“I want you to want me!”: How sexual desire changes over the course of the relationship

“I want you to want me!”: How sexual desire changes over the course of the relationship

A study recently published in Archives of Sexual Behavior investigated the correlation between sexual desire and couple satisfaction, in particular on the oscillation of male and female desire over time (McNulty et al., 2019).


Advertising message It is now well known how much sexual desire and understanding in the bedroom are important for the success of a stable and lasting relationship. In this regard, the authors have set themselves the goal of investigating a particular area of ‚Äč‚Äčinterest for long-lasting relationships: how desire, over time, changes in men and women within an exclusive relationship (McNulty et al., 2019).

Understanding and sexual behavior are distinctive characteristics of romantic relationships (Hazan & Zeifman, 1994) and it is precisely because of their importance that they have numerous critical implications for the well-being of the couple (Maxwell & McNulty, 2019; McNulty, 2016). A study conducted by McNulty and colleagues (2016) highlighted how sexual satisfaction is able to significantly predict changes in relationship satisfaction; in fact, sexually satisfied individuals are more willing to stay long within an exclusive monogamous relationship (Day et al., 2015).

Despite the importance of sexual satisfaction within the couple, it is quite rare for both partners to maintain the same levels of desire over the years and it is common for one partner to have a greater desire than the other (e.g. Risch et al., 2003).

In long-term relationships, several studies have shown that the frequency of sexual intercourse drops dramatically as the years go by (Ard, 1977; McNulty et al., 2016); there is some scientific evidence that seems to support the hypothesis that women show a more marked drop in sexual desire than male partners (e.g. Arndt, 2009; Graham et al., 2017; Murray & Milhausen, 2012).

Advertising message In a study conducted by Byers and Lewis (1988), the authors found that 50% of the subjects belonging to their sample, at least once, disagreed with their partner about having a sexual relationship ; the disagreements particularly concerned women who refused a sexual act desired by their partner. Furthermore, women seem to report a lower general level of sexual desire than men (eg Murray & Milhausen, 2012).

The present study set itself the objective of investigating, within a sample made up of 314 subjects (all involved in a stable relationship), if couples experienced different rates of sexual desire compared to their partners. Two further variables, namely gestation and motherhood, were taken into consideration in relation to how much they influenced female desire (McNulty et al., 2019).

The results showed that in women sexual desire tended to decrease more rapidly over time than the desire of the male counterpart; men did not report a significant decrease in desire. Furthermore, gestation and childbirth further diminished female (but not male) desire, accentuating the already present differentiation between the sexes. Finally, the decline in female sexual desire was able to significantly predict the decline in the couple’s relationship satisfaction (McNulty et al., 2019).