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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.
In this chapter, we review the most recent research on sacrifice in romantic relationships, emphasizing the crucial role that sacrifice plays in optimal relationship development and maintenance. Sacrifice is defined as forgoing immediate self-interest and incurring costs to the self—either by giving up something desirable, such as time or money, or by doing something undesirable—in order to benefit their romantic partner. We review research showing that the willingness to sacrifice can convey that partners are invested in and care about their relationships. We show that approach-motivated sacrifices often have positive consequences, whereas sacrifices made for avoidance motives often have negative consequences for both giver and recipient. Given that when partners make sacrifices for each other, they are likely to experience some negative emotions due to incurring personal costs, it is not beneficial to try to suppress or conceal these emotions from one’s partner, as suppression is associated with poorer relationship quality as reported by both members of the couple. We conclude the chapter by discussing future directions for research on sacrifice, including research on the temporal component of sacrifice as well as individual variation in how people make the decision to sacrifice for a romantic partner.
Sexuality is a key factor that distinguishes and shapes romantic relationships. In this chapter, we present evidence demonstrating the importance of sexuality in romantic relationships with a particular focus on the ways in which sex can positively impact such relationships. To this end, we describe the role of both sexual frequency and sexual satisfaction in shaping relationship quality. We also review research that sheds light on how couples can stave off declines or changes in sexual desire over time, as well as maintain sexual satisfaction during times when they have conflicting sexual interests. To this end, we focus our attention on understanding the motivational and cognitive influences important to the maintenance of desire and sexual satisfaction over time, as well as the individual differences and relationship factors that contribute to satisfying sexual relationships. We then conclude the chapter by highlighting what we see as promising directions for future research on sex and relationships.