The aim of this research was to investigate the association of intimacy with sexual desire and sexual thought content in the daily life of heterosexual men and women, including the moderation of the association of intimacy and sexual functioning by factors such as gender, attachment orientation and relational dissatisfaction. The Experience Sampling Method (ESM) was used for data collection. Due to the hierarchical nature of the data, with beep observations nested within days and within persons, multilevel linear regression analyses were used to investigate both cross-sectional (data recorded at the same beep) and temporal associations using time-lag analyses of data on consecutive beeps.
Higher feelings of intimacy with the partner were cross-sectionally associated with higher sexual desire and more sexual thoughts. Based on the observed temporal association in women, a relationship may be assumed between feelings of intimacy with the partner followed by the emergence of sexual thoughts. In men, however, higher intimacy was followed by lower sexual desire. In individuals with avoidant attachment orientation higher intimacy was also associated with lower sexual desire. In individuals with high relational dissatisfaction, intimacy with the partner was followed by a decrease in sexual thoughts at the next beep.
The results from the present study demonstrate an association between feelings of intimacy for the partner, sexual desire and sexual thoughts. There are also indications that intimacy in women can lead to increased sexual thoughts. In addition, the results show that in men perceived intimacy and characteristics of the relationship can decrease sexual desire and sexual thoughts. Insecure attachment also plays a role in the examined associations. The present findings might add to the rationale for relationship-focused interventions in clinical practice. They make clear how sexual desire and thoughts are connected to intimacy and where the process can be disrupted.