This is a Student Love Lesson
I Can't Get No Satisfaction
Written By: Destiny Gensemer; Edited By: Me
After watching your most recent ex-boyfriend pull out of your driveway for the last time and his taillights disappear, it’s hard not to wonder what went wrong. You began the relationship with the best of intentions and everything was great in the beginning. But as you’re watching his cloud of dust settle back onto the road, you recognize how bittersweet the moment is. You cared about him of course, but as the time went on, you began to realize you weren’t satisfied with the relationship. Now you have the opportunity to find happiness with someone else. But how do you prevent this from happening again? Where did it go wrong? Why weren’t you satisfied? A recent study says that one possibility is your sex life.
Often, when good romantic relationships go bad, women blame men collectively for being afraid or unable to commit or they blame their own appearances, thinking they just aren’t beautiful enough to hold a man’s interest. However, we often don’t see how we get in our own way when it comes to creating happy, healthy, romantic relationships. According to a recent study, how we use sex in relationships has a big impact on our sexual and relational satisfaction (Birnbaum, 2007).
In the study, 96 relationally attached women of varying ages were examined in order to determine how attachment orientations contribute to sexual functioning and how those effect women’s views of their own romantic relationships. They were asked to complete self-report scales regarding attachment orientations, relationship satisfaction, sex-related influences on the relationship, and sexual functioning. The study found that women who have adopted two of the four most common attachment styles use sex in ways that lead to relational and sexual dissatisfaction.
In order to understand the findings of the study, you need to first understand the idea of attachment styles. Attachment styles are the ways in which we view ourselves and the people around us. These attachment styles subsequently influence our interactions and relationships with others. The two attachment styles which the study found to cause the greatest relational and sexual dissatisfaction were a fearful style, which results in attachment avoidance for fear of rejection, and a preoccupied style, which causes attachment anxiety and results in insecurity and neediness.
What does this have to do with your relational woes or sexual dissatisfaction? That depends on what your attachment style is. If you have an active sex life but don’t believe sex requires or strengthens an emotional bond with your partner, then you may be attachment avoidant and have a fearful attachment style. Women with this attachment style avoid pursuing intimate relationships for fear of rejection. Instead, they replace affectionate encounters with sexual ones. For these women, sexual satisfaction and relational aspects are disconnected.
If this sounds like your attachment style, satisfying relationships are probably eluding you because you keep partners an arm’s length away by not letting them get to know you on a more personal level. If you want to change your trend of casual, short-term relationships, you can start by waiting a couple months to have sex with a new relational partner. Another thing you should always remember about men is if you want a great catch, you’ve got to do some fishing. If you’re going to wait for him, you’ve got to make sure he is worth it, so don’t settle. As you get to know your partner, disclose information about yourself in small amounts at first, and then increase your disclosures over time as your partner earns your trust. Hopefully, your partner will do the same in return, and gradually, your fears of rejection will melt away, assuming of course this new man earns your devotion. These tactics will allow your relationship to develop on a more personal level and will prevent sex from interfering with the intimacy between you and your partner. Plus, sex is always better when you are emotionally attached to your partner.
Some women have the opposing attachment style to the one described above. If you are sexually and relationally dissatisfied and feel that your sexual satisfaction acts as sort of a barometer of the quality of your relationship (Davis, Shaver & Vernon, 2004), then you may feel attachment anxiety and have a preoccupied attachment style. Women with this attachment style may confuse sex with other relational aspects such as love and care-giving. That’s why attachment anxiety amplifies the effects of positive and negative sexual encounters on relational satisfaction.
If this sounds like it might be your attachment style, your relationships may be falling short of your hopes for them because it would be difficult for any partner to satisfy your definition of devotion. A fulfilling relationship is about more than reaching climax every time you have sex. Relationships are about two people who care about each other sharing trust, understanding, support, and mutual respect. If you rely solely on the quality of sex to judge your relationship status, you are going to be disappointed sometimes, no matter how much your partner loves you and you may miss out on chances to increase your emotional intimacy.
If you want to be more relationally satisfied, remember to pay attention to everything you and your partner do for each other even when you are not between the sheets. If ever you are feeling neglected by your partner or if you want a little more closeness and intimacy, you can ask him if he wants to spend a little quality time together. You could rent a movie and spend the evening cuddling under a blanket on the couch. You can still enjoy having sex with your partner; just make sure that you’re considering other aspects of your relationship when deciding whether or not you’re happy with your man.
Relationships don’t just happen, they take work and not just sex. Sex is a great way to strengthen a bond with someone you really care about, however it shouldn’t be the foundation of your relationship nor the barometer for measuring it. So, when a romantic relationship isn’t able to satisfy, don’t just sleep on it! Put your clothes on and figure out why you aren’t satisfied. The most important thing to decide is what you want from your relationship, why you’re not getting it, and what you need to do to make it more satisfying for you and your partner. If you need intimacy, don’t just settle for the physical kind. It will only last a short while, anyway. Communicate with your partner, tell them how you feel and what you need. Next time you feel like you can’t get no satisfaction, don’t head straight for the bedroom; instead, try talking to your partner about it.
- Birnbaum, G. E. (2007). Attachment orientations, sexual function, and relationship satisfaction in a community sample of women. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24, 21-35.