TORONTO – So your husband or wife is in the mood but you’re not. Do you take one for the team and give in?
A new study says that could be a bad thing. The Canadian study says that with relationships, our reasons for having sex are just as important as the frequency of times we head to the bedroom to do the deed.
While experts have suggested that couples who have sex regularly tend to be happier, a University of Toronto doctor says that’s not always the case. It’s what motivates us to do it that’s key. At the core, it determines how good the experience is, Dr. Amy Muise suggests.
“What we’re finding is that all sex isn’t created equal. Some sex leads to more positive outcomes than others,” Muise said. She’s a professor at the University of Toronto, where she specializing in sexual motivation research.
“That’s my take-home message. Your reasons for having sex matter,” she told Global News.
In bare bones terms, there are two reasons why we get it on with our partners: we have approach goals, such as wanting to be close, feel good and enhance intimacy; or we have avoidance goals, such as disappointing your partner or triggering a fight.
In her latest study, Muise sought to determine whether our goals – either approach or avoidance – affect how good the sex is.
Two studies – one based on 108 dating couples and one with 44 married, cohabitating couples – were conducted.
The partners filled out a diary answering questions each time they had sex. Over the course of the study, the couples had sex about once a week (1.5 times a week for the dating couples and once a week for the long-term couples; both numbers are consistent with national U.S. averages, Muise said. Also notable: there were no gender differences when it came to caving in and giving your partner sex – both men and women were equally guilty of doing it to avoid conflict).
“It really does seem like if you give it up to avoid upsetting your partner, over time, that’s going to have a negative impact. It seems like the partner is somehow picking up on this and the sex is less enjoyable,” Muise said.
She said it’s akin to wanting to try a new restaurant that your partner’s not interested in. You can tell they don’t want to be there and, in turn, your experience suffers, too.
Long-term, having sex to avoid conflict is bad news, Muise warns. The couples did a follow up four months later and those who chose avoidance reasons for having sex were less satisfied. Their partners even felt less committed to the relationship.
The study didn’t manipulate the couples and ask them to try to be more approach-motivated, but that’s Muise’s next step to study.
She said she wants to know if asking partners to come to the bedroom with the best intentions for intimacy might change the outcomes.
Some good news? The couples in her study infrequently had sex just to avoid fighting – the status quo was making love because they both wanted to.
The study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.