Prabhaat Inspiration

Good in Bed…

Good in Bed…

If you were to graph the lust of an average couple over the course of a committed, monogamous relationship, it might look something like this: a chart-topping node to mark their early days of growing intimacy and voracious desire, followed by a gradual decline as novelty gives way to familiarity, punctuated by precipitous dips when sex may all but disappear—the birth of a baby, a healthcrisis, or if some jokes are to be believed, the fact of long-term commitment itself. (What food makes a woman’s sex drive decline by 90 percent? Wedding cake!) Their sexual trajectory may stabilize in a more or less predictable line, but it never returns to the high-water mark of the beginning.

The waning of passion in committed relationships has been well documented by researchers, who have also shown that the decline is not always shared evenly by both partners; studies have revealed that in most long-term heterosexual pairs, one person’s level of desire is often chronically lower than the other’s. The negative effects of this difference can extend far beyond a chilly bed: Sexual dissatisfaction has been closely linked in relationships to greater incidence of conflict as well as general unhappiness and instability. Still, many people do manage to maintain sexual satisfaction and all the relationship harmony it confers. In an effort to understand how such a feat is managed, social psychologists have focused in recent years on what might be thought of as the crucial missing link in the desire gap: a couple’s motivation to meet each other’s sexual needs, a quality known as sexual communal strength.

Communal motivation refers to a general inclination to fulfill a partner’s needs even when they conflict with one’s own, without keeping an internal tit-for-tat tally. It’s demonstrated by couples all the time in ways both big and small, like moving across the country to accommodate a partner’s great new job or going out for a mate’s favorite Chinese food instead of your preferred Italian. “In communal relationships, we pay attention to what our partner needs and aim to meet those needs as they arise, without worrying about getting the same thing or something equivalent in return,” says Amy Muise, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at the University of Toronto Mississauga. “People who are more communal feel better about making sacrifices for their partner and also feel more positive emotions themselves.”

Muise, along with psychologist Lisa C. Day and two other colleagues, decided to look at how communal strength applies to sexuality. They focused on couples’ decisions about having sex when their levels of desire differed—a scenario that 80 percent of their subjects had experienced in the previous month and 95 percent in the past year. In a series of three studies of altogether more than 700 people in committed relationships, the researchers asked subjects to think carefully about the most recent time when their partner was in the mood for sex but they were not, and to recall how they felt and what they did. In another study, couples were asked to fill out a daily survey for 21 days about their motivation to have sex or not have sex that day, whether they actually did, and, if so, how satisfying they found it, as well as how satisfied they were generally with their relationship.

The studies, published earlier this year in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, concluded that when levels of desire differed between partners, those who were intrinsically more communal were more likely to engage in sex out of the desire to meet their partner’s needs. This was not the dutiful Victorian, let’s-get-this-over-with fulfillment of spousal obligation. The less-desiring partners actually felt happy about engaging in sex. “It’s not that they were begrudgingly doing it when they didn’t want to,” Muise says. “They were motivated to meet their partner’s needs and felt good about doing that. They also felt more satisfied with their relationship, and their partner did too.”

In an earlier study, Muise and her colleagues found that sexual communal strength fuels a kind of virtuous circle by actually sustaining desire. In that study, 44 long-term heterosexual couples were surveyed about their motivation for engaging in sex over 21 days. Those who did it to attain a positive outcome for their partner—say, pleasure and intimacy—maintained higher sexual desire themselves over time. “I suspect that when you’re focused on meeting your partner’s needs, you end up more likely to engage in sex, which probably leads you to have more enjoyable sexual experiences, which leads to your desiring more,” Muise says. “Having your partner feel more satisfied and committed, and having more desire yourself are benefits of communal strength.”

Such findings seem to reinforce what some marital therapists have long counseled when it comes to discrepancies in desire—a recommendation, essentially, to “just do it.” Michele Weiner-Davis, a couples therapist and the author of The Sex-Starved Marriage, spent years coaching those with higher desire to do things that might be turn-ons for their spouse, but with spotty success.

Web Master

September 8th, 2017

No comments

Comments are closed.