Desire under attack: Attachment orientations and the effects of relationship threat on sexual motivations

Gurit E. Birnbaum, Yanna J. Weisberg, Jeff Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

The authors examined the effects of relationship threat on sexual motivations. In two studies, participants imagined relationship or non-relationship threat scenes and then rated their desire to have sex (Study 1) and the reasons for doing so (Study 2). The results indicated that relationship threat prompted both enhancement and relationship-based motives, suggesting that people use sex to both feel better and repair the threatened relationship. Avoidantly attached individuals were least likely to desire their partner, implying that they use distancing strategies when confronted with relational threat. Anxiously attached individuals were least likely to be motivated by hedonistic reasons, possibly reflecting their difficulties in enjoying sex when flooded with relationship worries. Implications for understanding the functional meaning of sex in romantic relationships are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)448-468
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Volume28
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011

Keywords

  • attachment
  • motivation
  • romantic relationships
  • sexual desire
  • threat

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