Nav: Home

Passion trumps love for sex in relationships

May 16, 2019

Men initiate sex more than three times as often as women do in a long-term, heterosexual relationship. However, previous research shows that sex happens far more often whenever the woman takes the initiative, suggesting that it is the woman who thus sets the limits to a greater extent than men do.

Psychologists at NTNU have investigated what other factors play a role for frequency of intercourse in couples in long-term relationships.

Two factors are decisive in how often women take the initiative at all.

Attitudes to casual sex


Women's attitudes to casual sex play a major role, which may seem strange at first glance when talking about sex in long-term relationships. Because we're not talking about extrapair affairs.

"This measure says describes how much women distinguish between the sexual aspects of a relationship and its relational and emotional aspects," says Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair at NTNU's Department of Psychology.

Women who tend to be more open to casual sexual relationships differentiate between positive, physical aspects of sex and relational and emotional aspects of a relationship to a greater extent. A quarrel about the dishes or who vacuumed last may therefore not be as crucial to whether the couple has intercourse.

Often, whether one has sex or not is a compromise between the parties, and women who differentiate more between sex and other aspects are probably more willing to compromise. Men are ready to have sex to a much greater extent, regardless of his attitudes.

But the woman's attitude to short-term sexual relationships, her sociosexual orientation, is not the only factor.

Got to have passion


"Passion in the relationship is of great importance for intercourse frequency," says postdoctoral fellow Trond Viggo Grøntvedt at the Department of Psychology, who is the first author of a newly published article in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences.

The psychologists at NTNU considered several factors in their study, such as how happy people are in their relationship, how committed they feel to their partner, how intimate they are, how much they trust each other and the love between them.

All of these factors certainly have their good sides. But it's not as simple as there being more sex just because the couple love and trust each other. Only the passion in the relationship can help predict the frequency of sex.

"Passion is actually the only one of these factors that matters. We didn't find any association between any of the other aspects and how often people have sex in couple relationships," says Grøntvedt.

The study included 92 couples aged 19 to 30. Relationships varied in length from one month to nine years, with an average of just under two years. The couples had sex two to three times a week on average.

Desire for others reduces passion


The longer the relationship had lasted, the less often the couples had sex. And one other factor in particular reduces the frequency.

"Love is a commitment mechanism, and there is less passion and desire in a relationship if a partner is more interested in others," says Kennair.

"Strong sexual fantasies about others than the partner don't mix well with passion in the relationship," says Associate Professor Mons Bendixen, also at the Department of Psychology.

Only women's attitudes decisive


"The most remarkable finding is perhaps that it's only the woman's attitudes to casual sex that affect the frequency of sexual intercourse," says Kennair.

However, the findings may not apply to all cultures, Bendixen notes. They primarily apply to societies with more gender equality and female sexual control.
-end-


Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Related Relationship Articles:

Symbiosis as a tripartite relationship
While viruses are typically known for their pathogenic properties, new research findings now also demonstrate a positive influence of bacteriophages on the interaction of host organisms with bacteria.
Timing is everything for the mutualistic relationship between ants and acacias
Ant-acacia plants attract ants by offering specialized food and hollow thorns in which the ants live, while the ant colony in turn defends its acacia against herbivores.
Foodie calls: Dating for a free meal (rather than a relationship)
New psychology research reveals 23-33% of women in an online study say they've engaged in a 'foodie call,' where they set up a date for a free meal.
Combing through someone's phone could lead to end of relationship -- or not
For some people, the thought of their partner, friend or colleague snooping through their phone, reading their texts and emails, is an automatic deal breaker.
How a new father views his relationship with his partner
A new father's views on his changing relationship with his wife or partner may depend in part on how much support he feels from her when he is caring for their baby, a new study suggests.
Understanding relationship break-ups to protect the reef
Unravelling the secrets of the relationship between coral and the algae living inside it will help prevent coral bleaching, University of Queensland researchers believe.
More than one in 10 Canadians want to be in an open relationship
A sizeable number of Canadian adults are either in or would like to be in an open relationship, suggests new research from the University of British Columbia.
Who should Fido fear? Depends on relationship
As states around the country move to stiffen punishments for animal cruelty, Michigan State University researchers have found a correlation between the types of animal abuse committed and the perpetrator's relationship to an animal and its owner.
Review suggests a reciprocal relationship between obesity and self-control
In a review published Feb. 26 in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, researchers explore the age-old chicken-or-the-egg conundrum but this time looking at whether obesity reduces self-control or if reduced self-control leads to obesity.
Epilepsy: Triangular relationship in the brain
When an epileptic seizure occurs in the brain, the nerve cells lose their usual pattern and fire in a very fast rhythm.
More Relationship News and Relationship Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.