Men Underestimate Women’s Interest in Sex

Recent research shows that men in relationships consistently underestimate their partner’s interest in sex. This is in stark contrast to prior research that examined perceptions of partner’s interest in sex while dating.  In dating relationship, males actually over-estimated their partner’s interest in sex. Why this shift and what can we learn from the data?

Why Do Men Underestimate Their Partner’s Interest?

Some reasons that men may underestimate their partner include:

  • Motivation. Underestimation helps to encourage men to stay motivated to entice their partner’s interest. If they don’t think that their partner is interested, men will go out of their way to court their partner.
  • Fear. Men are often fearful of sexual rejection. They have more to lose when their partner is not interested.

Research Into Men’s Underestimate of Partner’s Interest

Research into this subject was conducted by Amy Muise (and others) at the University of Toronto and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The research was conducted using mostly heterosexual couples. They filled out surveys in the evening that measured sex drive and how each partner felt about their relationship. This lasted for three weeks. The results showed that the couples with the highest relational quality accurately estimated their partner’s desire for sex. You could say that both were, “on the same wavelength.”

Possibility for Further Research

The study seems to operate on the assumption that it is up to men to initiate sex. This was more implied rather than directly stated. However, it opens up the possibility for further research as to whether women initiate more or less than men and their perception of their partner’s sexual interest. Research should also examine this phenomenon in same-sex relationships.

Expressing Your Feelings, Eliminate the Guesswork

The bottom line? It is best to express your feelings to your partner when you are interested and have a high desire for sexual intimacy. Communication with your partner is important for maintaining a healthy relationship and it obviously eliminates the guesswork when trying to determine whether your partner reciprocates your interest in sex.

More Doesn’t Mean Better

Research also shows that couples who have sex once a week are the most satisfied in their relationships. Couples who have sex more than once a week do not appear to have any significant increase in relationship satisfaction. The relationships don’t get worse, but satisfaction does not improve when the frequency exceeds once a week either.

Interestingly, this corresponds to other research indicating that more is not always better in terms of what makes us happy. One important example correlates to money. Studies also show, that earning more than a certain amount (somewhere $60k and $90k per year depending on the cost of living) does not increase our happiness.

Finding a Happy Balance

So how can couples get to a place where they find a happy balance in the frequency of sexual intimacy? Try some of the following ideas: 

  • Check in often, even nightly, about how you are feeling.
  • Be more attuned to your partner’s needs.
  • Establish a date night for intimacy.
  • Become more aware of when your partner is- and isn’t- interested in sex.

All of these ideas require effective communicate with your partner. In addition, try to be compassionate and understanding with one another.

But what do you do if you and/or your partner struggle with communication?

Getting Help With Communication

A therapist can help both of you to learn how to communicate more effectively with each other. A couples therapist can provide perspective and help point out unhealthy patterns of communication and interaction. A skilled therapist can teach you tools that will allow you to more capably share not only the simple communications, but also your deeper feelings with one another. He or she can also help to resolve conflicts that have risen between the two of you.

Research shows that men often underestimate their partner’s desire for sex. However, that does not mean that it isn’t possible to reach a point where the two of you are on the same page. Learning and practicing communication tools can be extremely helpful. Talking with a therapist can reveal some communication barriers that may be negatively affecting your relationship. With professional support, you can both find a healthy balance in order to enjoy a more satisfying relationship.

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