A recent article in The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy presents research on the connection between heterosexual relationship satisfaction and the desired frequency of sex. The researchers report that 46% of men and 58% of women reported that they were satisfied with their current frequency of sex in their relationships. Overwhelmingly the dissatisfied men were interested in greater frequency while two thirds of women were interested in having more sex.
The researchers state: “Little is known of the extent to which heterosexual couples are satisfied with their current frequency of sex and the degree to which this predicts overall sexual and relationship satisfaction. While I understand their sentiment in the context of sexological research, in the context of popular culture and the state of sexuality coaching, the relationship between the frequency of sex and relationship satisfaction is epic. Simply taking in aggregate the discussions at every Girls’ Night, poker night, coffee date, shopping trip or bowling night would support that research without doubt.
The message we get from popular culture is that any sexual dissatisfaction with our partner is the beginning of the end; like the current state of dissatisfaction in the relationship is just how it is now. This is especially true after a couple has children or has reached that seven-year itch mark in their long-term relationship. Popular culture has institutionalized the ‘reality’ that once you have children or have been together a long time your sex life will dwindle and simply be something you endure.
It is time to crush that myth. It is time to culturally adopt a solution-focused mindset around the co-creation of a satisfying relationship. Holistically, that includes a mutually satisfying sexual relationship.
It isn’t surprising that couples experience differences in their individual interest in sex. We are each our own universe. Our desire ebbs and flows. Our lives become busy and then open up. Our connection to partners deepens and wanes and deepens again. Our bodies change. Our relationship with our sexuality and sex itself evolves. All of that is important to recognize as the natural course of a relationship.
It is time to recognize that we each play a role in whether or not we are satisfied in our relationships. The snapshot the researchers provided of roughly half of men and women reporting dissatisfaction in frequency of sex leading to dissatisfaction in their relationships rings true. Although it is disconcerting, it is important to view the phenomenon as resolvable.
The lamentations heard among friends of experiencing unsatisfactory sex lives do serve a purpose. I heartily encourage open-minded, sex-positive sharing among friends. It is a valuable way to learn from one another and gain perspective. The difference is we must jettison the mindset that it is only a matter of time before we each must mourn the inevitable end of our sex lives.
Communication about sexual dissatisfaction can feel uncomfortable and even threatening. However, if we work to culturally reframe from problem-focused to solution-focused, the communication feels much less heavy and dire and more fun and proactive. We need to claim and change the rhetoric from “oh well, that is just what happens to “time to improve communication, exploration and creativity in our relationship. It is important to view any sexual dissatisfaction as an opportunity for growth and evolution with our partner.
I encourage the mindset of collaborative evolution between and among partners. Collaborative evolution means we take each other along on our journeys of personal evolution. The concept honors that we are each an individual who is changing and evolving on our own while it also honors the health and quality of the relationship as we share that evolution with our partner. Collaborative evolution requires direct, honest communication about our satisfaction with the relationship and necessitates a solution-focused, proactive perspective.
In the wake of this research, take the opportunity to explore and discuss ways you might improve the overall sexual satisfaction in your relationship. Adopt a fun, creative and solution-oriented perspective during your discussions and make them a matter of course. Collaborative evolution builds a strong foundation and creates a dynamic relationship satisfactory for all.