A common stereotype about people in long-term relationships is one about sex: That there’s very little of it of going on. Or that at the very least, it’s lost its spark and fallen into the same dull routine.
However, plenty of people in committed relationships would contest this, and say that it’s actually pretty darn great.
And now a study may have found what essential difference it is that makes long-term couples have great or not-so-great sex.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is empathy.
Yes – it may not be the sexiest word in the English language, but a study published in the American Psychological Association Journal found that responsiveness and empathy towards ones partner made them more open to engaging in sexual activities.
According to Stylist, psychology professor Gurit E Birnbaum conducted a series of experiments with the aim of determining what optimum conditions are for the best sex.
Researchers conducted three experiments. The first had 153 couples have ten-minute conversations with their partners online about something either positive or negative.
Afterwards they filled out a form asking to what extent they thought their partners were responsive to them, and a second form asked participants to score how much they wanted to have sex with their partner following the conversation.
The twist, however (and it is a weird twist) was that instead of their partner having been on the other end of the online conversation, it was a researcher providing the person with pre-prepared responses ranging from empathetic, to responsive, to totally unresponsive.
And the results showed that after the conversation, while men’s desire to have sex remained unchanged, women’s exhibited a “greater desire while interacting with a responsive partner than while interacting with an unresponsive one”.
The second study had 178 heterosexual couples have similar conversations with one another – in person (so yes, actually with their partner this time) discussing positive and negative life experiences.
In this case, both men and women reported heightened sexual attraction to their partner only while talking about a positive life experience. The researchers said that this was because negative life experiences mean “the individual focuses on personal weaknesses or stressors”.
And finally, in one more experiment, 100 couples were asked to complete a diary of their nights for six weeks including writing about how they felt about the quality of their relationship based on how responsive their partner appeared to be and how they made them feel.
Both women and men said they felt “special” if their partner was responsive, though women reported this more so than men.
All in all, these experiments appear to point towards one thing: If your partner is a good listener, expresses empathy and makes you feel desired, you’ll find them a hell of a lot more sexy.
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