Recent research has progressively shown that sex is a more emotional act for men than it is for women. Since men often communicate their feelings via action rather than speech, it makes sense that they take notice when sex diminishes in their relationships. Justin Lehmiller, a Harvard University social psychologist studying sexuality observes, "For some men, sex may be their primary way of communicating and expressing intimacy. [It] takes away their primary emotional outlet." In addition, there is a contributing biological factor when it comes to how men are affected by sex. Physical touch increases the brain's oxytocin levels in both men and women, and when the body experiences orgasm the brain releases oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones that promote attachment. Men's orgasms tend to occur more regularly and each time this rise in testosterone happens, they feel better.
As many of you might know, after putting a ring on it sex can become a rather rare occasion. (Or if you’ve simply been in a long-term relationship in general, of course.) Take, for example, Afton and Chris Mower, a Mormon couple who had never had sex before marrying and miscarried soon after the wedding. After the miscarriage, Afton’s libido decreased and the couple was not having sex for months, even a year, at a time. Chris began to keep a journal recording all aspects of their sex life and lack thereof. Eventually, Chris abandoned the diary for a book called Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch. The book encouraged the two to focus more on the other partner, rather than themselves, in order to cultivate a loving, lasting relationship. This brings us to a study published in the May issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science.
This study analyzed sex amongst couples in long-term relationships, partners aged 23 to 60. The researchers asked the 44 couples to answer questions over the course of five months about their “sexual communal strength.” This refers to the willingness to engage in sexual acts for your partner’s enjoyment, even if it doesn’t necessarily turn you on at the time. The results showed that those with high sexual communal strength felt more sexual desire and sustained it for the entirety of the study. Amy Muise, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and main author of the study commented, "We think people higher in sexual communal strength are more focused on positive outcomes in their relationship. They are having sex to enhance intimacy and feel closer to their partner rather than to please themselves, and this is what leads them to feel higher desire." Essentially if both parties are motivated to focus on the other’s needs, the couple will probably maintain mutually healthy desire.
Although the Wall Street Journal mentions, “There weren't significant gender differences,” it is interesting that those conducting the study do not mention same-sex couples in the study. I would like to know if homosexual couples were or were not included in the 44 relationships.
In regards to Mr. and Mrs. Mower, I wonder why Afton’s miscarriage is not factored into the couple’s lack of sex. It can take years to even come close to recovering from such a tragic event and I’d like to hear more about the role it played in their journey. However, it’s respectable to see that Chris recognized his own faults and felt humbled when he realized he was contributing to the unhappiness they both were experiencing.
Watch the video interview with Afton and Chris above to learn more about their story