A new study looks at how couples' preferred level of personal autonomy affects their sex life, and the results make a lot of sense. Published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, the study found that couples who desired similar levels of autonomy and independence in their relationships tended to have higher levels of sexual desire.
"Sexual desire is an important feature of optimal couple relationships but it won’t last alone for much time," study author Luana Cunha Ferreira told PsyPost. "Both emotional intimacy and personal autonomy appear to have an important role in successful relationships and I wanted to investigate that role."
The sample size for the study was small — only 33 heterosexual couples were included. I did not see an indication whether or not the couples in the study were monogamous. Researchers said that, due to the sampling procedures, they could not determine causation from the results, meaning they couldn't say that the higher level of sexual desire was a result of having similar levels of preferred autonomy.
In the study, authors referred to autonomy as "differentiation of self." Ferreira explained to PsyPost that, "A well differentiated person can be intensely intimate with another without losing their sense of self and independence." On the other hand, some people tend to lose their sense of self when in a relationship.
When two people have similar degrees of maintaining a sense of self in a relationship, they were found to have higher sexual desire. This makes a lot of sense. I imagine it's hard to feel desire towards someone who feels like they're stifling your independence, or similarly, someone who feels aloof and uninterested in you.
How much autonomy someone prefers to have in a relationship may not always be a first date conversation, but maybe it should be. If sex is also important to you, it might be helpful to know if you and your potential mate are on the same page when it comes to how much independence you want in a relationship.
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