Views About Sex May Shape Relationship Quality, Satisfaction

Couple taking walk near a lakeA commitment to hard work can help couples maintain a satisfying sex life after the “honeymoon phase” of a relationship wears off, according to a University of Toronto study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The study’s authors say the belief that sexual fulfillment is the natural result of love or destiny might affect long-term sexual satisfaction.

Attitudes Toward Effort Key to Sexual Satisfaction

For the study, researchers conducted several trials on 1,896 same-sex and different-sex couples. The trials included two online surveys, a 21-day survey of couples’ daily experiences, and three laboratory studies of couples.

Each trial looked at how beliefs about sexual compatibility affected satisfaction and relationship quality in couples. “Destiny” beliefs included the notion that everyone has a soul mate with whom they are naturally compatible. “Sexual growth” beliefs included the idea that sexual satisfaction takes work, time, and energy.

In each portion of the study, participants were more likely to express high levels of satisfaction if they also expressed a high commitment to ongoing effort. Couples who believed destiny is the key to sexual satisfaction, by contrast, were more likely to experience dissatisfaction if sexual problems arose.

The study also addresses the idea that “destiny” and “growth” sexual beliefs are not always mutually exclusive. An individual can have aspects of both types of beliefs, and just because someone may hold more “destiny” beliefs does not mean they do not also believe sexual satisfaction takes work and effort over time.

How Beliefs About Sex Affect Daily Interactions

Daily fluctuations in sexual attitudes about hard work correlated with daily fluctuations in relationship satisfaction. On days when couples more strongly endorsed destiny-based beliefs, they were more likely to express sexual boredom. However, couples only gave this response when they also had a disagreement about sex that day. The authors suggest this pattern of responses shows belief in sexual chemistry is not always detrimental to sexual satisfaction, but it could be associated with a decrease in relationship quality when a couple experiences sexual problems.

In contrast, on days when couples more strongly endorsed a sexual growth belief, they were more likely to feel satisfied and connected to each other. The authors say this finding provides support for the idea that beliefs about sexual satisfaction may lead to better relationship quality, rather than relationship quality leading to better sex.

Among new parents, sexual growth beliefs appeared to increase satisfaction. The transition to parenthood can be stressful for many, and sleep deprivation can further compromise sexual satisfaction in new parents. A survey portion of the study suggested new parents who believed in the importance of ongoing work were more likely to have satisfying sex lives.

The team also found media can induce changes in sexual beliefs. In an experiment, they exposed couples to magazine articles about sexuality. One article highlighted the need for satisfying sex early in the relationship, while the other emphasized the importance of sexual growth and effort. Participants readily adopted the ideas each article posited. This suggests not only that sexual attitudes are fluid, but also that changes in these attitudes might affect relationship satisfaction.

References:

  1. Maxwell, J., MA. (2016, October 17). Great sexpectations? How your expectations about maintaining sexual satisfaction affect your relationship. Retrieved from http://www.scienceofrelationships.com/home/2016/10/17/great-sexpectations-how-your-expectations-about-maintaining.html
  2. University of Toronto study reveals secret to a happy sex life. (2016, November 7). Retrieved from http://media.utoronto.ca/media-releases/university-of-toronto-study-reveals-secret-to-a-happy-sex-life/

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  • Nathan

    Nathan

    November 15th, 2016 at 2:42 PM

    Well that explains it! I like to have sex, my girlfriend does and we are always pretty open to trying new things to keep it hot.

  • rori

    rori

    November 16th, 2016 at 10:22 AM

    So I grew up in a house where we never talked about ANYTHING having to do with sex, that was certainly taboo, and so yeah, that has influenced me in a lot of negative ways I would say. I am very hesitant to talk to my husband about things I like or dislike, I just sort of go through the motions and hope that sexually he is satisfied and doesn’t want to stray. Not a very feminist view to take, but some habits are terribly hard to break.

  • Rhonda L

    Rhonda L

    November 20th, 2016 at 7:22 AM

    Oh I definitely believe that the more open minded you are about sex and the entire sexual experience the better those sexual experiences in your life will be.

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