Psychologists have compared two beliefs regarding sexual satisfaction to determine which one is more likely to aid couples in navigating sexual compatibility.
The desire to have sex with a new partner is strong at first, but then it fades over time. Priorities change, incompatibilities grow into big ones, and new relationships can bring out other virtues.
Some people desire to keep intimate sexual relationships. This requires a growth mindset, which invests in continuous effort to overcome these obstacles.
Others believe it is more important to maintain chemistry with your partner than you are, and they are more fatalistic.
Although the effects of these beliefs have been studied in the past on how they affect our ability to deal with relationships after the loss of sex has passed, it is not clear what their effect will be on our ability to navigate relationships when there is depression or anxiety.
A small group of psychologists around the globe conducted a longitudinal study of 97 couples in which a female partner was diagnosed as having significantly lower levels of desire or arousal. The goal of the study was to determine how partners’ beliefs were related to changes in sexual well-being.
The baseline survey was completed by the couple at the beginning of the study. A follow-up survey was conducted one year later. After some breakups and non-completion, the team had complete data from 66 couples about things like sexual desire and frequency, conflict and satisfaction. In addition, incomplete data was available from 6 couples who only completed the follow-up survey.
The statistics showed a few interesting things about how people deal with sexual struggles in a relationship. Researchers referred to the beliefs as “sexual growth belief” (it requires work) and “sexual destiny belief”, (it’s natural compatibility).
One example is among women who have low sexual desire. This condition, which is clinically known as Female Sexual Interest/Arousal disorder ( FSIAD), was associated with lower relationship satisfaction and greater conflict.
Their partner was not happy. They reported less satisfaction if they had similar beliefs.
Sexual desire was slightly higher among those with FSIAD who believed in sexual growth. However, their partners had a lower level of sexual desire than those who believed that sexual desire was more destined than it was.
It was interesting to see that the year did make a difference. No matter what their initial beliefs, couples who participated in the study experienced an increase in sexual desire.
FSIAD partners reported significant improvements in their desire to be happy and lower levels depression, even though only one-tenth of them were seeking treatment.
This is good news. It means that couples who are willing to endure the fight will likely experience periods of increased sexual desire.
The results suggest that a growth mindset in sex can help couples get through difficult times. However, a belief that chemistry is the key to success can add stress and make it worse by creating a feeling of helplessness.
“The findings show that sexual destiny beliefs in most cases are associated with lower levels of sexual, relationship and personal well-being when women are coping with low sexual desire,” conclude the authors.
There are many contexts and caveats that psychology research requires.
For example, more than 77 percent of the couples that were studied were in mixed-sex relationships. The sample also included bisexual participants. However, most of them were married or lived together, which limited the results to domestic couples. The couple had to be in a committed relationship for at least six months.
The research primarily focused on female partners who suffered from chronic distress due to a loss in sexual appetite.
This doesn’t mean that there isn’t any wisdom for us all. This research may help couples focus on not only the practicalities but also their beliefs and compatibility when it comes down to coping with life changes.
The authors suggest that sexual growth and destiny beliefs could be important to sexual narratives about compatibility and understanding of one’s agency when dealing with sexual distress.