Couples Who Do This Love More, Argue Less And Have More Sex

Research reveals that couples who focus on moving towards positive goals (we call these approach goals) show more resilience and closeness than couples who focus on moving away from negatives (avoidance goals).
07/27/2016 03:39 pm ET Updated Jul 27, 2017

What do you want for your relationship?

The first question I ask couples when they come to therapy is why they're here. It's closely followed with the question "What do you want for your relationship?"

How they answer gives me a good indication of where they're really at and how involved our work together will be.

When things aren't going well in a relationship, we often get stuck focusing on the negatives. We find we are increasingly annoyed at our partner's behavior, and tend to be more critical.

When I ask the question 'what do you want?' it's not uncommon to hear a long list of what each partner doesn't want.

I don't want us to fight so often
I wish we didn't feel so distant
I wish sex wasn't causing so many arguments
I don't want my partner to keep avoiding sex

It's understandable, but it doesn't really answer my question.

Instead of hearing what each partner wants, I'm hearing what they don't want. This reinforces the negatives, and creates a feeling of being stuck.

Not to get all woo-woo with you here, but we attract what we put our attention on and in relationships, it's backed up by science.

Research reveals that couples who focus on moving towards positive goals (we call these approach goals) show more resilience and closeness than couples who focus on moving away from negatives (avoidance goals).

So in other words, couples who try to move towards positive outcomes, pursuing depth and pleasure for their relationship are happier, argue less, and have more sex than couples who focus on what they don't want.

It's pretty compelling.

In therapy, I notice that the entire energy of a session changes when couples begin to talk about what they want and create shared positive goals together. They interact differently with each other.

They're no longer stuck in their problems. Blame and defensiveness are let go. Positivity and hope become palpable. And we're ready to begin moving forward.

Focusing on the answer to the question 'what do you want?' in the middle of a heated discussion can help put things into perspective. It allows us to see how if our behavior is serving our ultimate goal or taking us further from it.

We often don't take the time to talk about what it is we really want in our relationship. Our wants and desires often go unsaid - until we're having challenges.

When I encourage couples in therapy to share with each other what it is they want, they're often surprised at how similar their objectives are. That in itself helps them feel more connected.

They realize they're on the same team, shooting for the same goal.

Create time together to sit down and talk about what it is you both want. Think about all areas of your relationship including intimacy, communication and sex. Be willing to share with your partner.

Notice if you have any negative goals. Are you moving away from something or towards something? Re-word or flip around any negatives you find and turn them into positives. Staying focused on these, especially in times of stress will bring more harmony and ease.

Now tell me in the comments below:
What do you want for your relationship?

1. Impett EA, Strachman A, Finkel EJ, Gable SL. Maintaining Sexual Desire in Intimate Relationships: The Importance of Approach Goals. J Pers Soc Psychol 2008 05;94(5):808. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.94.5.808