DID YOU SEE: Wall Street Journal on why couples have sex

married sex cartoon

An article by Elizabeth Bernstein in the Wall Street Journal recently summarized findings from a couple of Canadian research studies about what constitutes satisfying sex for married couples.

For many years, scientists believed that humans had sex for a few simple reasons: to reproduce, experience physical pleasure or relieve sexual tension. Then a 2007 study from the University of Texas identified 237 expressed motives for sex. The reasons ranged from the mundane (stress reduction) to the spiritual (to get closer to God) and from the altruistic (to make the other person feel good) to the spiteful (to retaliate against a partner who cheated by cheating).

Now, two studies by University of Toronto researchers published this month in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, have divided the most common reasons why people have sex—and the ones most relevant to long-term relationships—into two broad categories of motivation: approach and avoidance. Approach motives pursue a positive outcome. (“I want to increase intimacy with my spouse” or “I want to feel closer to my partner.”) Avoidance motives aim to evade a negative outcome. (“I want to avoid conflict” or “I don’t want to feel guilty.”)

It’s a pretty interesting analysis (though focused exclusively on heterosexual married couples), with some testimonials about the value of sex therapy for couples wanting to deepen their physical intimacy.

How can you become more positively motivated when it comes to sex? If you’re feeling like you’d just rather go to sleep, try tuning into the emotional connection between you and your partner, says Julie Hanks, a clinical social worker in Salt Lake City. “Lead with what you want instead of what you don’t want to happen,” she says. 

About a year ago, Ms. Brinton decided she and her husband needed to work on their sex life. “I thought, ‘I want to enjoy sex. I want to feel connected to my husband. I want to reclaim my sexuality.’ ” So she started doing things to make herself feel sexy: She bought new lingerie and started reading erotic romance novels. Ms. Brinton also asked her husband to go to a sex therapist with her.

Her husband says he was thrilled. He figured there would be a lot of sex as homework. But, at least initially, their homework was to focus on real communication—not just small talk—about issues unrelated to sex. “I came to realize that you can’t have a great, intimate sex life until you have learned to connect outside of the bedroom,” says Mr. Brinton, who owns a custom-framing business. Eventually, their conversations led to talk of sex—and then more sex. Once “we knew how to talk about other things, we felt comfortable with the difficult questions about what the other person likes in bed,” says Mr. Brinton.

Check out the whole article here and let me know what you think.

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