- Couples who have sex once a week or more report greater sexual and relationship satisfaction compared to couples who don't.
- Creating the right environment for satisfying sex requires more effort and intention than our culture tells us to believe.
- Sexual communication, acceptance, and making sex a priority provide the foundation for a healthy sex life.
Keeping the spark alive in a relationship can be challenging for many couples. Yet research shows that physical intimacy plays an important role in relationship satisfaction.
Couples who have sex once a week or more, for example, report more sexual and relationship satisfaction than couples who have sex less often. They also are better at navigating conflict by being more forgiving of their partner’s shortcomings.
Physical intimacy doesn’t happen in a vacuum, however. It tends to thrive when the right conditions are set and when intimacy is discussed and prioritized by both relationship partners. So how exactly do you prioritize sex and intimacy in your relationship? Here are the most common strategies reported by sexually satisfied couples, according to research.
1. They plan sex into their schedules. We’re taught by culture and the media that amazing sex happens spontaneously. Although this is often true in the early stages of a relationship, it is an unrealistic expectation to have in the long term. Couples with active, healthy sex lives plan sex into their schedules.
Although many people think of scheduled sex as decidedly unsexy, it really is no different than planning and then looking forward to an amazing vacation. Planning sex builds anticipation which is highly erotic. It communicates to your partner that you value them and value being intimate.
2. They share their sexual fantasies. Sexually satisfied couples aren’t afraid to describe their fantasies to each other. They aren’t afraid to admit any kinks they may have, nor are they afraid to open up about the things they want to try or that get them excited.
Sharing fantasies shouldn’t happen around the time you’re actually having sex, though, because both of you are likely feeling vulnerable. Choose a separate time and space when you can feel safe opening up.
3. They set the mood before sex. As the prolific couple’s therapist Ether Perel says, foreplay begins when the last orgasm subsides. Sexually satisfied couples actively connect, flirt, and enjoy time together during times in between when they’re actually having sex.
They choose spaces and times that are free of distractions, where they can be present and focused on each other’s pleasure. The setting doesn’t have to be perfect, but a few candles or good lighting can also help.
4. They introduce novelty. Sexual desire exists in a place where security and safety are balanced by novelty, excitement, and adventure. Sex is best when we have a sense of trust and know what our partner likes. But it truly thrives with a regular dose of newness. Research shows that couples who try at least one new thing a month—whether it be a different position or setting, have the most satisfying sex lives.
5. They don’t expect perfection. Sex is messy, imperfect, and occasionally even comical. Sexually satisfied couples realize this and don’t fall into a trap of comparing their partner or the sex they’re having to what appears in the movies or porn.
Recognize the difference between two people with real lives, bodies, and moods having sex versus that which is just fantasy. Learn to laugh or brush it off when things don’t go perfectly. Strive for a sexual growth mindset by shifting your focus to learning and improving rather than performing.
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E. Sandra Byers (2005) Relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction: A longitudinal study of individuals in long‐term relationships, The Journal of Sex Research, 42:2, 113-118
Matthews, S. J., Giuliano, T. A., Rosa, M. N., Thomas, K. H., Swift, B. A., Ahearn, N. D., ... & Mills, M. M. (2018). The battle against bedroom boredom: Development and validation of a brief measure of sexual novelty in relationships. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 27(3), 277-287.
Schwartz, P., & Young, L. (2009). Sexual satisfaction in committed relationships. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, 6(1), 1-17.
Perel, E. (2007). Mating in captivity: Unlocking erotic intelligence (p. 272). New York, NY: Harper.