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Believing Sexual Satisfaction Takes Work Can Lead to Better Sex Lives

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Mar 17, 2022

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A couple’s sexual chemistry depends on how committed the partners are to put in work in bed — not on whether they are destined for amazing sex. Basically, there’s more to sexual satisfaction than natural compatibility, according to a new study.

Researchers conducted a longitudinal study of 97 couples in committed relationships, wherein female partners involved were diagnosed with significantly low levels of desire and arousal. The researchers analyzed degrees of sexual desire, frequency, conflict, and satisfaction in the relationships; they also investigated whether people’s beliefs around “sexual destiny” influenced the couple’s sex life in any way.

The findings are based on responses from both partners in the relationships — 77% of whom were heterosexual, while the rest had varied sexual orientations.

Published in The Journal of Sex Research, the study concludes that “endorsing greater sexual growth beliefs was associated with higher sexual desire for both partners, whereas… endorsing greater sexual destiny beliefs was [often] linked to lower sexual desire and relationship satisfaction.” In other words, those who were willing to improve their sex lives had better sex lives.

Essentially, believing that sexual satisfaction takes work is important. This can be in the form of exploring what turns on their partner, understanding how to make surroundings more conducive to sex, researching ways to make their partner more comfortable, or even just indulging in exercises to boost emotional intimacy to increase sexual satisfaction for everyone involved — it can help couples improve their sex life. Couples who believe “in a relationship, maintaining a satisfying sex life requires effort,” attest to that.


Related on The Swaddle:

How a Partner’s Fragile Masculinity Can Lead to Anxiety, Less Sexual Satisfaction for Women


On the other hand, believing that sexual satisfaction is reliant on the couple’s “sexual destiny” — or how compatible they may be naturally — prevents them from taking steps to improve their sex life while ushering a feeling of helplessness and, as a result, subsequent stress. So, participants who held the belief that “a couple is either destined to have a satisfying sex life or they are not” also reported poorer sexual satisfaction in their relationships.

“Sexual growth and destiny beliefs may be important to the sexual narratives that people hold about compatibility with their partner, and also their understanding of their agency in coping with a sexual difficulty to mitigate distress,” the study noted.

Past research, too, suggests that beliefs like “finding your sexual soulmate” can actually be stifling — not just for one’s sex life, but also their love life. This is especially since believers of “sexual destiny” are often convinced that the “quality of their sex life will predict their relationship success, meaning they use their sexual relationship as a barometer for how their overall relationship is functioning” — leading them to think “struggles in a sexual relationship suggest the relationship is destined to fail.”

Interestingly, the women who were part of the present study reported improved sex lives through the course of one year since they had first enrolled as participants. Experts note it’s possible that very fact of participating in the study and answering questions about different aspects of their sex lives may have acted as an “intervention” of sorts, which allowed women to navigate their sex lives with greater deliberation, and less of a “this is how it’s destined to be”-attitude.

So, the takeaway, as summed up by Sarah Hunter Murray, a sex researcher and relationship therapist who wasn’t involved in the study, seems to be: “[V]iewing sexual problems as something we can do something about, versus viewing them as a sign our relationship is doomed, may motivate us to read, learn, communicate, and think differently about our sexual problems in ways that help increase sexual desire.”

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Written By Devrupa Rakshit

Devrupa Rakshit is an Associate Editor at The Swaddle. She is a lawyer by education, a poet by accident, and a painter by shaukh. She has her own podcast called #DateNightsWithD on Spotify. You can find her on Instagram @devruparakshit.

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