Bringing sexy back: A new BSF-supported study brings promising news for couples looking to put the spark back in their sex lives

It’s a story that’s all too familiar for many couples: they may still love each other, but their sexual desire dwindles over time. But according to new research funded by BSF, there’s hope for couples wishing to rekindle the flames of passion.

Gurit Birnbaum

Gurit Birnbaum

According to Gurit Birnbaum, psychology professor at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, and Harry Reis, psychology professor at the University of Rochester, there’s a direct connection between the way partners respond to each other outside the bedroom, and what happens in the bedroom.

“Partners who are responsive to each other outside the bedroom are much more likely to maintain their sexual desire,” said Birnbaum. “Responsiveness is very much a type of intimacy in and of itself. It signals that one is really concerned with the welfare of the other, but in a way that is truly open and informed about what the other cares about and wants.”

This theory is at the root of many romantic comedies, not to mention love stories written throughout the ages. However, with this study, which was recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, there’s now scientific evidence to back this up.

Harry Reis

Harry Reis

The study was partially prompted by a concept that psychologists call the “intimacy-desire paradox.” While intimacy usually represents a sense of the familiar, desire is often equated with the notion of something new and unexplored. This had led some scholars to believe that long-term intimacy could actually inhibit sexual desire.

Birnbaum and Reis’s new study debunks this theory, and even indicates that under certain circumstances, there may not be a paradox in the first place.

As part of the study, 100 couples were asked to keep a diary for six weeks. Both partners reported on their own level of sexual desire each day as well as their perceptions of their partner’s responsiveness. They also reported their own levels of feeling special and perceptions of their partner’s value as a mate.

The results indicated that when men and women perceived their partners as responsive, they were more inclined to feel special and think of their partner as a valuable mate. This, in turn, boosted their mutual sexual desirability.

Reis hopes the study will be useful for therapists and psychologists who work with couples looking to get sexual satisfaction back into their lives.

“The goal of being more responsive to one another is something that couples can realistically work on together,” he said. “It’s not just about the sex itself. It’s about knowing and trusting each other well enough to communicate your needs, and to make your partner feel special.”