The Secret to a Great Sex Life: Hard Work or Fate?

Your answer might say a lot about your current relationship, a new study suggests.

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It's no secret that sex is an important part of a romantic relationship. But what puts the 'great' in a great sex life? Is it something you develop and improve over time, or it is something that just... happens?

No, really, we're asking you — what do you think? Because it turns out your answer to that question might actually be a clue into the quality of your own sex life and relationship, according to a November 2016 study from the University of Toronto.

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Researchers wanted to look at the sexual satisfaction and overall relationship quality of people who fell into two distinct schools of thought: Those who believe in "sexual growth" — the idea that a good and healthy sex life is the result of hard work and active effort — versus those who believe in "sexual destiny" — the idea that a good and healthy sex life is the result of finding a compatible partner (or maybe even soulmate).

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Of the 1,900 participants (in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships) they analyzed, the researchers found that people who believed in sexual growth were more likely to experience greater sexual satisfaction and higher relationship quality. And that's not all — the sexual growth believers' partners were more likely to be sexually satisfied, too. Talk about win-win.

If you think about it, these findings make a lot of sense — if you believe sex will only be truly great if it's with the "right" person, it would be easy to blame your partner or your relationship in general when things are less-than-satisfactory. When your sex life is at its best, it would feel as though your relationship was at it's best... but when problems or disagreements arose, you might question if the relationship was really right for you.

But if the idea of sexual destiny is linked to less enjoyable sex and relationships, why do people continue to believe in it? That might have a lot to do with popular media, suggested Jessica Maxwell, study author and PhD candidate in the University of Toronto Department of Psychology, in a press release. Think about it: From magazine articles that claim to know how to find The One to romantic comedies filled with fairytale meet-cutes to reality TV shows that literally center on finding one's soulmate (read: The Bachelor), sexual destiny surrounds us.

Ultimately, the researchers remind us that problems in the bedroom are normal, and relationship counselors and clinicians should help struggling couples remember that sex-related issues don't have to result in the downfall of an otherwise happy and healthy relationship.

"Sexual-destiny beliefs have a lot of similarities with other dysfunctional beliefs about sex, and I think it's important to recognize and address that," Maxwell said.

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