Hard work and communication may not sound very hot, but a recent study suggests that they’re actually the keys to long-lasting satisfaction.
According to study author Jessica Maxwell, Ph.D. (c), some people believe in “sexual destiny,” the idea that sexual compatibility is something that sort of just happens—and that if things are off in the bedroom, things are off in the relationship overall. Others believe in “sexual growth,” which means that they believe sex is something partners need to work on together over the course of a relationship.
In three studies, Maxwell and her team asked men and women about their “sexpectations” and their daily sex lives. They found that people who believe more in sexual growth, as opposed to sexual destiny, usually have stronger relationships. They tend to stick it out and think that working to maintain a satisfying sex life is part of the fun.
It makes sense: Everything else in relationships — negotiating childcare, chores, finances— takes hard work and compromise. So why not with sex?
Maxwell thinks it’s because we never see the “hard work” in popular culture, or we don’t hear about it from our friends who might want us to think their sex life is enviable. But keeping things interesting, according to Maxwell, is “actual work.” Some people don’t realize that and rely on sparks alone.
Of course, that spark is also important. But so is communication and being open to new things. (Here’s a trick that will help you talk about sex with your wife.)
If there’s a lag in the bedroom—whether it’s because of a new kid, work schedule, or just knowing each others’ hot spots so well that they’ve stopped being hot—having to put in some effort isn’t a sign of the end times. In fact, it could be an opportunity to have your mind blown with something new. (Allow us to recommend one of the 45 best sex positions.)
And if you start to think of your sex life as a work in progress, she’ll be happier, even if she doesn’t see things the same way.
“One of the coolest things I thought that we found with the sexual growth belief is that those beliefs can actually carry over and benefit your romantic partner,” Maxwell said.
So don’t worry if you and your partner need to put a little effort into your sex life. All the other happy couples are doing it, too.