Passion trumps love for sex in relationships

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Men initiate sex more than three times as often as women do in a long-term, heterosexual relationship. However, previous research shows that sex happens far more often whenever the woman takes the initiative, suggesting that it is the woman who thus sets the limits to a greater extent than men do.

Psychologists at NTNU have investigated what other factors play a role for frequency of intercourse in couples in . Two factors are decisive in how often take the initiative at all.

Attitudes to casual sex

Women's attitudes to play a major role, which may seem strange at first glance when talking about sex in long-term relationships, because we're not talking about extrapair affairs.

"This measure describes how much women distinguish between the sexual aspects of a relationship and its relational and emotional aspects," says Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair at NTNU's Department of Psychology.

Women who tend to be more open to casual sexual relationships differentiate between positive, physical aspects of sex and relational and emotional aspects of a relationship to a greater extent. A quarrel about the dishes or who vacuumed last may therefore not be as crucial to whether the couple has intercourse.

Often, whether one has sex or not is a compromise between the parties, and women who differentiate more between sex and other aspects are probably more willing to compromise. Men are ready to have sex to a much greater extent, regardless of his attitudes.

But the woman's to short-term sexual relationships, her sociosexual orientation, is not the only factor.

Got to have passion

"Passion in the relationship is of great importance for intercourse frequency," says postdoctoral fellow Trond Viggo Grøntvedt at the Department of Psychology, who is the first author of a newly published article in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences.

The psychologists at NTNU considered several factors in their study, such as how happy people are in their relationship, how committed they feel to their partner, how intimate they are, how much they trust each other and the love between them.

All of these factors certainly have their good sides. But too simple to say that couples have more sex just because they love and trust each other. Only the passion in the relationship can predict the frequency of sex. "Passion is actually the only one of these factors that matters. We didn't find any association between any of the other aspects and how often people have sex in couple relationships," says Grøntvedt.

The study included 92 couples aged 19 to 30. Relationships varied in length from one month to nine years, with an average of just under two years. The couples had sex two to three times a week on average.

Desire for others reduces passion

The longer the relationship has lasted, the less often the couples had sex. And one other factor in particular reduces the frequency. "Love is a commitment mechanism, and there is less passion and desire in a relationship if a partner is more interested in others," says Kennair.

"Strong sexual fantasies about people other than the partner don't mix well with in the ," says Associate Professor Mons Bendixen, also at the Department of Psychology.

Only women's attitudes decisive

"The most remarkable finding is perhaps that it's only the woman's attitudes to casual sex that affect the frequency of sexual intercourse," says Kennair.

However, the findings may not apply to all cultures, Bendixen notes. They primarily apply to societies with more gender equality and female sexual control.

Explore further

Using Tinder doesn't result in more casual sex

More information: How intercourse frequency is affected by relationship length, relationship quality, and sexual strategies using couple data, DOI: 10.1037/ebs000017 ,
Citation: Passion trumps love for sex in relationships (2019, May 16) retrieved 20 September 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

May 16, 2019
Sex is for making babies. That's why it was invented. What else would it be for? What other biological function would it serve? So if people are using it for other purposes then they're doing it wrong, and like any neurotic affectation it is making them sick.

We're tropical animals. We evolved with very high attrition rates and our repro rate adjusted to compensate. So of course we're preoccupied with sex.

But a million years of tribal life has domesticated us. It has drastically altered our natural physical state. Birthing human babies is difficult and dangerous. The danger increases as a woman ages and this becomes more obvious to her with each successive baby.

Let's see what else... male strategy for successful gene propagation is quantity. A woman however selects mates for quality as her opportunities for propagation are far more limited.

May 16, 2019
Sex without the traditional, biological result will soon compel both parties to seek out more fruitful partnerings whether they realize it or not. And no amount of therapy can change this for long.

Religion - the fear of god - and fear of social repercussion are the traditional methods of sustaining the unnatural state of marriage, and humans have been selected over 1000s of gens for their ability to conform to this domestication, for the good of the tribe.

But sparing that, there is nothing biological whatsoever to keep people in relationships. Women will continue to attempt to trade up and men will continue to attempt to impregnate anything that walks.

Older women will avoid conceiving while continuing to play the game of catch and release as long as they can. Men will continue to attempt to spawn with younger women who will wish the same with proven winners with superior genes.

May 16, 2019
So we can see what an enormous waste of time and resources human sexuality sans conception really is and how deeply it poisons society. And we can appreciate that future gens will seek to rid themselves of it entirely, just as they have done in the past.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more