Your sex life is a little bit like playing the piano. It only gets really good after you’ve expended a lot of hard work and effort. And just as you can’t expect to sit down and bang out some Tchaikovsky your first time in front of the ivories, neither should you think the sex will be perfect – even if you think you have found your “soulmate.”
A study out of the University of Texas warns against this and other “sexpectations.” Basically, just because the sex is lackluster doesn’t mean she’s not your soulmate, and just because it’s great doesn’t mean she is.
“People who believe in sexual destiny are using their sex life as a barometer for how well their relationship is doing, and they believe problems in the bedroom equal problems in the relationship as a whole,” says lead author Jessica Maxwell.
“Whereas people who believe in sexual growth not only believe they can work on their sexual problems, but they are not letting it affect their relationship satisfaction.”
Maxwell’s work derived its dataset from approximately 1,900 participants, and included people from both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. It was the first study to measure the effect of people’s so-called “implicit beliefs” in the context of sexuality.
Maxwell defines the “honeymoon period” of a relationship as lasting about two to three years. During this time, the sex is rated as “great” by both the “sexual destiny” and “sexual growth” camps. But when the honeymoon’s over, and sexual desire is not always a given, it’s time to put your nose to the sexual grindstone and focus upon growing the intimate relationship.
“We know that disagreements in the sexual domain are somewhat inevitable over time,” says Maxwell. “Your sex life is like a garden, and it needs to be watered and nurtured to maintain it.”
Unfortunately, various forces – pop culture chief among them – actively work against couples accepting the sexual growth paradigm, and set us up for long-term problems in the bedroom. Whether it’s a childhood spent watching Disney princesses finally nabbing their princes, or young adulthood believing the modern mythologies of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, people are entering into relationships with an unrealistic “soulmate philosophy” that leaves them poorly equipped to handle the inevitable sexual conflicts and problems that arise over time.
“Sexual-destiny beliefs have a lot of similarities with other dysfunctional beliefs about sex, and I think it’s important to recognize and address that,” Maxwell said.
The study has been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.