You and your partner have sex every so often now. But you’re just as happy in your relationship as when you two had it all the time, right? At least, that’s what psychology often says. Yet according to a new study, couples that have sex less frequently might just be saying they’re satisfied. Their gut-reactions could be telling a different story.
For the study, published in Psychological Science, researchers from Florida State University gave 216 newlyweds a survey about relationship satisfaction. Participants rated qualities of their marriage and their overall satisfaction in terms of one’s relationship, partner, and marriage. They were also asked how often they and their partner had sex. After completing the survey, participants sat in front of a computer for another task: a picture of one’s partner appeared for 300 ms, then a word was shown. Participants were then asked to classify whether the word was positive or negative.
Researchers found, just like in previous studies, that there was no correlation between how often a couple had sex and how satisfied they reported being in the relationship. But when looking at the automatic response data from the computer task, researchers saw that the couples who had more sex, relative to the group, were more likely to quickly associate their partners with positive words. They compared this data to a longitudinal study that collected sex frequency for 112 newlyweds over time—in that study, too, partners were more likely to subconsciously associate their partners with positive cues when they were having sex more frequently.
“Our findings suggest that we're capturing different types of evaluations when we measure explicit and automatic evaluations of a partner or relationship,” Lindsey L. Hicks, lead study author, said in a statement. “Deep down, some people feel unhappy with their partner but they don't readily admit it to us, or perhaps even themselves.”
Is there a sexual disconnect between you and your partner? No worries—there’s a lot you can do. Here, 5 ways to get out of a sex rut, according to experts, and how to bring the passion back into your sex life.