Having sex when you’re single definitely has its upsides. I mean, you can be a total freak in the bedroom and you never have to see the person again if you don’t want to. But if being super kinky isn’t really your thing, it can feel more like an act than a night of true passion. There are certain things a long-term romantic partner can provide in the bedroom that a one night stand or friend with benefits simply can’t. So, is sex better when you’re in a relationship? Well, it definitely can be.
When you’re in a relationship, you have more time to get to know the other person’s unique turn-ons, kinks, likes, and dislikes. You can explore new fantasies together and decide what feels right. Plus, you are both more comfortable around one another in general, which translates to less pressure and the ability to enjoy yourselves more during sex. If the first time you have sex with someone isn’t great, that’s likely because you aren’t yet familiar with each other’s preferences.
The sex isn’t automatically better just because you’re in a relationship, but it has more of an opportunity to get really good. The mutual trust and understanding you share with your partner will lead to better sex, but that’s not the only reason sex can be better when you’re in a relationship. Here are three explanations for why sex can feel so much more satisfying when you’re in a relationship.
1. Communication is scientifically proven to lead to better sex.
A 2017 study conducted at the Medical University of Vienna treated women in long-term relationships with either the “bonding hormone” oxytocin or with a placebo and asked them to keep a joint diary with their partners about their sex lives. The researchers found that no matter which one was administered, both the women and their male partners reported enhanced sexual pleasure. Satisfaction was increased even to the point of improving erectile function. Because the effect was the same with the actual drug and with the placebo, scientists attributed the result to improved communication within these long-term relationships.
“The mere fact that the couple discussed sexuality more in their relationship and that they had to keep a joint diary helped to enhance their sexual response,” Dr. Michaela Bayerle-Eder, who directed the study, told Science Daily. Basically, because the results were just as good for the placebo group as they were for the couples where the women were given the oxytocin, Bayerle-Eder believes that “it is not just the medication that helps but rather, and more importantly, the functional social interaction within a relationship,” according to Science Daily.
2. It takes time and effort to really get to know your partner.
“There’s no such thing as someone who is ‘good at sex.’ It completely depends on your partner,” Nicole Prause, principal investigator at the Sexual Psychophysiology and Affective Neuroscience Lab at the University of California, Los Angeles told The Cut. “The expertise isn’t embedded in the information. It’s embedded in the individual,” she said. Simply put, the only way to make sex “better” is to listen to your partner.
A 2012 study in the American Sociological Review found that women have orgasms more often in relationships than in hookups. The researchers concluded that this is due to a combination of the sex itself, having more experience with that particular partner, and the commitment aspect. Women tend to enjoy sexual experiences more when they’re in a relationship with the person, which means they orgasm more often with committed partners.
The study also found that “both men and women question women’s (but not men’s) entitlement to pleasure in hookups but believe strongly in women’s (as well as men’s) entitlement to pleasure in relationships.” So in relationships, men give women more attention and make more of an effort to bring them to orgasm, but not as much focus is put on women when straight couples are just hooking up.
3. Safe sex is good sex.
Having an established method of birth control means safer sex and less worry about an unwanted pregnancy or catching an STD. When you’re in a relationship with someone, it’s easier to talk about using protection and to have a plan in place. If you both know that you’re on the pill and your boyfriend uses condoms every time, you don’t have to stress about that during sex. You’re free to enjoy yourself without worry.
On the other hand, a one night stand might argue with you about wearing a condom, lie about being clean or having used protection with multiple partners, or say they’re on the pill when they really aren’t. Unfortunately, not everyone is always honest about these topics, which really sucks. And when you don’t know the person as well, it can be harder to get into the “have you been tested” conversation — especially in the heat of the moment.
Having sex while single is great, and it’s nothing to look down upon or be “too good for.” There are a number of reasons why sex with a committed partner can feel better or more satisfying, but if you’re not ready for a relationship, don’t rush it. The best sex happens when it’s with exactly the right person at exactly the right time.