In a recent article, I discussed my research using fictional scenarios to show that perceptions of why someone is having sex with their partner influences how people rate that person’s sexual desire and satisfaction. In that study, people who were perceived as having sex for approach goals, such as to enhance intimacy or to feel closer to a partner, as opposed to avoidance goals, such as to avoid conflict or a partner’s disappointment, were perceived as feeling more sexual desire for their partner and being more satisfied with their sex lives and relationships. In our next study, we wanted to consider people’s actual goals for sex and how having sex for different reasons is associated with a person’s sexual and relationship quality. So, how do a person’s own reasons for having sex influence their own feelings of desire and satisfaction?
Entries in sexual desire (9)
Sex plays an important role in overall relationship happiness.1 But, is simply having sex enough to maintain a happy relationship? In a recent study, my colleagues and I looked at the reasons people say they have sex with their partners and how these reasons affect their feelings of desire and happiness with their sex lives and overall relationships.2
We considered two broad categories of reasons why people have sex with their romantic partners:
- Approach goals: A person having sex for these reasons is focused on pursuing positive outcomes in their relationship, such as enhancing intimacy or feeling closer to a partner.
- Avoidance goals: A person having sex for these reasons is focused on averting negative outcomes in their relationship, such as conflict or disappointing a partner.
A good friend of mine (who is 7 months pregnant) told me recently that she is concerned about her sex drive. I recalled that my sex drive dropped to almost zero when I was pregnant with both of my boys, so I assumed that this might be the case for her. Surprisingly, my friend’s experience was quite the opposite: she wanted it all the time. When her husband couldn’t help her out (and he was generally happy to do so), she felt compelled to masturbate. She was worried something might be wrong with her.
Dr. Robin Edelstein talked about her research on how power/dominance relates testosterone and “unrestricted” sexual desires. In her talk she cited the recent example of David Petraeus (the former general and CIA chief), who resigned in disgrace after admitting an extra-marital affair. Why do powerful men like Petraeus behave this way? Edelstein’s research showed that when researchers in the lab primed partnered (i.e., not single) men to feel powerful, they had an increase in testosterone levels, and that this change in testosterone was associated with an increase in the desire for more casual sex partners. These increases in testosterone resulting from a powerful status are one biological explanation for why men like Petraeus engage in infidelity.
“Oh yeah, that’s it, right there”
“That feels good”
Moaning, groaning, and words of encouragement during sex enhance your partner’s sexual pleasure and a recent study suggests that talking during sex is also linked to your own satisfaction. People who communicate their likes and dislikes to their partners during sex are more sexually satisfied.
Talking about your sexual needs and desires is not always easy; many people feel that having sex is easier than talking about sex.
GGG is a term coined by sex columnist Dan Savage to represent the qualities that he thinks make a good sexual partner. GGG stands for 'good, giving, and game.’ Think 'good in bed,' 'giving of equal time and equal pleasure,' and 'game for anything—within reason.'" We know from previous research that people who are more motivated to respond to their partner’s needs (high in communal strength) report higher relationship satisfaction and feel more intrinsic joy after making a sacrifice for their partner. But, do the benefits of being ‘giving’ and ‘game’ translate to the sexual domain of a relationship as Dan Savage would suggest?
If you want to read about love and marriage you've got to buy two separate books. ~ Alan King
Popular wisdom suggests that intensely passionate love is a rare phenomenon in long-term partnerships. The assumption is that passion peaks in the early stages of a relationship and then fades over time. In a recent study, however, researchers found that intense love for a partner (even after 30 years or more together) may not be as rare as people assume.
A new Relationship Matters (the official podcast of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships) has just been released. SofR's own Dr. Bjarne Holmes interviews Dr. Elaine Hatfield about her about her work on passion and sexual desire.