Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 December 2019
Sex is a powerful way for couples to enhance their bond and promote the success and happiness of their relationship. Yet, maintaining sexual intimacy and passion is a challenging endeavor in romantic relationships, making it crucial to understand the role of sex in relationship maintenance. This chapter focuses on the role of sexuality in enabling couples to maintain satisfying relationships, focusing in particular on how couples can maintain sexual desire and satisfaction over time and as they navigate important relationship and life changes that may result in partners experiencing differences in their sexual interests, such as in the transition to parenthood. We begin the chapter by describing the ways that sex can benefit relationships, focusing on the roles of sexual frequency, physical affection, and sexual satisfaction in shaping the quality and maintenance of relationships. Then, we review research on how couples can prevent declines in sexual desire, or remain satisfied in spite of these declines, with a particular focus on sexual goals, sexual communal motivation, sexual communication, and sexual expectations. We conclude the chapter by highlighting several promising directions for future research on sex and relationship maintenance.