There’s a new article every week on how sex frequency affects relationships. Some say once a week, some say multiple times, my personal vote is as often as you damn well please. But a new article in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, explains why this may be the case— the relationship between sexual frequency and relationship happiness just isn’t as straightforward as you may think.
The research comes from Florida State University, and lead author and psychological scientist Lindsey L. Hicks explained that the frequency with which couples have sex doesn’t have influence on whether or not they report being happywith their relationship, but it does affect their “more spontaneous, automatic, gut-level feelings about their partner.”
They looked at 216 newly weds, questioned them about their relationships, asked them about how often had sex, and tested their instinctive, “automatic attitudes about their partners.” And even though they didn’t explicitly rate their relationships as better or their happiness as higher when they had more sex, the more often couples had sex, the more strongly they associated their partners with positive qualities.
So something complicated is going on, where we may not admit our real happiness level in a relationship, but out automatic associations reveal how we really feel. And how we really feel is linked to how often we have sex. Hick explains:
“These studies illustrate that some of our experiences, which can be either positive or negative, affect our relationship evaluations whether we know it or not.”
So what can we do with this information? I talked to Hicks about the findings. “I think this research demonstrates that our beliefs and ideas about what is most important in relationships may not always be correct,” Hicks tells Bustle. “In this case, the data suggest that the spouses in our sample didn’t consider sexual frequency to be important for their relationship satisfaction, or at least that they prioritized other things over sexual frequency when thinking about how happy the were in their relationships, but the frequency with which they have sex did influence their gut-level attitudes.This is important in light of previous research suggesting that gut-level attitudes ultimately predict whether or not couples end up becoming dissatisfied with their relationship.”
But does this mean you should be trying to have more sex? Not necessarily. “[It] could be that different reasons for having sex (e.g., to be closer to your partner versus to avoid a “sex rut”) have different effects on people’s gut-level attitudes towards their partners,” says Hicks. So don’t feel like you have to up the sex frequency, but it is interesting that sex may be affecting our happiness even without realizing it. Here are other surprising facts about relationship happiness:
1. Working Hard Isn’t A Problem
It’s long been thought that work-a-holic behavior was a relationship killer— and if you’ve ever been stuck waiting at home, you can see why. But research shows working a lot isn’t that bad for your relationship. A study of 285 couples found that if you lose time as couple to working, you make up for it with quality time when you’re together. Not too bad.
2. High Standards Don’t Lead To Disappointment
If you ever think your friend is too picky or has standards that are too high, it might be time to reconsider. A study of 135 newlyweds found that those who had high standards also had high relationship satisfaction. So dream big.
3. Your Phone Is A Happiness Killer
I know, everyone has one so you might think we would all be used to them by now. But relationship A study from University of Essex found that the quality of conversation was less high and there was less feeling of closeness when there was a phone near by. Add that keeping your partner up at night while you’re scrolling, constantly updating on social media, or the other million annoying things people do with their phones, and it’s easy to see how relationship satisfaction can decrease faster than you can scroll your thumb.
Originally posted on Bustle