The Sexual and Relationship Benefits of Sexual Mindfulness
Sexual mindfulness provides benefits for both individuals and their partners.
Posted October 7, 2021 | Reviewed by Vanessa Lancaster
- New research explores the links between sexual mindfulness and both sexual and relationship well-being.
- Sexual mindfulness involves heightened attention and non-judgment during sex.
- Practicing sexual awareness is linked to increased sexual harmony, relationship flourishing, and orgasm consistency.
New research by Leavitt et al. (2021), published in the latest issue of the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, explores the links between sexual mindfulness and sexual and relationship well-being. Their findings show that sexual mindfulness is linked to sexual and relationship benefits for individuals and their partners.
What is Sexual Mindfulness
Mindfulness involves focusing your awareness on the present moment, even when faced with distractions, as well as observing, but not judging, ourselves and others.
Sexual mindfulness, according to the authors, also consists of the two factors of awareness and non-judgment. Practicing mindfulness during sex involves being “present, aware, and accepting, as well as non-judgmental during sexual experiences.” The authors explored the links between sexual mindfulness and sexual and relationship well-being in newly married heterosexual couples in this research project.
The Present Research
The authors investigated whether sexual harmony, relationship flourishing, and orgasm consistency were related to practicing sexual mindfulness. The researchers defined sexual harmony as “when a person integrates their sexuality into other life interests and responsibilities in a way that produces balance and enhanced well-being” and when “sex is…a core part of…identity and satisfaction with life.”
Relationship flourishing was conceptualized as “when a couple can positively assess the meaning, develop personal growth, and share goals within their relationship.” The authors predicted that sexual mindfulness may help couples to achieve sexual harmony and relationship flourishing, as well as to improve “sexual functioning, sexual desire, and sexual satisfaction, which may lead to increased orgasm consistency.”
Couples who were recently married were invited to participate in a longitudinal study on relationships and transitional experiences. This study involved a nationally representative sample of heterosexual and same-sex couples. However, for this study, only data from heterosexual couples were analyzed. The average age of the participants was about 30 years old, most participants were of Caucasian descent, and most couples were college-educated.
In this research project, sexual mindfulness was measured using the Sexual Mindfulness Measure. This scale assessed the aspect of awareness using items such as “I pay attention to my emotions during sex” and “I pay attention to sexual sensations.” The aspect of non-judgment was evaluated by items such as “during sex, I sometimes get distracted by evaluating myself or my partner.”
To assess relationship flourishing, the authors used the Relationship Flourishing Scale containing items such as “my partner has helped me to grow in ways that I could not have done on my own” and “we do things that are deeply meaningful to us as a couple.”
To measure sexual harmony, the authors used the Sexual Passions scale, including items such as “the way I live my life allows me to have the variety of sexual experiences which I desire with my partner” and “excitement about sexual activities with my partner is balanced with the rest of my life.”
Finally, the researchers measured orgasm consistency; both members of the couple were asked about orgasm frequency during sex and responded on a scale ranging from “0-20% of the time” to “81-100% of the time.”
In all of their analyses, the authors controlled for age, income, and women’s reports of sexual frequency. Sexual frequency ranged from “never” to “more than once a day,” and women’s reports were highly, positively correlated with their partners’ reports of sexual frequency. The authors tested a model that predicted relationship flourishing, sexual harmony, and orgasm frequency based on sexual mindfulness for male and female partners.
The results showed that the sexual mindfulness factors of awareness and non-judgment strongly positively predicted their self-reported relationship flourishing, sexual harmony, and orgasm frequency for wives.
For husbands, the sexual mindfulness factors of awareness and non-judgment strongly positively predicted their self-reported relationship flourishing and sexual harmony, but not orgasm frequency. The fact that sexual mindfulness did not predict orgasm frequency for men is not surprising because men almost always experience orgasms during sex.
Although these relationships were somewhat less powerful, wives’ sexual mindfulness was also associated with husbands’ relationship flourishing, sexual harmony, and orgasm consistency, and husbands’ sexual mindfulness was associated with wives’ relationship flourishing, sexual harmony, and orgasm consistency. As the authors explained, “each partner had a significantly stronger effect on their outcomes than their partner had on their outcomes.”
The authors concluded that sexual mindfulness “encourages couples to slow down, to be more aware and accepting during a sexual experience, which likely allows their interactions to be more intentional.” They further contended that “as couples notice and discuss sensations and details about their sexual interactions, they likely feel more connection, compassion, and purpose within the relationship.” The authors argued that sexual mindfulness may be a “valuable resource for couples who are working to improve their connection and meaning in their romantic and sexual relationships.”
The researchers cautioned that these results are correlational, and therefore it cannot be concluded that sexual mindfulness causes changes in relationship flourishing, sexual harmony, and orgasm consistency. Further, the results may not generalize beyond the sample to older couples or couples in longer relationships. The authors believed that the results would generalize to same-sex couples, but future research is necessary to test that prediction.
Leavitt, C. E., Maurer, T. F., Clyde, T. L., Clarke, R. W., Busby, D. M., Yorgason, J. B., ... & James, S. (2021). Linking sexual mindfulness to mixed-sex couples’ relational flourishing, sexual harmony, and orgasm. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 1-14.