Monday, September 05, 2016

Sustaining relationships

Public Release: 20-Jul-2016
Come on baby, (re)light my fire
University of Rochester

Many couples find that their sexual desire has dwindled over time. It's not unusual for partners who could not keep their hands off each to gradually lose interest. But new research indicates that there are ways that couples can sustain--or relight--their passion.

"Our research shows that partners who are responsive to each other outside the bedroom are able to maintain their sexual desire," says Gurit Birnbaum, psychology professor at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. Birnbaum and her coauthors also found that women's desire is more strongly affected by their partner's responsiveness than men's desire--although men report a boost, as well.

"Responsiveness--which is a type of intimacy--is so important in a relationship because it signals that one is really concerned with the welfare of the other, but in a way that is truly open and informed about what the other cares about and wants," says Birnbaum. Responsive partners are willing to invest resources in the relationship, and show understanding at a deep level. They make the relationship feel special--that their relationship is unique--which is, at least in Western societies, what people seek from their romantic relationships.


The results indicated that when men and women perceive their partners as responsive, they feel special and think of their partner as a valuable mate, which boosted sexual desirability.

Birnbaum notes that partner responsiveness had a significantly stronger effect on women's perceptions of themselves and others, suggesting that women experienced higher levels of desire for their responsive partner because they were more likely than men to feel special and value their partner as a result of the partner's responsiveness.

"'Being nice' and things like that are not necessarily based on who the partner is and what the partner really wants," Birnbaum says. "When a mate is truly responsive, the relationship feels special and unique and he or she is perceived as valued and desirable.

"Sexual desire thrives on increasing intimacy and being responsive is one of the best ways to instill this elusive sensation over time; better than any pyrotechnic sex," Birnbaum says.

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