Sexual boredom is a common issue in long-term romantic relationships, and it can have a significant impact on sexual and relationship satisfaction. In a new study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers from Portugal found that sexual boredom doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of desire. The study sheds new light on the complexities of sexual desire and boredom in long-term relationships.
“Women’s sexual dysfunction estimates can go up to 50 to 70%. To me is very clear that if we are talking about the norm, we should not be telling these women they are dysfunctional,” said study author Leonor de Oliveira (@prontoadespir), a PhD student at the University of Porto and author of “É normal?” (Is it normal?).
“Granted, not all of these women will experience distress, but, for those who do, we have often failed in offering effective solutions. I believe many of these women are not dysfunctional and their sexual desire discrepancies compared to their partners might be rooted in boredom.”
The study aimed to distinguish groups of men and women in long-term romantic relationships regarding their levels of sexual boredom and various dimensions of sexual desire.
The study included 1,559 Portuguese individuals (81.1% women) with an average age of 32.8 years who were recruited via Instagram and Facebook to participate in an online study. The participants had to be at least 18 years old, in a monogamous cohabiting relationship that had lasted for at least 12 months, and identify as Portuguese. The participants completed assessments of sexual boredom, sexual desire, sexual satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction.
The sexual boredom assessment included items such as “Sex frequently becomes an unexciting and predictable routine,” while the sexual desire assessment measured sexual desire for one’s partner, sexual desire for attractive others, and solitary sexual desire
The researchers found that women tended to report lower sexual boredom compared to men, while men tended to have higher scores in all sexual desire dimensions compared to women. However, there were no significant differences between men and women in terms of sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction overall.
The researchers used a technique known as latent profile analysis to identify different sexual desire profiles among men and women. Among women, three latent profiles were identified, and the largest profile was characterized by low sexual boredom, high partner-related sexual desire, and low other–related desire and autoerotic desire.
The second largest profile exhibited high sexual boredom, low partner-related sexual desire, high other–related sexual desire, and high autoerotic sexual desire. The third profile exhibited high sexual boredom, low partner-related sexual desire, and barely existing autoerotic desire.
The findings indicate that there are two types of sexually bored women: those who don’t feel much desire for their partners but desire other attractive people, and those who have low sexual desire in general. Being classified into either of these two profiles was associated with lower relationship satisfaction.
Among men, two latent profiles were identified. The larger profile was characterized by low sexual boredom and lower level of other–related and autoerotic desire compared to the smaller profile, which exhibited above average sexual boredom and sexual desire.
“We found that, despite men having higher levels of sexual boredom on average and some of them displaying very high sexual boredom, they still had sexual desire for their partner above average,” de Oliveira told PsyPost.
“Women with sexual boredom, on the other hand, presented with sexual desire for their partners below average, with those in the higher sexual boredom group presenting with sexual desire for attractive non-partners slightly above average. So it could be that some women in long term relationships are just not interested in having sex with their partners (due to monotony) but feel sexual desire for other people.”
Among both women and men, higher levels of sexual boredom combined with lower levels of sexual desire towards their partners was associated with lower levels of sexual satisfaction.
However, the impact on relationship satisfaction was different for men and women. For women, this combination was also associated with lower levels of relationship satisfaction, meaning they were less satisfied with their overall relationship with their partner. On the other hand, this combination did not have a significant impact on men’s relationship satisfaction.
The findings indicate “that sexual boredom can be related to both low and high sexual desire depending on your gender (with men presenting with higher sexual desire on average when bored),” de Oliveira told PsyPost.
“It’s important that people understand that boredom is not inherently negative,” she added. “Sexual boredom could just be signaling that we desire or require change to keep ourselves interested in the sex we are having. We still have to find out the paths towards developing sexual boredom in long-term relationships in longitudinal and qualitative studies and their contrary: what those who are not experiencing sexual boredom are doing differently.”
In previous research, de Oliveira and her colleagues found that sexual boredom was associated with monotony (such as always remaining in the same sexual positions), decreases in sexual interest, and sex that was not pleasurable or satisfying. Sexual boredom was also associated with feeling that sex was a duty or obligation, a lack of emotional connection, and with not having enough sex.
“Sexual boredom is a fascinating topic that no one else seems to be studying,” de Oliveira said. “I invite anyone with a fresh eyes to join and me and help me unfold the intricacies of boredom and sexual desire.”
The study, “Sexual boredom and sexual desire in long-term relationships: a latent proﬁle analysis“, was authored by Leonor de Oliveira, Aleksandar Stulhofer, Azra Tafro, Joana Carvalho, and Pedro Nobre.