Women are more likely than men to understand that good sex takes work. Evidence suggests that getting sexual satisfaction takes more work for women, and their experience may reflect why women rate higher in sexual growth than their male counterparts. Acknowledging that work plays a role in better sex and a growing relationship may indicate women have a better chance at long-term romantic relationships.
These are the findings of a new study by University of Toronto psychologists. Their conclusions may be particularly revealing to people who think women traditionally uphold the notion of romantic philosophies such as “soul mates.”
Attitudes toward sex can either make or break romantic relationships. A happy sex life in a lasting relationship depends more on hard work than relying simply on the “sexpectation” that “soul mates” will enjoy romantic sparks forever, said Jessica Maxwell, lead author of the new study.
“People who believe in sexual destiny are using their sex life as a barometer for how well their relationship is doing, and they believe problems in the bedroom equal problems in the relationship as a whole,” said PhD candidate Maxwell.
“Whereas people who believe in sexual growth not only believe they can work on their sexual problems, but they are not letting it affect their relationship satisfaction,” she added.
The study looked at both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. The researchers found the 1,900 people they studied fell into two camps: those who believe in “sexual destiny” and those who understand the need for sexual growth.
The honeymoon phase of a relationship lasts about two to three years for people in both groups. Then long-lasting relationships run into a rocky period. “We know that disagreements in the sexual domain are somewhat inevitable over time,” added Maxwell. “Your sex life is like a garden, and it needs to be watered and nurtured to maintain it.”
Sexual issues are normal, and seeking help from counsellors and couple therapists to address sexual problems also is very normal behavior, said the University of Toronto psychologists. Those who hold strong beliefs about “sexual destiny” may especially need help.
“Sexual-destiny beliefs have a lot of similarities with other dysfunctional beliefs about sex, and I think it’s important to recognize and address that,” said Maxwell.
Read the study “How Implicit Theories of Sexuality Shape Sexual and Relationship Well-Being” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.