Maintaining Sexual Desire in Intimate Relationships: The Importance of Approach Goals

Emily A. Impett*, Amy Strachman, Eli J. Finkel, Shelly L. Gable

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Three studies tested whether adopting strong (relative to weak) approach goals in relationships (i.e., goals focused on the pursuit of positive experiences in one's relationship such as fun, growth, and development) predict greater sexual desire. Study 1 was a 6-month longitudinal study with biweekly assessments of sexual desire. Studies 2 and 3 were 2-week daily experience studies with daily assessments of sexual desire. Results showed that approach relationship goals buffered against declines in sexual desire over time and predicted elevated sexual desire during daily sexual interactions. Approach sexual goals mediated the association between approach relationship goals and daily sexual desire. Individuals with strong approach goals experienced even greater desire on days with positive relationship events and experienced less of a decrease in desire on days with negative relationships events than individuals who were low in approach goals. In two of the three studies, the association between approach relationship goals and sexual desire was stronger for women than for men. Implications of these findings for maintaining sexual desire in long-term relationships are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)808-823
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2008


  • close relationships
  • daily experience methods
  • gender differences
  • motivation
  • sexual desire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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