Let's chat about sexual compatibility. To get there, I need to go a little bit backwards.
I talked recently about sexual desire discrepancy, which is mismatches in sexual desire or libido or sex drive, mismatches in terms of desired frequency of sex, or mismatches in terms of desires or things you want in your sex life.
In other words, not being on the same page with your partner(s) sexually and not being happy about it.
Sexual compatibility, in a sense, is on the other side of sexual desire discrepancy.
So, what is sexual compatibility?
It’s often looked at as the opposite of what I just shared about a discrepancy … so, similarity in terms of sexual desire or libido or sex drive, agreement in terms of desired frequency of sex, and alignment in terms of desires or things you want in your sex life.
In other words, being on the same page sexually with your partner(s) and ultimately, feeling satisfied.
It’s a myth that there’s some perfect standard of compatibility that’s necessary or you’re doomed.
Yet many people believe that this is the case, which may contribute to the distress that’s experienced when discrepancies inevitably happen.
And that’s what’s true … discrepancies happen and they’re normal.
First of all, we’re all unique. Things can’t be the same between people.
Secondly, desire and desires can change over time for a bazillion reasons. Seriously, check out the last episode for a long list!
So, there isn’t some perfect, needed standard and it’s not a one and done situation.
I mentioned that sexual compatibility is commonly viewed as similarity, agreement or alignment in desire or desires.
But something cool that a researcher named Kristen Mark found was that there are two forms of sexual compatibility: actual sexual compatibility and perceived sexual compatibility.
Actual sexual compatibility is what I stated above - - similarities between actual turn ons and turn offs.
Perceived sexual compatibility, according to Kristen Mark, is:
“The extent to which a couple perceives [that] they share sexual beliefs, preferences, desires and needs with their partner.”
An even cooler thing is her finding that it’s perceiving sexual compatibility with a partner that is related to sexual satisfaction, which then affects relationship satisfaction as well.
Compatibility of actual turn ons and turn offs may also matter but it seems that perceived compatibility is more important for sexual and relationship satisfaction.
According to a recent study, it’s about even more than just actual or perceived sexual compatibility. What’s even more essential in creating mutual sexual satisfaction is the ability to deal with or manage discrepancies and differences that get in the way of compatibility.
To make matters more interesting, in contrast to multiple studies that have shown that mismatches in desire are linked to lower sexual and relationship satisfaction, another recent study found that higher desire rather than matching desire is what contributes to sexual and relationship satisfaction.
The key is not to focus on creating similarity of desire or desires, but on managing differences and boosting or maintaining higher levels of desire … because even if there are mismatches, satisfaction results when these things are in place.
Matching alone doesn’t affect satisfaction.
And … trying to create this match might fall in the category of the myth of a perfect standard of compatibility that doesn’t really exist. This also circles back to the fact that we’re unique and we all have different desires and levels of desire. What’s key is discovering and expressing our uniqueness.
So, that’s the long and winding explanation of what sexual compatibility is. 😜
Now, what can be done to increase compatibility?
Continual communication is essential for all of the factors that make up sexual compatibility that I talked about here.
Studies have shown that sexual communication positively impacts desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, erectile function and overall sexual function and can also reduce pain … and that lack of communication contributes to sexual difficulties and dissatisfaction.
It’s like there’s a loop where communication improves function and satisfaction … and increases in function and satisfaction positively affect further communication.
And I'm sure you don't need studies to know that communication is important.
But how do you have effective communication?
It involves openness about your values, perspectives, likes, dislikes, preferences, turn ons, turn offs, kinks, etc.
It involves willingness to talk about positive and negative things.
And it involves frequently or regularly talking about your sexual relationships.
A couple of important things to note:
It’s normal for it to take time and grow over time.
It’s normal to work through discrepancies.
And so many people don’t know what they want or what their sexual values are.
So, if you’d like support with this, I created a quiz, What's Your Sexual Communication Style?
And I shared a whole bunch about mismatches in sexual desire in a recent post. They apply to the creation of sexual compatibility as well, so check that post out if you haven’t already.
See you over there!
And if you want to nerd out, check out the following resources that contributed to my thoughts on this post today.
Are Couples More Satisfied When They Match in Sexual Desire? Sarah Hunter Murray, 2020.
Sexual Compatibility with Spouse Questionnaire: Development and Psychometric Property Evaluation, Maryam Nekoolaltak et al, 2020.
Couples’ Sexual Communication and Dimensions of Sexual Function: A Meta-Analysis, Allen B. Mallory et al, 2019.
Sexual Compatibility: The Importance to Your Satisfaction, Kristen Mark, 2012.