Sexuality & Couples

Sophie Bergeron  Ph.D

Hypersexuality is defined as sexual urges, fantasies, and behaviors that the individual tries to control unsuccessfully, resulting in significant distress and impairment in different areas of functioning, such as work or personal relationships. Emotion regulation and intimacy problems are important characteristics related to hypersexuality. However, previous scientific studies have not examined whether emotion regulation and intimacy problems may result in higher levels of hypersexuality, or rather, higher levels of hypersexuality might lead to worse emotion regulation and intimacy in couples. A recent study conducted in our laboratory examined the longitudinal associations between each partner’s emotion dysregulation, physical (i.e., partnered sexual frequency) and relationship intimacy, and hypersexuality. As part of a larger longitudinal project in our lab, we recruited 265 couples. We asked them to complete online surveys independently about their sexuality at baseline and six months later.

What did we find?

Results showed that both men and women who experienced more emotion regulation problems also engaged in more hypersexual behaviors six months later. Moreover, women's higher levels of hypersexuality resulted in their lower relationship intimacy six months later. Our findings highlighted that individuals experiencing difficulties regulating their negative emotions might use sexual activities to cope with these unpleasant feelings and emotions. However, engaging in sexual activities to cope with emotions might provide only short-term soothing and could lead to higher levels of hypersexuality in the long run. Moreover, when partnered individuals seek help for their hypersexuality, the relationship should be considered a potentially affected area of functioning, as the treatment-seeking individual may feel less connected to their partner. Their partner may also feel distressed and experience feelings of loss and betrayal as a result of discovering their significant other's hypersexuality. Thus, therapists working with individuals with hypersexuality should dedicate more attention to the development of adaptive emotion regulation strategies (e.g., self-compassion). These emotion regulation strategies may help individuals cope with negative feelings and contribute to the improvement of couples’ relationship intimacy.

If you would like to know more about this study, we invite you to read the full paper:

Bőthe, B., Vaillancourt-Morel, M-P., & Bergeron, S. Hypersexuality in mixed-sex couples: A dyadic longitudinal study (2021). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 1-12.

Funding: This work was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the SCOUP Team – Sexuality and Couples – Fonds de recherche du Québec, Société et Culture and by the Merit Scholarship Program for Foreign Students (PBEEE) awarded by the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement Supérieur (MEES) to awarded to B. Bőthe.


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