Responsiveness is the key to keeping the sexual spark alive in long-term relationships, new research finds.
A deep level of understanding and the willingness to invest resources is central to responsiveness.
A responsive partner shows understanding to their other half, rather than dismissing their problems or ignoring them.
It is about being aware and responding to the emotional needs of the other person.
Professor Gurit Birnbaum, the first author of this study, said:
“Our research shows that partners who are responsive to each other outside the bedroom are able to maintain their sexual desire.
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.”
For the research 100 heterosexual couples kept diaries over six weeks.
They reported their own sexual desire and the responsiveness of their partner outside the bedroom.
The results showed that both men and women felt more sexual desire when their partner was more responsive to their nonsexual needs.
Women in particular responded to higher levels of responsiveness in their partner with greater levels of sexual desire.
The study’s authors explain:
“People who perceive that their partners understand and appreciate their needs can view sexual interactions as one way to enhance intimate experiences with responsive partners and, accordingly, may experience greater desire for sex with them.”
Professor Birnbaum said:
“Being nice’ and things like that are not necessarily based on who the partner is and what the partner really wants.
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.”
The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Birnbaum et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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