Many people wish that their romantic partner would be more responsive. Perhaps you long for a text message reply that you know will never come, or for affirming eye contact with your beau amidst pillow talk, or just any sign that they care about your dead dog or your critique of Gossip Girl's narrative arch. Intimacy sometimes wanes in long-term relationships, and a lack of responsiveness could have something to do with it. Researchers recently found out what we have always known: the more responsive your ride or die, the more likely you are to fuck them.
The study, "Intimately Connected: The Importance of Partner Responsiveness for Experiencing Sexual Desire," is a combination of three complementary experiments, all of which were designed to determine the effect of spousal responsiveness on sexual desire in long-term relationships. In the first experiment, 153 couples had ten-minute conversations about an either positive or negative life event via online chat. Though the subjects thought they were conversing with their spouses, they were actually talking to a researcher, whose standardized replies varied from responsive ("You must have gone through a very difficult time"), to unresponsive and rude as hell ("Doesn't sound so bad to me").
After, the subjects filled out a form to determine if they felt understood or cared for by their partner during the tricky chat. Then they had to fill out another form determining to what degree they wanted to do sexual things with their beloved, such as kissing or intercourse. Predictably, "women experienced greater desire while interacting with a responsive partner than while interacting with an unresponsive one," the study says. Men responded with more sexual interest in general but, unlike women, their interest in sex stayed constant regardless of whether they thought their girlfriend was wicked rude and dismissive or super responsive and affirming during their instant messaging session.
Dr. Tony Ferretti is a sex, relationship, and narcissism expert. In an interview with Broadly, he explained that responsiveness is important to couples because "it creates a sense of security, trust, and connectedness that most individuals desire." Intimacy, Ferretti says, can be strengthened by responsiveness because it makes you feel like you're special to the person you love.
In the second experiment, 178 straight couples had similar conversations about negative or positive life events, but this time they were physically in front of each other and talking in person. Unlike the first experiment, in this second one, both women and men expressed more sexual desire for each other if they perceived their partner to be responsive during their conversation. But don't go divulging sob stories to your attentive mate: Researchers found that subjects felt more sexually attracted to their partners following a face-to-face responsive conversation about a positive life event, but not so with a negative event. Such sad memories may "be less likely to render this partner desirable as the individual focuses on personal weaknesses or stressors," the researchers write.
In the third experiment, the researchers studied 100 other straight couples. "We asked both members of romantic couples to complete a nightly diary for six weeks in which they recorded the quality of their relationship, their perceptions of partner responsiveness and mate value, their sense of feeling special, and their desire to engage in sex with their partner," the study says. This experiment helped them to see whether or not responsiveness correlated to an increase in sexual desire over time. Like in experiment two, women and men sexually desired their partners more on days when they perceived them as responsive.
Both men and women also felt "special" when their partners were responsive, but for some reason women felt significantly "more special." In their analysis, researchers found that this feeling of specialness was correlated to an increase in sexual desire. Perhaps least shocking of all, the researchers found that on the days when couples were respondent, felt special, and had sexual desire for each other, they were more likely to have sex. "Sexual desire thrives on rising intimacy," they wrote. "Being responsive to a partner's needs is a promising way to instill and maintain this elusive sensation over time."
"Unfortunately, many couples don't communicate their needs directly or constructively instead they harbor anger, hurt, or resentment," Ferretti explains. "Most men need to be told very specifically and sometimes repeatedly what their partner's needs are before they get it." According to Ferretti, active listening can create a more significant connection than even problem solving; you just need your partner to bear witness to you.
"Being more responsive can be as simple as turning your phone off at dinner or planning a surprise date or overnight getaway and including your partner's favorite activity," he said. "Ultimately, being kind, caring, considerate, and empathetic through words and actions will build trust and connectedness."