UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The impact of novelty on sexual desire and sexual satisfaction in committed relationships Morton, Heather


Evidence from several areas of research suggests that sexual functioning declines in response to partner familiarity and increases in response to partner novelty in men and women. This evidence includes findings from studies examining habituation of sexual arousal in response to erotic material, expressed desire for multiple sexual partners, declines in sexual functioning in long-term relationships, and the prevalence of extra-dyadic behavior. What is unknown however, is whether the benefits to sexual functioning that arise with a novel partner may be replicated by introducing novelty within long-term relationships. This is a common recommendation of self-help books, websites, and marriage counselors, and yet there has been no research to date directly examining the efficacy of this intervention. The purpose of this line of research was to conduct a series of studies investigating 1) associations between the variety of leisure and sexual activities that couples engage in and their levels of sexual desire and satisfaction, and 2) the impact of a novelty intervention on sexual desire, satisfaction, and desire for one’s partner. Results of Study 1 revealed an association between engaging in novel activities and sexual desire and satisfaction in women. However, this was not the case for men. In Studies 2 and 3 no differences were found between couples assigned to the novelty intervention and those in the control and wait-list conditions with regards to sexual desire, sexual satisfaction, or desire for one’s partner. Together, the findings from this line of research suggest that there is a relationship between novel activities and sexual functioning in women in long-term relationships. However, no support was found for an online intervention which encouraged couples to engage in novel sexual activities. This set of studies has important implications for couple therapy and self-help resources aimed at benefiting couples who want to enhance their sexual desire and satisfaction.

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