Understanding When a Partner Is Not in the Mood: Sexual Communal Strength in Couples Transitioning to Parenthood

Abstract

Situations in which one partner is interested in having sex but the other partner is not “in the mood” are common in relationships. We extend previous work on sexual communal strength—the motivation to be responsive to a partner’s sexual needs—to demonstrate that in addition to the motivation to meet a partner’s need to have sex, the motivation to be understanding about a partner’s need not to engage in sex is uniquely associated with sexual and relationship satisfaction. In Study 1, we adapted a measure of sexual communal strength for having sex (SCSS) to create a new measure of sexual communal strength for not having sex (SCSN). We demonstrated that SCSN is distinct from SCSS and associated with more positive and less negative responses to an imagined situation of sexual rejection. In Study 2, both SCSS and SCSN were uniquely associated with greater sexual and relationship satisfaction in couples transitioning to parenthood—a time when many couples experience changes to their sexual relationship. Having a partner who is higher in SCSN is associated with greater sexual satisfaction and relationship quality for new mothers but not new fathers, suggesting that during the transition to parenthood, it might be more important for women to have a partner who is understanding about their need not to engage in sex. The results suggest that the motivation to be understanding about a partner’s need not to engage in sex may be an additional way that partners can show communal care in their sexual relationships.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    When we entered gender, sexual desire, and relationship satisfaction simultaneously as controls, all of the effects remained significant.

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Acknowledgements

This work has been supported by an IWK Health Centre postdoctoral fellowship and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Banting postdoctoral fellowship awarded to Amy Muise, grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the IWK Health Center awarded to Natalie O. Rosen and Emily A. Impett, a SSHRC Insight Grant awarded to Emily A. Impett and Amy Muise, and a SSHRC CGS fellowship awarded to James J. Kim.

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Correspondence to Amy Muise.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Toronto (Study 1) and Dalhousie University (Study 2).

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Muise, A., Kim, J.J., Impett, E.A. et al. Understanding When a Partner Is Not in the Mood: Sexual Communal Strength in Couples Transitioning to Parenthood. Arch Sex Behav 46, 1993–2006 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0920-2

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Keywords

  • Sexual motivation
  • Sexual satisfaction
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Transition to parenthood
  • Couples
  • Sexual communal strength