How’s your sex life? If it could use a little boost, maybe you should try gratitude—and we don’t mean being grateful that you’re even getting any. It turns out that people who incorporate a gratitude practice in their daily lives tend to have better sex. If your sex life has suffered thanks to the pandemic, work, school, kids or other everyday stresses, consider focusing on what is working for you. You might be surprised at the steamy results.
Introducing ‘sexual communal strength’
According to Social Psychological and Personality Science, people who practice and receive gratitude are more invested in others’ needs, which generally leads to more mutual satisfaction. In other words, if you and your partner aren’t selfish, don’t keep score and appreciate the other, you’re going to enjoy sex a lot more. In fact, these couples can get aroused more easily and tend to have more sexual desire in general.
The study looked at “sexual communal strength” as a measure of how motivated a person is to meet their partner’s sexual needs. The more sexual communal strength a couple has, the better their sex. It makes sense—if you’ve ever been left unsatisfied while your partner happily drifts off to sleep, it’s a fair assumption that they’re not particularly motivated to meet your needs. Your relationship probably doesn’t have a lot of sexual communal strength, at least in that moment.
Come on, get happy
A lack of sexual communal strength doesn’t mean your relationship (or your sex life) is doomed, however. The study’s researchers observed how the levels of gratitude affected the participants’ sex lives, but they also wanted to find out if increasing gratitude could increase sexual communal strength. It turns out that if you both increase your level of gratitude for each other, you can also increase your sexual communal strength.
According to researchers, “Gratitude functions to motivate people to maintain relationships with valuable others. The current studies extend this growing body of literature to the sexual domain by revealing that gratitude similarly motivates people to meet their partner’s sexual needs.”
This might seem like a no-brainer—the happier you are in the relationship, the more you’re into meeting your partner’s needs, therefore the better the sex—but having science confirm what you suspected is more helpful than you might realize. When your relationship is in more of a valley than a peak, the two of you can pull it out of the fire simply by increasing your gratitude for one another. As long as both of you are in it to improve your relationship as a whole (not just because you’d like to bone down more often), the researchers found very promising results.
How to incorporate gratitude into your relationship
Even though the concept is simple, actually incorporating gratitude into your relationship is sometimes easier said than done. For example, it needs to be authentic. You can’t say, “I’m grateful you decided to shower and put on actual pants today,” and expect that to inspire a response rivaling Gomez and Morticia Addams.
In the study, researchers had couples journal about gratitude for and from their partner individually, then surveyed them about their sexual satisfaction. You and your partner can do this, too: journal daily or weekly about your experiences with gratitude. Make sure that when you appreciate your partner, you express it: receiving gratitude is just as important as expressing it.
If the two of you aren’t into journaling, there are other ways you can make gratitude part of your daily life. If you know each other’s love language, find a way to incorporate that into your day or week. For example, if your partner’s love language is gifts, surprise them with their favorite candy bar and a sincere expression of gratitude. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy to be effective—even a “Thank you so much for handling that toddler poopsplosion so I could get to work on time” is enough.
Insincerity and keeping score are the enemies of gratitude
Finally, make sure that you’re sincere and not bean-counting throughout this practice. This is especially difficult if you’re used to an uneven distribution of emotional labor, affection and other ways that couples support each other.
The point of incorporating gratitude is to make your partner feel appreciated. If you’re thanking them for being awesome while still leaving your dirty socks outside the hamper, and you know that bothers them, your gratitude is not going to come off as sincere. They’ll probably be tempted to keep score, wondering why they seem to be putting forth all the effort. Your relationship—and your sex life—will suffer.
With authentic effort, however, you can turn that lackluster sex life into something that would make a romance novelist blush.