You can probably think of tons of legitimate reasons to have sex with your partner (youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re super turned on, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re dying to try a new position, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re both home on a Tuesday night). But hereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one reason that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t pass muster: When people have sex to avoid disappointing their partner (rather than to promote intimacy), theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re both less satisfied with the experience and their relationship, according to a series of studies published online in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
In two studies, couples were asked to complete nightly diaries asking if they had sex and if so, what the motivations and outcomes were. They found that when people were motivated by approach goals (to boost intimacy, get closer, feel pleasure, etc.), they felt more desire and in turn more satisfied with the sex and the relationship. But if they had sex for avoidance goals (to avoid conflict, prevent an argument, avoid disappointing their partner, etc.), they felt less desire and less satisfaction. Surprisingly, one personÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s motivations even affected how their partner felt.
Why it hurts your bond Ã¢â‚¬Å“What was really interesting to us is that if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re having sex to avoid disappointing your partner, you might not feel that great about it because youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not really into itÃ¢â‚¬”but you at least think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s benefitting your partner,Ã¢â‚¬Â says study author Amy Muise, PhD, post-doctoral fellow at University of Toronto Mississauga. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But the partner can somehow sense this, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s detracting from their satisfaction.Ã¢â‚¬Â
So should you skip sex altogether if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not doing it for the right reasons? Not necessarily. According to Muise, having sex for any reason is shown to boost relationship satisfaction at least temporarily, though you see a much bigger increase when motivated by approach goals. However, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re having Ã¢â‚¬Å“avoidance sexÃ¢â‚¬Â pretty frequently, that can be a problem. Ã¢â‚¬Å“On that day itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s okay, but if weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re constantly avoidance-motivated, that catches up with us over time,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Muise. In the second study, people who had sex for avoidance goals more over the course of the diary felt less sexual satisfaction four months later, whereas their partners felt less desire and less commitment to the relationship!
Change your mindset HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the good news: itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s possible to revamp your thinking so that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re having sex for approach goals, rather than avoidance goals, says Muise. For instance, maybe youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been fighting with your guy and you think a good romp will help you avoid another argument. Instead, think about having sex to feel closer to each other and get back in sync. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a huge, drastic shift in thinking,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Muise. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But it does seem to have these consistently strong effects on the outcomes of our relationships.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Check out more ways to feel closer to your guyÃ¢â‚¬”in and out of the bedroom:
The Secrets of Close Couples
10 Ways to Build Trust in Your Relationship
The Secret Language of Great Couples
4 Ways to Stop Arguing
The #1 Time to Have His Back
photo: Lisa S./Shutterstock