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The Secret To Good Sex Isn’t What You Think

A study shows that people who believe good sex requires effort have happier relationships

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Illustration: Vocativ
Nov 08, 2016 at 4:55 PM ET

Despite all Hollywood portrayals to the contrary, the secret to a happy sex life isn’t finding your perfect soulmate — instead, it’s the belief that good sex takes work and doesn’t happen magically. That’s according to a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finding that people with realistic expectations about the effort required to maintain sexual satisfaction in a longterm relationship have — you guessed it — greater sexual satisfaction.

“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 lead author Jessica Maxwell of the University of Toronto in a press release. “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.”

Researchers surveyed nearly 1,900 participants across six different studies about their relationships and beliefs about the causes of sexual satisfaction. Specifically, they measured the degree to which participants held beliefs around sexual growth (for example, that sexual satisfaction is gained from hard work) and sexual destiny (meaning that sexual satisfaction comes from finding the right partner). Those who ranked high on sexual growth beliefs also ranked high in terms of their relationship and sexual satisfaction.

More The Secret To Good Sex In A Long-Term Relationship

When it came to those ranking high on sexual destiny beliefs, though, things were a bit more complicated. Those who also experienced high sexual disagreements in their relationships reported lower relationship quality. In other words, the satisfaction of those with sexual destiny beliefs was more volatile and dependent on the overall compatibility of their relationship.

“Sexual growth believers expect that they may need to work to achieve sexual satisfaction, and hence are less distressed when they encounter situations, such as sexual disagreements or the transition to parenthood, in which work may be required for satisfaction,” the study explains. “Conversely, sexual destiny believers expect that sexual satisfaction will just happen with a compatible partner, and consequently experience declines in relationship quality if incompatibilities arise.”

So, rather than expecting the right partner to come along and bring you lifelong mind-blowing sex, it’s best to assume that maintaining a good sex life will require effort. Or, put another, cheesier way, Maxwell says, “Your sex life is like a garden, and it needs to be watered and nurtured to maintain it.”