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Scientists have discovered the key to long-lasting sexual desire, and it’s surprisingly simple
Keeping the flame ignited in a long-term relationship isn’t about tantra or buying her new lingerie (though those may not hurt either).
Instead, the secret to lasting sexual desire is something called responsiveness, researchers say.
Great! So…what the heck is that?
That’s when you show your partner that you value them—that you understand and appreciate their needs and support their goals, says study author Gurit Birnbaum, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel.
“It signals to your partner that you are really concerned with their welfare and that they are special,” she says.
In a set of three studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology researchers first examined couples’ online and face-to-face communication. Then they had the participants record their sexual desire and how responsive they felt their partner was daily.
They discovered that a responsive partner made their partner feel special—and, for women in particular, the more responsive their partner was, the more sexually desirable they were.
If your significant other feels valued and cared for, she’ll appreciate you more—and that leads to more desire.
“Responsiveness conveys the impression that you feel your partner is worth pursuing, and thus engaging in sex feels like it’s improving an already valuable relationship,” Birnbaum says.
Why does responsiveness matter more to women?
The answer could be biological: “Women typically invest more in each offspring than men do, thus they have more to lose from a poor mating choice. Accordingly, they pay more attention than men do to a partner’s behavioural cues that indicate their willingness to invest in the relationship,” Birnbaum says.
So what can you do to be more responsive (and hopefully have more sex)? Simple: Follow these expert tips.
Don’t Play Defence
When you feel like your partner is criticising you or complaining about something you did, it’s natural to get defensive.
But jumping in with, “That’s not what I meant,” or trying to explain yourself will only make things worse.
She doesn’t want an explanation—she wants you to acknowledge her feelings.
“She’s in some kind of pain and wants that pain attended to,” says Jonathan Shippey, a master certified Gottman Institute therapist. “See if you can figure out what kind of impact your actions had on her and what she’s feeling.”
If she’s irate, say, “I can tell you are really angry with this.” This validates her feelings, and once you do that, you can have a discussion about what happened.
Be a Witness
If you’re not sure how she’s feeling, rather than blurting out the first thing that comes to mind as a response, paraphrase what you think she said: “This is what I’m hearing…do I have that right?”
This helps in two ways.
First, it’s a method you can use to stall without being silent, giving you time to craft a thoughtful response.
More important, “it helps you show that you understand, and it slows things down and avoids unmanaged conflict or fighting,” Shippey says.
It may seem so simple, but it can be quite powerful, he adds.
Give Her Some Kind Of Response
Your girlfriend texts you in the morning. She’s having issues with her mom (again).
And you have NO clue what to say. Or maybe you think it’s better to stay silent—you don’t want to say the “wrong” thing and upset her.
“Communication is like an endless game of catch,” Shippey says. “If she throws the ball and you don’t throw it back, game over.”
In a situation where you’re uncertain what to respond with, he suggests something like, “I got your message. I’ll get back to you later.”
“Not responding is a response,” Shippey says. And not only will she spend the day wondering if you got her text or why you don’t care, “now she’s upset and suffering alone, rather than suffering with you,” he adds.
Send your initial response now, then be sure to get back to her or talk to her in person later in the day.