By Cassandra Fralic

Maintaining sexual interest, desire, passion and satisfaction over time in romantic relationships can be challenging. A group of American researchers looked at how couples in long term relationships maintain their spark. You’d think that all of the affectionate and mood-setting behaviours couples typically engage in in the beginning of their relationships (kissing, cuddling, long walks on the beach etc.) would help to keep the passion alive in relationships as these relationships age, and, according to the findings of Frederick, Lever, Gillespie & Garcia (2016) you’d be right!

Researchers surveyed over 38 000 American adults in long term relationships (mean age = 39), and looked at how sexual satisfaction was perceived to have changed over time, and tricks that helped maintain sexual satisfaction in these long term romantic relationships.

Key Findings

  • Most people reported that their sexual satisfaction was higher in the first six months of their relationship.
  • However, most people were currently sexually satisfied or neutral.
  • Many women reported being less sexually inhibited in the current stage of their relationship, and two-thirds of men reported equal or higher desire for their partner as compared to the early days with their partner.
  • Having consistent orgasms and partners’ having consistent orgasms, was associated with higher sexual satisfaction in both men and women, though receiving oral sex was only associated with higher satisfaction in men.
  • Men and women who incorporated variety into their sex lives (ie. trying a new position, wearing lingerie, discussing and acting out fantasies etc.) and mood setting techniques (ie. lighting candles) were more likely to be sexually satisfied, and those who were sexually satisfied were more likely to try new things in the bedroom. Using communication strategies was also associated with higher sexual satisfaction and reports of passion.
  • Men and women who reported higher sexual satisfaction were more likely to engage in all sex acts. Sexually satisfied men and women were also more likely to report the same or a higher level of engagement in positive sexual practices now, in comparison to the beginning of their partnership.
  • Sexually satisfied people were more likely to have overall positive sexual attitudes and beliefs, and positive beliefs about their relationships than dissatisfied people.

In general, researchers found that, as has been previously thought, a decline in passion is normal, but not inevitable. Two-thirds of participants reported maintaining sexual satisfaction over the duration of their relationship. Participants who reported being sexually satisfied engaged in behaviours to help maintain this satisfaction. These couples were more likely to keep behaving in ways that would encourage positive sexual behaviours, create positive feedback, and enable continuing a sexually satisfying relationship over time.

Source: Frederick, D.A., Lever, J., Gilespie, B.J., & Garcia, J.R. (2016). What Keeps Passion Alive? Sexual Satisfaction Is Associated With Sexual Communication, Mood Setting, Sexual Variety, Oral Sex, Orgasm, and Sex Frequency in a National U.S. Study, The Journal of Sex Research, 00, 00, 1-16. DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2015.1137854

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