The Role of Dyadic Sexual Desire Similarity in Predicting Sexual Behaviors in Cohabitating Couples: An Ecological Momentary Assessment Study

Aleksandra Pawłowska*, Tom Loeys, Erick Janssen, Marieke Dewitte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Although researchers are increasingly paying attention to the dyadic nature of sexual desire and its relevance to sexual and relational outcomes, our understanding of how sexual desire operates on a couple level and how it may influence the occurrence of sexual activity in relationships remains limited. This study used ecological momentary assessments to explore to what extent similarity in levels of desire for sex with one's sexual partner, or dyadic sexual desire, was associated with sexual initiations, receptivity to one's partner's initiations, and partnered sexual activity, and how these associations were moderated by perceived partner support. Ninety-four cohabitating couples ( M age = 26.30, SD = 7.60) provided six reports a day for 10 consecutive days. We used response surface analysis to examine the associations among both the degree and direction of (dis)similarity in partners' dyadic desire and each of the three outcome variables. Our results revealed that although partners tended to experience similar levels of desire on a moment-to-moment basis, similarity in desire levels was not associated with the three outcome variables. Rather, higher desire within couples predicted each partner's behavioral outcomes. At lower levels of perceived partner support, dyadic sexual desire was negatively associated with women's receptivity to sexual initiations by their partners, indicating high context-sensitivity of women's sexual responding. These findings offer new insights into the links between the similarity in partners' levels of dyadic desire and sexual behaviors in couples, suggesting the need for increased focus on maintaining desire and promoting perceived partner support in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Sex Research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Feb 2023

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