The Link Between the Female Orgasm and Relationship Satisfaction
We all remember that scene in "When Harry Met Sally."
"I don't hear anyone complaining…I think they have an okay time," Harry says to Sally. "How do you know…because they…" she retorts. "How do you know that they really…?" Sally is implying that women probably "fake it" with Harry. He thinks he would know if they were. To prove her point, Sally proceeds to fake a (very loud) orgasm, sighing, moaning, screeching in the middle of the crowded diner where they're eating lunch.
This iconic scene points to a universal truth in our culture—the female orgasm isn't always easy to achieve. According to a 2018 survey by LELO, women achieve orgasm during sex only 43 percent of time, and 1 in 20 women claimed she had never had an orgasm with her partner. As one 2017 study notes, there are multiple reasons that contribute to orgasm difficulty, including problems with physical stimulation, psychological problems, interpersonal problems and contextual problems.
Recent research into the so-called "orgasm gap" indicates that achieving an orgasm with a partner isn't just about what happens in the bedroom—it's also related to what happens in your relationship the rest of the time, too.
How relationship satisfaction plays a part in the female orgasm
You may already know that orgasms can help you build a stronger relationship with your partner. As sex educator Tiffany Yelverton told us, "When women have orgasms, the endorphins, hormones, and oxytocin— also known as the cuddle chemical—create a euphoric feeling. It fulfills a 'need' and creates an emotional bond. While oxytocin remains in a male body for about 20 minutes, it remains in the female system for multiple days. These orgasms and oxytocin create an invisible bond with a couple."
But, the reverse is also true. According to one 2019 study, how "satisfied" you are in your relationship has a strong correlation with how satisfied you are in your partnered and solo sexual activities, too.
'Women who have a better relationship with their partner are likely better at communicating their sexual needs to them, thus increasing their potential for arousal and orgasm.'
"In general, women who are more satisfied with their relationship with their partner tend to have lower orgasmic difficulty," David L. Rowland, who led the study, told PsyPost. "This relationship is likely bidirectional. Women who have greater sexual satisfaction during partnered sex enjoy the intimacy with their partner, thus enhancing their relationship. At the same time, women who have a better relationship with their partner are likely better at communicating their sexual needs to them, thus increasing their potential for arousal and orgasm."
It makes sense that having a satisfying relationship leads to better sex—and, in turn, a higher frequency of orgasms. Strong relationships allow for more intimacy, better communication and, of course, more physical practice.
"Those who have higher relationship satisfaction often have several things in common, including that they know their partner is invested in their pleasure and is willing to do their best to help them get there, and that they feel less self-conscious about themselves during sex," explained Rachel Worthington, a sex educator at Bed Bible.
How improving your relationship could help you orgasm in partnered sex
If relationship satisfaction and the female orgasm are closely linked, how can we use this to our advantage? Here are some tips on how to become more satisfied in your relationship and, in turn, in your sex life.
Get out of your head with your partner
Most of us know that achieving orgasm is often easier when we are able to "get out of our heads" and stop thinking and analyzing. "Trusting our partner to please us is a big part of this," explained Worthington. And, of course, trusting your partner enough to let go is linked to your satisfaction in the relationship.
Building trust in other aspects of your relationship may help you stop analyzing things during sex. Notice when you feel unsure about your partner and try to communicate these worries to establish a base level of trust.
You can also practice "getting out of your head" in nonsexual activities with your partner. Try doing something spontaneous, like taking a last-minute trip or taking a drive to a random nearby town. By letting yourselves get lost in the moment, you may build new levels of trust in your partner, which will translate the next time you get it on in the bedroom.
Establish open, judgment-free communication
If you aren't fully satisfied with your sex life or with any other aspect of your relationship, communication is key.
"When we feel more satisfied in a relationship, we are more willing to be vulnerable with our partner about our issues," said Worthington. "But, this also goes the other way, and making an effort to be more open and vulnerable can actually increase our relationship satisfaction."
Sit down with your partner and express your worries about achieving orgasm in a neutral, blame-free way. "This is something you're going to tackle together," she said. "Hopefully, your partner will be willing to try new things to see if it can help you reach the big O. That can be a new position, different rhythms, trying out oral or anal play, or drawing out foreplay to get you really aroused."
Know what you want and tell them
If you are satisfied in your relationship, you're probably already pretty good at telling your partner what you need. This might include things like helping out more around the house or giving you more attention. But, it can also include telling them how they can help you achieve orgasm.
"It can be really helpful if you can give them some pointers on what might feel good, which is where self-pleasure comes in," said Worthington. "Spend some time with yourself, with or without sex toys, and find what feels best for you. Get confident in how to orgasm by yourself, and you'll enter into partner sex with much less insecurity and much more excitement."
Good sex and good relationships go hand-in-hand. The more you open up and break down barriers in the nonsexual parts of your relationship, the more open and free you'll become in the bedroom. And, of course, it works the other way around, too—sexual satisfaction will improve your relationship satisfaction, too!