How do some long-term couples keep their sex lives from deteriorating?
Though their motivation to meet each other’s needs, a new paper suggests.
Research from the University of Toronto, published in the May 2013 issue of Social Psychological And Personality Science, found that the secret to sustaining sexual desire in a long-term relationship is pretty simple — people keep on having sex when they know it’s important to their partners, and therefore to the health of their relationship.
The research team did a 21-day long “daily experience study” of 44 long-term, cohabiting heterosexual couples, with a 4-month follow up. The daily experience study consisted of an initial online survey, followed by a 10-minute questionnaire that participants completed each day for 21 days. Participants ranged in age from 23 to 60, and had been involved in their relationships from 3-39 years. Eighty-two percent of the participants were white, 68 percent were married, and 48 percent had children.
The initial online survey identified individuals with a strong motivation to respond to a partner’s needs without expecting anything in return, and specifically motivation to respond to a romantic partner’s sexual needs.
On average, participants reported having sex once a week for the duration of the 21-day period. Participants with a stronger motivation to respond to a partner’s needs reported higher levels of daily desire, and sustained this desire in the 4 month follow-up period. Individuals with lower commitment to fulfilling their partner’s sexual needs reported lower sexual desire to begin with, and this desire declined during the follow-up period. This was the case even after controlling for other factors like age, relationship duration, and whether or not the couples had children.
Previous research has shown that people who report higher levels of sexual desire are typically more satisfied with their relationship, and are less likely to be consideringbreaking up with their current partner. A 2009 study found that, though frequency of sexual activity decreases with age, sexual desire does not — and having an eager and skillful partner makes all the difference in increasing sexual frequency.