How can you ensure that elusive 'spark' continues to burn strong after the initial novelty of the relationship wears off?
Psychology professor Gurit E Birnbaum her and team conducted a number of experiments in order to determine the optimum conditions for the most fulfilling sex in a long-term relationship: they published their results in a journal, titled: Intimately connected: The importance of partner responsiveness for experiencing sexual desire.
Here are the three experiments:
The first experiment brought together 153 couples. They were instructed to have ten-minute conversations, either about something positive or something negative, with their significant others via online chat.
Though they believed they were communicating with their partners, they were in fact talking to a researcher, who had pre-prepared replies that ranged from empathetic and responsive ‘I’m sorry you went through that’ to completely unresponsive.
Following the conversation, everyone had to fill out a form where they indicated whether or not, and to what extent they felt that their partners were responsive to them. Another form immediately after had them fill out how much they wanted to engage in sexual activity with their significant other.
Interestingly, men’s interest level in sex stayed constant regardless of the level of responsiveness they were shown earlier. Women on the other hand experienced “greater desire while interacting with a responsive partner than while interacting with an unresponsive one”.
In the second experiment, 178 heterosexual couples were instructed to sit in front of each other. They were told to have similar conversations to the first experiment, recounting negative and positive life experiences.
This time, both men and women reported heightened sexual attraction to their partner, but only when they spoke about positive life experiences.
The researchers had an explanation for this:
[Negative memories will be] less likely to render this partner desirable as the individual focuses on personal weaknesses or stressors.
For the final experiment, 100 couples were told to complete a daily diary of their nights for six weeks; they were to record the quality of their relationship based on how special their partner made them feel, and how responsive they perceived their partner was.
After six weeks, both men and women reported feeling ‘special’ when they perceived their partner to be responsive, but women felt it more so than men.
Being responsive to a partner’s needs is a promising way to instil and maintain this elusive sensation over time.
The three studies share the same sentiment: making your partner feel valued and responding to their needs are the ingredients needed for your relationship in the long haul.
Feeling special and perceived partner mate value explained the responsiveness–desire link, suggesting that responsive partners were seen as making one feel valued as well as better potential mates for anyone and thus as more sexually desirable.