Neat. Okay, so former research into the links between sexual desire and relationship satisfaction has found that when partners have similar levels of sexual desire that they tend to be more satisfied.
This isn’t hard to believe. It’s something that makes a lot of intuitive sense.
Interestingly, however, a recent study — the one we’re going to look at today — stopped treating all desire discrepancies as equal and dug deeper into the issue. And what they found was pretty surprising.
The Most Satisfied Relationships Have Higher Sexual Desire — Even If They Feel Their Desires Don’t Match
When the researchers took a careful look at the level of sexual desire and relationship satisfaction. They actually found something extraordinary:
- Once levels of sexual desire were accounted for, there was no effect of mismatch on satisfaction.
- Instead, the overall level of sexual desire was noted to be the most important element.
- The higher the overall level of sexual desire — even if there was a mismatch between partners — the more satisfied the couples were.
- It’s important to note that the researchers didn’t test the reality of the perception of a desire mismatch between partners — so it’s possible that individuals reported desire mismatches where there were none. Still, a perception of a mismatch can be a factor on perceived satisfaction (even if it’s not reflective of reality).
There’s a Difference Between a Mismatch and a Dead Bedroom
Thinking over these results, the way I understand it is this: You don’t have to be on the same exact page with your partner re: how much you want to have sex for your sex life to be generally satisfying.
Dead bedrooms exist. They do. Especially if you’ve been together for a while and are busy and are dealing with external stressors (as practically every person is).
But this study underlines something that’s important to keep in mind: There’s a difference between a desire mismatch and a dead bedroom.
And I’ve found in my own circumstances, when I’m the more sexually desirous partner (which I have certainly been from time to time), it’s easy for me to jump from “desire mismatch” to “OH NO DEAD BEDROOM” in a way that isn’t fair to me or my relationships.
Time has generally proven me wrong in these situations. As it has a way of doing when I’m freaking out about something I shouldn’t be (again, something I have certainly done from time to time).
But it’s nice to know this explicitly. Perhaps it will serve as a comforting reminder the next time I find myself in a situation like this.
It’s very common by the way. Prior research has found that approximately 80% of couples frequently have times when one partner wants to have sex and the other doesn’t.
This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.