and marital satisfaction especially in Nigeria. Marital stages describe the various phases a marital relationship goes through from the beginning of the union to the end of the marital relationship. Alexander (2013) defined marital stages as a series of interconnected phases that couples must work through while spending their lives together. Giblin (2017) expressed that every marriage typically moves through a series of stages. Each stage presenting unique learning opportunities and blessings, along with challenges and obstacles. Progression through these stages is thought to be cyclic. This means couples can move through the stages several times in their lives, each time with an increasing understanding of what is involved for having been there before. Sometimes these stages can feel like a new marriage. Couples move through these stages at different rates. Failure to accomplish the tasks of one stage can inhibit movement and growth through later stages.Several scholars have attempted to categorize marital stages based on the characteristics and experience accompanied by each stage.
Patricia & Kulman (2003) identified six stages in a marital relationship to include the romance or honeymoon stage, characterized by so much excitement and romance as couples begin to share their life together, the reality stage in which couples become more aware of their true self-beyond fantasy, the child rearing stage when the children start coming, shifting the focus of the couple from themselves to their offspring, the accommodation stage where couples have to manage adolescent children, the transformation/empty nest stage characterized by the couple being alone again, after all the children have left home to college, get married or get jobs and the termination stage which is usually as a result of separation, divorce or death of one of the couple.
Vachon (2008) also identified six stages in a marital union as follows: honeymoon years, childbearing years, childrearing years, child launching years, empty nest years and alone years. Though these stages may differ in the way they are coined from author to author, they describe about the same experiences from stage to stage.
Studies reveal that marital satisfaction varies across the stages of marriage (Carrere, Buehlman, Gottman, Coan & Ruckstuhl 2000, Hasely 2006, Ahmadi & Hosseini 2009). Couples in the newly wed stage seem to be more satisfied due to the novelty of their new status. They are very much in love and are excited, looking forward to the cliché of “living happily together forever”. They go out of their ways to make each other happy and try as much as possible to please and impress each other. Shortcomings and wrongs are easily overlooked and forgiven and their sexual relations are both explorative and exciting. Their major focus is on each other and every other person is regarded as being secondary to their relationship. All these make the newly wed stage quite satisfying for the couple (Lavner & Bradbury, 2011).
Soon enough, pregnancy sets in and couples find themselves swiftly in the childrearing stage. When the baby finally comes, the couples are faced with new challenges and responsibilities as they have to cater for the new born. Most times, the woman suffers from constant sleepless nights resulting into headaches. Naturally, the time the couple usually spends together is greatly reduced as their focus shifts from each other to caring, catering and raising their new born. This phase can be both emotionally and financially draining and may contribute to the reduced satisfaction couples may experience in this stage.
As time goes on, after about 16-20 years of marriage, the children would have grown, able to do things on their own, some of them almost graduating from the University, while others might be leaving college. Once again, the parents/couples find themselves on their own, living without their children, this stage, usually called the empty nest stage, is believed to increase marital satisfaction as couples are back to the state they were during the honeymoon stage but with a higher sense of achievement, having raised children who are making something of their lives and contributing to the society one way or the other. Again, the focus of their relationship shifts from their children back to themselves, and this time, there are no children around to interrupt their activities (Shelley, 2005).
 Though some studies suggest that not all parents experience an increasing marital satisfaction at this stage, Kearney (2002) expressed that this period may come with challenges as couples realize that they have grown apart and hardly have anything in common. For others, it is a time to recapture the love they shared as newly-weds. Putz (2012) expressed that marital satisfaction increases after the transition to empty nest as couples have more time to focus on their relationship. Empty nest has been theorized to increase marital satisfaction by reducing other commitments, role conflicts and time constraints, also, by increasing opportunities for companionship.
            Good health is important to every individual. The health status of individuals  may determine the quality of life they experience. Health status refers to the presence or absence of diseases or ailments in the body of an individual. While several people enjoy a healthy body system, many individuals are coping with one ailment or the other. Many people living with terrible health conditions have been observed to be suicidal. Little wonder the saying “health is wealth” is very popular.  Health challenges are almost a normal thing to humans as they may be either inherited through genes or contracted in the environment. Some of the health problems individuals may experience include ulcers, constant fever, sickle cell anemia, asthma, arthritis, chronic pain in some part of the body, diabetes, dementia, heart diseases, incontinence (inability to control the bladder), stroke, depression  and many more. Some of these ailments are present at birth, while some are contracted later in life. In addition, aging brings about many health characteristics such as reduction in muscle mass and strength, osteopenia, increase in abdominal fat, reduction in the concentration of testosterone, reduction in libido and pubic hair, insomnia, profuse sweating and decrease in one’s general well-being. For women, they may experience changes in the reproductive system and changing hormonal levels which subsequently leads to a permanent stop in menstrual flow generally referred to as menopause. Menopause comes with other symptoms like hot flashes, moodiness, headaches and trouble sleeping. Other noticeable symptoms of aging include problems with short term memory, decrease in breast tissue, high risk of bone loss, urinary system changes, increased risk of urinary tract infections etc. (Lobor, Rosen, Yang & Block, 2003).
Correspondingly, the health status of individuals brings about some levels of comfort or discomfort in their bodies and may subsequently affect their relationship with their spouses and friends. The Medicine Encyclopedia (2014) expressed that marital relationships can be affected by changes in the health status of spouses that require one spouse to become the primary care-giver for the other. A large proportion of the research on care-giving's impact on the marital relationship have focused on individuals caring for spouses with dementia, and other forms of mental and physical impairment. This suggests that marital satisfaction tends to decline under the strain of deteriorating health and caring for an ill spouse. A spouse's poor health appears to have larger negative effects on perceptions of marital satisfaction than does the deterioration of one's own health. Although findings vary across studies, some evidence suggests that care-giving wives are more likely to report strain, depression, and negative feelings toward their marriages than care-giving husbands. These gender differences are more pronounced, however, when the spouse in need of care is cognitively impaired, perhaps because the resulting loss of reciprocity in the marital relationship impacts the well-being of women more than men. Wives also tend to provide more care than husbands when their spouses become ill or impaired, which may further explain women's relatively higher level of stress in the care-giving role (Groves 2011, Korporaal, Groenou & Tilburg 2013).
Similarly, sexual relations has been identified as playing a major role in marital satisfaction (Oyewo, 2012). It seems to be the sine-qua-non of marriage because sex is unitive in a unique way and marriage is about union. Sex solidifies the marital relationship as well as creates opportunity for procreation.  Literature (Heiman, Long, and Smith 2011, Rosen-Grandon, Myers and Hartie 2004) reveals that most couples have their highest frequency of sex during the honeymoon stage and this reduces during the childrearing stage but increases again after cessation of child birth. As couples mature in the marital relationship and become older, many experience a decline in sexual functioning which may affect the quality of their relationship. Some others experience deteriorating sexual satisfaction as a result of sexual dysfunction.
 Sexual dysfunction, according to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2015) is the inability to react emotionally or physically to sexual stimulation in a way projected of the average healthy person, and it can affect different stages in the sexual response cycles which are, desire, arousal and orgasm. It is the inabilityto fully enjoy sexual intercourse. Akinade (2008) described sexual dysfunction as any persistent or recurring or chronic loss or impairment of the ordinary physical responses of sexual function that distresses a person, or one that shows a distinct sexual human deviation. Poor sexual relations among couples may stir up intense feelings of inadequacy, guilt and frustration in not only the person experiencing the problem, but also the partner and is common among couples across the ages. Oyewo (2012) in his study discovered a high correlation between sexual dysfunction and marital dissatisfaction among couples. This suggests that marriages where one or both partners are experiencing some form of sexual dysfunction may not be satisfying to the couples.
Marriage happiness between couples within and or cross-states borders may or may not move in any continuum of marital satisfaction. In Edo state for instance, married individuals from this area have been known to experience marital displeasure leading to separation or divorce. Although Edo state is found in Southern Nigeria and is made up of eighteen (18) local government areas, it may not be uncommon to hear of husbands who abuse their wives (domestic violence) or married partners who are not responsible in their relationships. Husbands have complained about their wives being dirty, unable to cook or properly take care of the children, some even express dissatisfaction in the way their wives attend to their guests. It is not unusual also to hear women complain about their men keeping late nights, avoiding their financial responsibilities to the family etc. A careful observation would reveal that many people from this part (both male and female) engage in extra-marital affair (adultery) mostly in pursuit of a higher ground or greener pasture (Ejifoma, 2014). One would wonder if the stages of marriage, health status of individuals in the marital relationship and sexual dysfunction among couples play a role in these unappealing happenings within the state. Hence, the need for this study.
The marriage institution has consistently received attention from researchers. In spite of this, the challenges couples experience are yet to be totally eradicated. It appears that new issues keep coming up to stress the marital relationship. Furthermore, separation and divorce have become part and parcel of our society. The rate of divorce is constantly on the increase especially among young couples. Jekayinfa (2002) reported that over 12,000 cases of divorce are reported in Nigeria every year since 1975. This seem to be an evidence of marital dissatisfaction among couples.
Each of the marital stages exposes the couple to a new phase of life. This is usually challenging for most couples as they try to adjust to new experiences in different stages of marriage. Many scholars (Carrere 2000, Hasely 2006, Ahmadi & Hosseini 2009) have conducted studies to understand the different stages of marriage, its effect on the parents and children and on the marital relationship, but most of these have been foreign studies.
The health status of individuals in marriage is something that most people are not concerned about until they are actually married. Health challenges are quite natural and people of all ages experience one form of health issue or the other. Previous studies(Groves 2011, Iman & Jamaloei 2013, Koporaal 2013) have showed that health problems may increase marital satisfaction for the man, while it decreases marital satisfaction for the woman. In Nigeria however, it would seem that studies have not been carried out to know if the health statuses of partners have any relationship with the marital satisfaction of couples across the ages.
Sex is seen as a major ingredient for marital satisfaction. Studies ( Olakunle 2003,Oyewo 2012 and so on) reveal that the sexual relations between partners contribute to their marital happiness. Also, sexual dysfunction seems to be common among couples in various stages of marriage. There is no doubt that sexual dysfunction exists in Nigeria. Few studies (Lawal 2004, Akinade and Sulaiman 2005) have been carried out on sexual dysfunctions among couples in Nigeria but they have mostly investigated the patterns, symptoms, causes and prevalence of sexual dysfunction.  Hence the need to find out the relationship between sexual dysfunction and marital satisfaction.
The lecturing profession is one that is highly respected and at the same time exposes practitioners to lots of responsibilities and challenges.  Several mishaps have been reported among lecturers in Universities across the world, and it would seem that the profession exposes many lecturers to several risks. Given the fact that lecturers belong to one of the most impactful groups of people in the world and the fact that marital satisfaction contributes to their overall wellbeing, the variables of interest in this study becomes compelling for investigation.
In order to bridge the gap observed by this researcher, this study examined the relationship amongst marital stages, health status, sexual dysfunction and marital satisfaction.

Purpose of the Study
            This study seeks to investigate the ways in which the various stages of marriage, health status (that occur either from childhood, as a result of aging or other life -altering events), and sexual dysfunction affect marital satisfaction among married lecturers in Universities in Edo State. Specifically, the objectives of this study are to:
i.                    Examine the extentto which marital stages predicts marital satisfaction of married University lecturers in Edo State.
ii.                 Examine the relationship between health status and marital satisfaction of married University lecturers in Edo State.
iii.               Examine the relationship between sexual dysfunction and marital satisfaction of married University lecturers in Edo State.
iv.               Examine the extent to which marital stages, health status and sexual dysfunction jointly predictsmarital satisfaction of married University lecturers in Edo State.

Research Questions
            The following research questions were generated to guide the study:
1.                  To what extent does marital stages predict marital satisfaction of married University lecturers in Edo State?
2.                  Is there any relationship between health status and marital satisfaction of married University lecturers in Edo State?
3.                  Is there any relationship between sexual dysfunction and marital satisfaction of married University lecturers in Edo State?
4.                  To what extent does marital stages, health status and sexual dysfunction predict the marital satisfaction of married University lecturers in Edo State?

Research Hypotheses
The following null hypotheses were formulated to guide the study:
1.  Marital stages do not significantly predict the marital satisfaction of married University lecturers in Edo state
2. There is no significant relationship between health status and marital satisfaction of married University lecturers in Edo State
3.  There is no significant relationship between sexual dysfunction and marital satisfaction of married University lecturers in Edo State.
4. Marital stages, health status and sexual dysfunction do not significantly predict the marital satisfaction of married University lecturers in Edo State.

Significance of the Study
            The findings of this study is beneficial to individuals who are in strategic positions to assist individuals in their marital relationship. These includes psychologists/counsellors, sociologists, pastors, and other professionals.This area of study is one that has shed some light on some aspects of the marital relationship.
Counsellors/psychologists will gain immensely from the findings of this study as it will help them to understand better the various ways the stages of marriage, health status and sexual dysfunction can affect marital satisfaction. It will serve as a reference point during counselling sessions and will assist counsellors to be more effective in carrying out their therapeutic roles to their clients.
Psychologists/marriage counsellors and social workers, from the findings of this study will have a deeper understanding of how the stages of marriage, health problems and sexual dysfunction affects the marital relationship, thereby making it easier for them to assist married persons whose marriage may be affected by any of the variables mentioned. This can be achieved by providing sustainable marital platforms where intending couples and newly wedded couples who desire to better appreciate each other through multi-psychological enrichment programmes on how marital relationships can be fostered, enhanced and enjoyed throughout life.
Also religious leaders will be exposed through seminars/workshops onthe  the various roles stages of marriage, health status/problems and sexual dysfunction plays in the marital relationship, thereby equipping them better to assist and advice their members towards having a happy home.  It will also prepare partners in marriage for appropriate responses to the sometimes inevitable health problems they are likely to experience at any stage of their marriage. Sexual dysfunction has been identified as one of the reasons for divorce and marital dissatisfaction. This study provides information about the extent to which sexual dysfunction at any stage of the marital relationship affects marital satisfaction.Single and married individuals who are interested in the findings of this study will be more prepared for the inevitable occurrences in marriage and will use the knowledge gained from this study to improve their marital relationship. To policy makers, the findings will reaffirm the need to provide functional customary courts where marital issues are discussed and easily disposed of
The findings of this study also forms a useful framework to researchers in the field as it provides a basis for further research work in the field. This study will also be of great help to researchers who may want to replicate this study in other parts of the country, it will serve as a useful reference material in carrying out their research and will prompt them in filling the gap left out by this work.
Scope of the Study                                    
            This study examined marital stages, health status and sexual dysfunctions as they influence marital satisfaction of married University lecturers in Edo State.  Marital stages was limited to only three stages in marriage which are the newly wed, childrearing and empty nest stages. Other stages such as the reality stage, accommodation and transformation stage were not covered in order to have a clear demarcation of the stages and also simplify the study. Health status covered congenital, contracted or degenerative diseases and accidental impairments (deformities) that can be found among married adults. This may include diabetes, stroke, ulcers, asthma, arthritis, hypertension, hearing or visual impairments and physical deformity that may suddenly appear as the marriage matures.  While sexual dysfunctions covered all dysfunctions that may be found in any of the stages of the sexual response cycle including sexual desire disorder, sexual arousal disorder, erectile dysfunction, orgasmic dysfunction and dyspareunia which may be common to both genders (male and female). Participants were selected from five universities in Edo State and only married lecturers participated in this study.

Limitation of the Study
            The limitations of this study include inadequate materials for extensive review of literature. Most of the available materials on marital stages, health status and marital satisfaction were foreign and affected the generalization of results. Also, it was difficult to get the total number of academic staff in one of the Universities that could have been used for the study. They simply refused to give it out for security reasons and so was excused from the study.

Operational Definition of Terms
This refers to the meaning of keywords used in this study. These words are interpreted based on their operational usage so as to give adequate meaning to individuals who may be interested in the study. Therefore, the definitions of terms are as follows:
Child rearing stage:  this refers to individuals who have children within the ages of 0-21 years (Since many 21 year olds in Nigeria may still be living and depending on their parents).
Empty Nest Stage: This term describes a family whose children have all grown up and left home to college, pursue a career, or start their own families, leaving the parents all by themselves.
Health Status: The presence or absence of disease in an individual’s body, leading to a state of poor or good health condition as marriages progresses and subsists.
Marital Satisfaction: This is the degree of fulfillment an individual experiences in his/her marital relationship.
Marital Stages: This term is used to describe three or more stages of marriagethough restricted to the newly-wed stage, child rearing stage and empty nest stage in this study
Marriage: This describes a man and a woman in a legal and recognized union that qualifies them to be husband and wife    
Newly wedded stage: This refers to individuals whose marriage is between 0-4 years old.

Sexual Dysfunction: This describes a constantdifficulty experienced by an individual or couple during any stage of a normal sexual activity making it difficult to fully enjoy sexual intercourse.

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