People with heightened sexual nostalgia tend to also have heightened sexual satisfaction in their romantic relationship, according to new research published in The Journal of Sex Research. The results indicate that the positive association between sexual nostalgia and satisfaction is particularly strong among insecurely attached individuals.
The researchers were interested in exploring the potential role of nostalgia in enhancing sexual satisfaction, as sexual satisfaction is considered an important contributor to individuals’ quality of life. They noted that sexual satisfaction has been linked to overall mental and physical health, including a low likelihood of psychological disorder diagnosis, low suicide risk, high life expectancy, and strong resting heart rate.
Given the significant impact of sexual satisfaction on well-being, Ashley E. Thompson and her co-authors aimed to investigate whether nostalgia could be a valuable tool for enhancing sexual satisfaction. Nostalgia is the act of reflecting on positive memories from the past. It involves recalling and “re-living” those experiences.
Previous research has indicated that nostalgia has several benefits for individuals. It enhances well-being, boosts self-esteem, and strengthens the sense of self-continuity. Nostalgia can also increase feelings of connectedness to others and improve social competence.
To examine the link between nostalgia and sexual satisfaction, the researchers conducted an initial study with 227 adults and a second study with 619 adults. The participants, who were required to be in a romantic relationships for at least 6 months, were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Study 1 focused on developing and validating the Sexual Nostalgia Inventory (SNI), while Study 2 further examined the validity of the inventory and explored the associations with attachment styles and sexual satisfaction.
The SNI captures different dimensions of sexual nostalgia by asking participants to reflect on their positive sexual memories and rate the extent to which they focus on specific aspects. These aspects include:
- Physical Sensations: Participants are asked to evaluate the extent to which they focus on the physical sensations they experienced during sexual intimacy, such as orgasms or pleasurable sensations.
- Novelty: Participants indicate the extent to which they concentrate on novel or new activities they engaged in during sexual intimacy, such as experimenting with different sexual behaviors or trying new things together.
- Emotional Components: Participants rate the importance they place on the emotional aspects of their sexual memories, such as the level of chemistry or intimate connection they felt with their partner during sexual intimacy.
Thompson and her colleagues found that individuals who engaged in more sexual nostalgia reported higher levels of sexual satisfaction. This association is similar to the positive link found between relationship nostalgia and relationship satisfaction. Nostalgia may enhance feelings of social support, love, and belonging, leading to increased positive emotions and overall satisfaction in both relationships and sexual experiences.
The researchers also found that the association between sexual nostalgia and sexual satisfaction was stronger for individuals high in attachment anxiety compared to those low in attachment anxiety. Sexual nostalgia may serve as a tool for reducing feelings of loneliness, fostering intimacy with a partner, and managing high sexual desire, which are commonly experienced by those high in attachment anxiety.
However, the results did not show a significant moderating effect of attachment avoidance on the relationship between sexual nostalgia and sexual satisfaction. Those high in attachment avoidance reported lower sexual desire overall and were less likely to engage in nostalgia.
The new research has made progress in understanding sexuality and intimate relationships, but there are some limitations to consider. For instance, the study used a cross-sectional approach, so the results only show correlations and cannot determine whether sexual nostalgia actually causes sexual satisfaction. Also, most participants in this study reported being sexually satisfied, so the findings may not apply to individuals in conflictual or less satisfying sexual relationships.
Nevertheless, the findings contribute to the understanding of nostalgia in the context of sexuality and highlight the potential benefits it can have on sexual relationships, particularly for anxiously attached individuals.
“In conclusion, the results from the current program of research confirm that adults nostalgize about previous sexual experiences with their current romantic partner and the act of engaging in sexual nostalgia is linked to sexual satisfaction,” the researchers wrote. “The results of this research add to the literature by further identifying and capturing the nuance of a novel area of nostalgia with the development, validation, and refinement of the SNI.”
The study, “Rose Colored Glasses: An Exploration of the Relationship between Sexual Nostalgia and Sexual Satisfaction“, was authored by Ashley E. Thompson, Julia M. Record, Rachel Miller, and Harrison Bjorback.