Men and women alike in our survey want almost the same things from a relationship. “It is fantastic to know for a fact that trust, communication and feeling irresistible are essential for desire and intimacy to work: it makes one wonder about one-night stands and satisfaction,” Murphy comments.
Sex is the glue that keeps couples together. Six out of 10 of all respondents said that sex is “very important”, with heterosexual men most likely to rank sex as “very important” (66 per cent), showing that sex seems to be a higher priority for men than for women.
“Many couples do not have sex and often make the assumption that the partner sees the lack of sex the same as they do,” Murphy comments. “This is usually not true and this answer would support this assumption.”
Based on her own experience as a counsellor and sex therapist, Margaret Dunne feels that the finding that 17 per cent of couples who have been married for more than 30 years haven’t had sex in the past year is low.
Our survey finds that the longer respondents are in a relationship, the greater the discrepancy in their sex drives. While one-third of people feel that their sex drives match their partner’s, 45 per cent of people think their sex drive is higher, with just 22 per cent saying that their partner’s is higher. Among couples who have been together for between 15 and 30 years, more than three-quarters of men said their sex drive was higher. However, 44 per cent of women said their partner’s sex drive was higher, highlighting a stark difference in perception.
Smith says: “Interestingly, people who are unhappy with their sex lives often find it takes up a lot more of their time than those who are happy, because they are worrying about it and missing it and wanting it. There’s a saying among sex therapists that a good sex life takes up about 30 per cent of a couple’s energy and a bad sex life takes up about 70 per cent of their energy.”
Creating good sex depends on one’s gender and sexuality. “Straight and bisexual men don’t rate ‘trust’ as the most important element for creating good sex between partners,” says Smith. “This may be connected to the numbers of straight and bisexual men who go outside their relationship for sex, perhaps to feel that level of desire they are missing with their partner . . . Intimacy and great sex are not the same for many people.”
Being physically affectionate without having sex is something that 90 per cent of people in relationships experience, but without affection there “is little hope of intimacy”, Murphy states.