A new study has found that a secret to a happy sex life in long-term relationships is believing that it takes hard work and effort, instead of expecting sexual satisfaction to simply happen.
The study carried out by researchers from the University of Toronto looked at data from 1 900 people who are heterosexuals and those who in same-sex relationships.
Lead author and PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology, Jessica Maxwell said the “sexpectations”, which basically rely on sexual destiny or sexual growth, are so powerful they can either sustain healthy relationships or undermine them.
"People who believe in sexual destiny are using their sex life as a barometer for how well their relationship is doing, and they believe problems in the bedroom equal problems in the relationship as a whole," said Maxwell.
"Whereas 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."
Maxwell said a honeymoon phase can last up to two to three years if the sexual satisfaction is high among both sexual growth and sexual destiny believers.
"We know that disagreements in the sexual domain are somewhat inevitable over time, your sex life is like a garden, and it needs to be watered and nurtured to maintain it."
While the study didn’t really focus on the influence of media on sexual beliefs, pop culture has however conditioned people to accept and understand that other aspects of relationships take work and effort.
To prove this, Maxwell used magazine articles that either emphasized sexual destiny philosophies or advocated the belief that sex takes work and through that she was able to influence their beliefs.
The study also found that while most women consume the ideas of soulmate and romantic destiny stories, they are more likely to believe that sex takes work in long-term relationship.
"I think that this could be because there is some evidence that sexual satisfaction takes more work for women, so they rate higher on the sexual growth scale."
The study found that sexual-growth beliefs may shield the effects of problems in the bedroom, but they won’t help if the problems are too substantial.
The study also found that sexual-destiny believers who believe without a doubt that their partners are their true soulmate may be open to making changes in their sex life for the sake of their partners.
The findings also highlight the importance of counsellors and clinicians in helping couples struggling with sexual satisfaction.
The study is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.