Sex comes before romance in modern relationships: Physical intimacy now kick starts emotional bonding, psychologists claim
- Sexual desire motivates human beings to connect, according to new study
- Physical intimacy could bring people closer, deepening emotional connection
- Neurological pathway that causes sexual activation affects emotional bonding
- Evolutionary and social processes make us prone to becoming romantically attached to partners to whom we are sexually attracted
Sex in relationships comes before a couple have formed a deep emotional connection, according to new research.
The new findings suggest that sexual desire plays a major role in people’s capacity to form an emotional bond with a potential partner.
Psychologists, from the University of Rochester in New York and the IDC Herzliya in Israel, said that this physical intimacy could bring them closer together.
They also say that gender plays no part in trying to form an emotional connection as both men and women try to connect with potential partners when sexually aroused.
Sex in relationships comes before a couple have formed a deep emotional connection, according to new research. The new findings suggest that sexual desire plays a major role in people’s attraction towards a partner, enticing them to have sexual relations (stock image
Professor Gurit Birnbaum, who led the study at IDC Herzliya, said: ‘Sex may set the stage for deepening the emotional connection between strangers.’
Professor Birnbaum and his team found that sexual desire between strangers could encourage people to behave in ways that helped them to bond and connect.
‘This holds true for both men and women – sex motivates human beings to connect, regardless of gender,’ says Professor Birnbaum.
‘Some believe that men are more likely than women to initiate relationships when sexually aroused.
‘But when one focuses on more subtle relationship-initiating strategies, such as providing assistance (as proved in the study), this pattern does not hold true.
‘Both men and women try to connect with potential partners when sexually aroused.’
Previous research from brain images showed similar areas of the brain are activated when a person experiences either sexual desire or romantic love. Scientists said such patterns suggest a neurological pathway that causes sexual activation to affect emotional bonding (stock image)
Researchers conducted four separate studies and found that sexual desire between strangers could encourage people to behave in ways that help them to bond and connect.
In the first study, participants were introduced to a potential partner of the opposite sex who they met face-to-face.
Men and women lip-synched to pre-recorded music while sitting next to an attractive person of the opposite sex who, unbeknown to participants, was involved in the study.
They rated their desire for them and results showed the greater their attraction, the more they signalled and the more they synched with them.
The second study asked men and women to slow dance with an attractive study insider of the opposite sex and produced the same results.
In a third study, men and women were shown flashes of erotic, non-pornographic images on a screen for 30 miliseconds – which they were not aware of seeing.
WHAT TACTICS DO PEOPLE USE TO STOP THEMSELVES CHEATING?
Researchers at the University of New Brunswick asked 362 heterosexual adults how they had staved off temptations to cheat while in a relationship.
1. ‘Relationship enhancement’
Seventy-five per cent of the study’s respondents, who were aged between 19 and 63, selected ‘relationship enhancement’ as their primary tactic.
This ploy included things like taking their partner on a date, making an extra effort with their appearance around them, or having more sex with them.
2. ‘Proactive avoidance’
The second most-popular was ‘proactive avoidance’, which involved maintaining distance from the temptation.
As well as physically avoiding the temptation, people also avoided getting close in conversation with that person.
3. ‘Derogation of the temptation’
The third and final tactic used by people was ‘derogation of the temptation’, which involved feelings of guilt, and thinking about the tempting person in a negative light.
Participants reported flirting less when they applied the final, ‘derogation of the temptation’ strategy.
But none of the strategies had an effect on the levels of romantic infidelity, sexual infidelity, and whether the relationship survived.
Psychologist Dr Alex Fradera, who was not involved in the research, said the findings show little can be done once feelings of temptation have crept in.
They then discussed interpersonal dilemmas with a potential partner, also participating in the study while being videotaped and their behaviour was rated in terms of responsiveness and caring.
Scientists found when the ‘sexual system was activated’ people showed signs of caring about their potential partner’s well-being – which is a way of signalling their interest in a relationship.
The final study included 50 men and 50 women – half of who watched an erotic non-pornography movie scene while the others watched a neutral video about South American rainforests.
They were then matched with an attractive study insider from the opposite sex and told to complete a verbal reasoning task.
The study insiders pretended to get stuck on the third question and ask participants for help and those who had watched the erotic movie scene proved to be more helpful than those who watched the neutral film.
Co-author Professor Harry Reis, of the University of Rochester, said: ‘Although sexual urges and emotional attachments are distinct feelings, evolutionary and social processes likely have rendered humans particularly prone to becoming romantically attached to partners to whom they are sexually attracted.’
Professor Birnbaum added: ‘Sexual desire may play a causally important role in the development of relationships.
‘It’s the magnetism that holds partners together long enough for an attachment bond to form.’