You can probably think of tons of legitimate reasons to have s*x with your partner (you’re super turned on, you’re dying to try a new position, you’re both home on a Tuesday night). But >’s one reason that doesn’t pass muster: When people have s*x to avoid disappointing their partner (rather than to promote intimacy), they’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 s*x and if so, what the motivations and outcomes were. They found that when people were motivated . approach goals (to boost intimacy, get closer, feel pleasure, etc.), they felt more desire and in turn more satisfied with the s*x and the relationship. But if they had s*x for avoidance goals (to avoid conflict, prevent an argument, avoid disappointing their partner, etc.), they felt less desire and less satisfaction. Surprisingly, one person’s motivations even affected how their partner felt.
Why it hurts your bond “What was really interesting to us is that if you’re having s*x to avoid disappointing your partner, you might not feel that great about it because you’re not really into it—but you at least think it’s benefiting your partner,” says study author Amy Muise, PhD, post-doctoral fellow at University of Toronto Mississauga. “But the partner can somehow sense this, and it’s detracting from their satisfaction.”
So should you skip s*x altogether if you’re not doing it for the right reasons? Not necessarily. According to Muise, having s*x for any reason is shown to boost relationship satisfaction at least temporarily, though you see a much bigger increase when motivated . approach goals. However, if you’re having “avoidance s*x” pretty frequently, that can be a problem. “On that day it’s okay, but if we’re constantly avoidance-motivated, that catches up with us over time,” says Muise. In the second study, people who had s*x for avoidance goals more over the course of the diary felt less s*xual satisfaction four months later, whereas their partners felt less desire and less commitment to the relationship!
Change your mindset >’s the good news: it’s possible to revamp your thinking so that you’re having s*x for approach goals, rather than avoidance goals, says Muise. For instance, maybe you’ve been fighting with your guy and you think a good romp will help you avoid another argument. Instead, think about having s*x to feel closer to each other and get back in sync. “It’s not a huge, drastic shift in thinking,” says Muise. “But it does seem to have these consistently strong effects on the outcomes of our relationships.”
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