Sexual Satisfaction and Relationship Satisfaction
Key Factors and Interconnectedness
Valentine’s Day increases the focus on sex and love for people in many relationships. Sexual satisfaction is something we all want to a greater or lesser degree, but rarely talk about, especially with our partners. What factors tend to affect sexual satisfaction in a partnership? Several studies have looked into this correlation and in particular they have found that positive self-esteem and body image, engaging in intimate behaviours, variety and positive communication all predicted sexual satisfaction.
Positive Sexual Self-Esteem
Self-esteem and positive body image are both predictors of sexual satisfaction, especially for women. This makes sense, as it is hard to let go and enjoy sex when one is worried about one’s attractiveness to a partner or body shape in general. Interestingly, however, women feel more desired by their partners than men do. Acceptance and feeling desired are huge aphrodisiacs which can give emotional space to let go and express oneself fully, spontaneously and without inhibitions. In the end, feeling sexy, regardless of body weight, translates into having a better, more satisfying time for all partners.
Sexually satisfied people also practice more emotionally intimate behaviours as well as sexually intimate ones. Cuddling, kissing and laughing together lead to more sexual satisfaction. This does not mean ditching raw and passionate sex. It does mean though that including some of the more emotionally connecting behaviours is important to do at least sometimes, for most people to feel sexually satisfied. Setting a romantic mood such as lighting candles, choosing the right music or dressing up can also also enhance sexual satisfaction on many levels. Going to a lot of trouble is not necessary, and not necessarily every time, however making an effort regularly seems to increase sexual satisfaction.
Communication is always important, inside and outside of sex play, and contributes to sexual satisfaction. Both sexual and nonsexual disclosure increase relationship satisfaction as well. Texting, sending cards, teasing a partner outside of sexual activity all contribute to sexual satisfaction. Communication during sex also unsurprisingly increases sexual satisfaction. Whether it is raunchy dirty talk or tender “I love you”s that you say, as long as it turns on both you and your partner, it is likely to enhance your pleasure and connection in the moment.
Variety is the spice of life, and, not surprisingly, adding variety to sex increases sexual satisfaction. Whether it be a new sexual position or fantasy, a new location or activity, novelty makes a big difference. It is not only the novelty itself that enhances satisfaction, it is the deepening of erotic connection through risk that also contributes to both sexual and relationship satisfaction.
It stands to reason that more pleasure leads to more sexual satisfaction as well. The number of orgasms and frequency of sex contribute to satisfaction, however quantity does not replace quality. A boring, disconnected orgasm does not necessarily lead to more sexual satisfaction, and sex does not have to have orgasms for everyone in order to feel satisfying, however when orgasms and frequency become a challenge, then the satisfaction tends to decrease. Women tend to orgasm more easily during oral sex than intercourse or hand stimulation, thus the prevalence of oral sex tends to increase sexual satisfaction. Of course some people do not enjoy or feel self-conscious when receiving oral pleasure, but giving and receiving oral sex tends to correlate with higher sexual satisfaction for all genders.
Sexual satisfaction seems to lead to relationship satisfaction, however the reverse is not necessarily true. Looking at sexual and relationship satisfaction at two different time periods, one study revealed that sexual satisfaction seems to correlate with subsequent relationship satisfaction. Higher sexual satisfaction now predicts higher relationship satisfaction at a later date. Lower sexual satisfaction now predicts lower relationship satisfaction at a later date. However relationship satisfaction does not seem to influence sexual satisfaction, debunking the idea that dysfunctional sex is the product of poor relationship quality, though it may certainly not help. Lowered essential factors listed above of communication, effort and variety will clearly affect a relationship negatively, however healing a relationship does not magically cure sexual challenges and satisfaction. Ultimately, if you want to have a healthy relationship, a strong sexual connection will help, accounting for perhaps 15-20% of the relationship satisfaction. And great sex has lots of other benefits too. Nurturing the erotic connection thus does not begin and end only on special occasions such as Valentine’s Day, birthdays and anniversaries. A little effort all year goes a long way towards sexual and relationship satisfaction. While it is not necessarily the most important aspect of a relationship to put effort into, it may be the most fun!
Carlyle Jansen is the founder of Good For Her, a sexuality shop and workshop centre in Toronto. If you have questions or comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to goodforher.com