New psychology research provides insight into the impact of sexual passion styles among long-term couples

New research sheds light on how couples’ sexual passion styles interact to predict their levels of sexual satisfaction. The findings indicate that overcontrol of passion tends to have a strong negative effect on sexual satisfaction for both partners. The study was published in Journal for marriage and family.

The sexual relationship is one of the most important contributors to the quality of a romantic relationship. Understanding this relationship is often what separates couples that flourish from those that struggle. Previous research has identified the concept of sexual passion as an element strongly associated with whether the relationship will work and how satisfied partners will be with it. To understand the relevance of sexual passion to a relationship, it is important to consider the sexual passion characteristics of both partners.

A new concept, based on the psychological self-determination theory, defines passion generally as “an activity, interest, or relationship in which individuals invest significant time and sustained effort until the passion eventually becomes an integral part of an individual’s identity.” Passion can be intrinsically motivated, by a person’s own desires and balanced with the rest of the individual’s life and identity, or external, when the source of motivation for the passion comes from outside the individual.

Sources of external motivation, when it comes to sexual passion, can for example be expectations of society about sexuality, the desire to be appreciated by others or to gain their approval.

The study conducted by Dean M. Busby and his colleagues focused on two forms of extrinsically motivated sexual passion – obsessive and inhibited.

“In several previous studies we conducted with sexual passion measures, we found that the couple style where the male had an obsessive sexual passion style and the woman had an inhibited sexual passion style was common and was problematic,” explained Busby, the Camilla E. Kimball Professor at Brigham Young University. “However, in these previous studies, we did not have a chance to drill down and look at these couples more specifically with dyadic analysis. This led us to the current study.”

According to the researchers, “Obsessive sexual passion is defined as an externally motivated desire to be sexual that is undercontrolled so that it does not remain in harmony with other important aspects of life and causes individual and relational difficulties. Inhibited sexual passion is still a passion, but per by definition, it is overcontrolled so that the individual is plagued by constant feelings of inhibition or hesitation in expressing his passion.”

Participants were 725 couples recruited from the Bovitz Inc. and Amazon Mechanical Turk platforms. All participants were US citizens. Their average age was 39 and the average duration of the relationship was 11.4 years. More than three-quarters of the participants were white and over half of them earned less than $40,000 per year. Couples were required to be in a committed relationship for at least two years.

Participants completed ratings of sexual passion for themselves and for their partner that focused on obsessive sexual passion (e.g. self: “I get so involved in my sexual interests with my partner that they use up all my time and energy”; perception of partner: “My partner gets so involved in her/his sexual interests with me that they use all her/his time and energy.”) and inhibited sexual passion (e.g. self: “I often feel reluctant to act on sexual urges that I have for my partner”; perception of partner: “My partner often feels reluctant to act on sexual urges that she/he has for me “).

Participants also completed an assessment of sexual satisfaction (the Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction for one part of the sample and the Golombok Rust Inventory of Sexual Satisfaction for the other).

The results showed that obsessive sexual passion interacts with inhibited sexual passion in their effects on sexual satisfaction. Sexual satisfaction of partners was reduced when men exercised little control over their sexual passion (compulsive sexual passion) and their female partners exercised too much control (inhibited sexual passion).

“Because partners in sexual relationships usually use each other as reference points to evaluate their sexuality, they may not think of their sexual passion as an individual matter,” Busby told PsyPost. “Therefore, when a person feels or is labeled obsessive in their sexuality, the other partner is likely to have the opposite label.”

“This means that especially when a man is considered to have a passion style that is compulsive – meaning that it is difficult for him to keep his sexual interests or passion in harmony with the rest of his life and relationship – and his partner has an inhibited sexual passion style, these two types of passion reinforce each other and push each other to extremes so that their sexual relationship is much less satisfying than it could be.”

Women who exerted little control over their sexual passion resulted in higher levels of sexual satisfaction, especially when their male partners exerted too much control.

“It was interesting and surprising that for women, obsessive sexual passion for their current relationship was never negative,” Busby said. “This is probably because women in general are more likely to have an inhibited sexual passion style, so they and their partner are likely to feel that she’s a bit obsessive when she’s actually in a healthy and normal place in terms of her sexual passion when she’s not inhibited.”

“Even if she is indeed obsessive about her sexuality with her partner, this may be a net positive situation as she and her partner view the sexual relationship as more important than the typical couple, so it does not appear to have any negative effects.”

Overall, the study showed that inhibited sexual passion had a strong negative effect on sexual satisfaction in both partners. Interestingly, the researchers noted that the congruence of the couple’s passion styles “was not very important except at extreme levels where it may be necessary to have one person more inhibited to counteract the strong compulsive passion of the partner, especially when men were high on compulsive sexual passion. “

The study highlights the importance of interaction between sexual passion styles of partners for the quality of romantic relationships. However, it should be noted that the sample of the study was not representative of the US population, and that the results may be different on a more representative sample. In addition, the study design does not permit any cause-and-effect conclusions.

“We don’t yet know what the effects of these sexual passion styles are over time,” Busby said. “It may be that, for example, compulsive passion has largely positive effects for women and sometimes for men, but that this is not the case over time. Also, all of the couples were in a committed relationship with one partner for at least two years, so the results may not apply to individuals and couples in different circumstances.”

“In general, an inhibited sexual passion style is quite problematic, and more so than obsessive sexual passion, but especially in the context of a relationship where the other partner is considered by one or both members of the dyad to be obsessive,” he added. . “Practitioners and scholars would benefit from learning more about what leads to an inhibited sexual passion style and what are effective interventions to reduce these inhibitions in the context of a committed relationship. However, interventions are likely to be most effective if they help both partners to move toward each other into the harmonious realm rather than solely focusing on mere inhibition or obsession.”

The study, “Sexual passion in couple relationships: Emerging patterns from dyadic response surface analysis,” was written by Dean M. Busby, Veronica Hanna-Walker, Nathan D. Leonhardt, and James J. Kim.

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