Believing you're destined to find the perfect partner one day instead of focusing on working out problems leads to relationship dissatisfaction, a series of studies on 1,896 Canadians and Americans has found. The authors found that understanding that a good sex life takes hard work was at the root of satisfaction in romantic relationships.
The studies, led by Jessica Maxwell of the University of Toronto in Canada, found that people who believed in 'sexual destiny' – putting the emphasis on finding the perfect partner – were more likely to feel dissatisfied in romantic relationships.
Maxwell conduced six studies, including online surveys and experiments to assess how these attitudes affected relationship satisfaction. These kinds of studies have been done before on other aspects affecting relationships, but this was the first study to make the questions about sex, Maxwell told IBTimes UK.
People higher in sexual growth beliefs tend to agree with statements such as:
- Acknowledging each other's differing sexual interests is important for a couple to enhance their sex life
- Sexual desire is likely to ebb and flow (ie. change) over the course of a relationship
- Making compromises for a partner is part of a good sexual relationship
- In a relationship, maintaining a satisfying sex life requires effort
- In order to maintain a good sexual relationship, a couple needs to exert time and energy
- Without acknowledging romantic partners' different sexual interests, a sexual relationship cannot improve
- Working through sexual problems is a sign that a couple has a strong bond
- Even satisfied couples will experience sexual challenges at times
"People who believe in sexual destiny are using their sex life as a barometer for how well their relationship is doing," she says. "They believe problems in the bedroom equal problems in the relationship as a whole."
Maxwell contrasted the believers in sexual destiny with those who believe in 'sexual growth'. These people thought that good sex is hard work and were willing to put in the effort to overcome any problems in the bedroom.
"People who believe in sexual growth not only believe they can work on their sexual problems, but they are not letting it affect their relationship satisfaction," she says.
You are what you read
Maxwell found that reading an article that pushed either one of the perspectives – destiny or growth – influenced which view people were likely to believe in.
Those who read an article from the sexual destiny perspective were also more vulnerable to bad news about their own relationship.
People high in sexual destiny beliefs more strongly agree with statements such as:
- If sexual partners are meant to be together, sex will be easy and wonderful
- It is clear right from the start how satisfying a couple's sex life will be over the course of their relationship
- A passionate sex life is a sign that two partners are meant to be
- Couples who experience sexual incompatibilities in their relationship will inevitably break up
- Troubles in a sexual relationship signify a poor match between partners
- An unsatisfying sex life suggests that the relationship was never meant to be
- If a couple is truly in love, partners will naturally have high sexual chemistry
"We had an elaborate ruse," Maxwell says. "We told them the partner had filled in a survey just like they had, and we would say 'Based on your responses it looks like you are really compatible, you're going to have great sex, good for you," or we told them, 'Unfortunately, based on your partner's responses, you're only in the 9th percentile, and even if you're not having trouble now you will in the future'."
The people who had read the sexual-destiny oriented article took bad news much worse than those who had read the article focused on working through sexual problems, Maxwell says.
The research was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.