“For better or worse, romantic partners usually have to rely heavily on each other to fulfil their sexual needs.” So begins a new paper that attempts to plug a gap in understanding sexual ideals — and what might buffer against dissatisfaction if reality doesn’t quite match.
Sexual incompatibilities are not only common, but are difficult to resolve even with couples therapy, note Rhonda N. Balzarini at York University and colleagues in their paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes. Despite this, there’s been only limited work to understand precisely what constitutes an individual’s ideal sex life. Earlier work has generally focused on narrow aspects, such as how often a person would ideally like to have sex, or on levels of sexual desire. For this new research, the team developed a broader, 30-item Sexual Ideals Scale, which asks about specific behaviours (“My partner engages in oral sex with me as much as I want my ideal partner to”, for example) but also about the importance of feeling safe and in love, or of dirty talk, for instance.
No matter how much you love your partner, there are always going to be things about them that get on your nerves. These can be fairly superficial — not liking the way they fold the laundry, for example, or hating their favourite TV show. Other problems can be more serious — fundamental failures to communicate or disagreements on big decisions like having children. There’s also evidence that we continue to repeat these patterns in new relationships, even when we hope to see a change.
But while all couples argue, they don’t all do it in the same way. Techniques for managing conflict have been explored by François Bogacz and team from the University of Geneva in a new study published in Humanities and Social Sciences Communication. The study’s findings suggest that mediation — negotiation facilitated by a neutral third party such as a therapist or counsellor — may be the best way for couples to resolve serious conflict.
You were hoping to go out with friends on Saturday night, but your partner really wants to have a quiet night at home instead…
Your life’s going great, but then your partner is offered their dream job in a town you’d happily never visit, let alone live in…
So what do you do? Do you stand your ground? Or you do you sacrifice your own goals for the sake of your partner’s?
It’s a dilemma familiar to anyone who’s ever been in a relationship. It would seem reasonable, then, to assume that research could tell us what the likely impacts would be on individual wellbeing, and on the health of the relationship itself. However, as the authors of a new paper published in Psychological Bulletin point out, there are two conflicting hypotheses for how sacrifices should pan out.
Though some research has challenged the common conception that scent is the most evocative of all the senses, it can be undeniably powerful when you catch a whiff of something that jogs a memory. We also know that scent plays a part in sexual attraction: people with a keener sense of smell often find sex more pleasant and may even have more orgasms during sex, and the scent of a partner can reduce stress and increase feelings of safety.
Introduce a single man to a single woman and the odds are that he will over-estimate how sexually interested she is in him, while she will under-estimate his sexual interest in her. This sex difference in misperceptions has been found by researchers time and again. The conventional explanation is that these are evolved adaptions — that’s it’s more evolutionarily costly for a man to miss a chance to mate with an interested partner than it is for a woman, and more costly for a woman to engage in sex with an uncommitted man than vice versa. But now a new study, published in Psychological Science, challenges this notion, and provides some alternative explanations.
Break-ups are always hard, with love and companionship giving way to feelings of resentment and the souring of once treasured memories. Yet people often continue to harbour positive feelings towards their exes long after the relationship is over. And that may be particularly the case if you’re a man, according to a recent study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science. Researchers have found that, in heterosexual relationships at least, men tend to view their exes more positively than do women.
Entering into a new intimate relationship can feel exciting and full of possibility. And for many, it may seem to offer the chance to escape the patterns of our previous relationships: perhaps there will be less arguing, or maybe the new relationship will provide a greater sense of satisfaction. But a recent study suggests that once the initial honeymoon period is over, the dynamics of a new relationship may end up being pretty similar to the last one.
As everyone knows, the nature of romantic relationships usually changes over time. An early period of intense attraction tends to develop into a less fiery, deeper attachment bond. According to evolutionary arguments, the early stage, which typically lasts a few years, gives the pair the time and proximity that’s required for developing a deeper nurturing, supportive – and predictable – relationship. While this type of attachment is important for rearing children, and for ongoing wellbeing, it’s not necessarily great news for passion.
“Though passion can still be experienced in the later stages, it tends to decline, on average,” note the authors of a new study, published in Social Psychology. They go on, however, to report that there is a group of people who experience higher sustained levels of both supportive warmth and nurturance and eroticism than is typical in relationships – only, they don’t get both from the same partner.
Sex is an important part of most romantic relationships – and when couples are not on the same page about their sex life, it can become a source of frustration. Research has found that couples have sex about 1 or 2 times a week, but about half of sexual advances between partners go unfulfilled.
A preprint uploaded recently to PsyArXiv sheds some light on how responses to sexual advances influence individuals’ feelings of sexual and relationship satisfaction. The study suggests that while having an advance accepted leaves partners feeling more content, this effect may be short-lived compared to the dissatisfaction of being rejected.
The power (or powerlessness) of parents to shape their children for good or ill continues to preoccupy psychologists and the public alike. Among evolutionary-minded developmental psychologists, one specific idea is that girls’ later attitudes to relationships is influenced by their fathers’ behaviour. For instance, US research has found that girls with disengaged, harsh, and often absent fathers are known to start having sex at a younger age, and to have more sexual partners. However many questions about these findings remain. For example: might other aspects of the girls’ childhoods be involved; what about genetic effects; and which aspects of poor-quality fathering are the most consequential?
A new study of pairs of sisters, published in Developmental Psychology, provides some specific answers, particularly that it is contact with a poor-quality father, not paternal absence, that affects their daughters’ later relationships, including their expectations of men, and, in turn, their sexual behaviour.