Are You Sexualized, But Not Satisfied in Love?
A new study looks at sexualized, objectified women and how satisfied (or not) they are in their romantic relationships. The results are a new twist on an old problem.
Recently the NY Post felt the need to have nude Melania Trump on it’s cover, with oh so clever blue star pasties. And then they went on to tweet a fully nude photo for their Twitter followers. Since her husband is running for president, the photo isn’t much of a surprise.
In many ways it’s pretty predictable, right? Our culture is totally obsessed with sex, women’s bodies and their value.
But what does this phenomenon do in your romantic relationships?
Does it fuel the problem for the female partner that’s not satisfied in love? How objectification affects romantic relationships was studied in three new research studies. The studies looked at what happens when our most intimate relationships feel objectified.
And the title of the new study was appropriately sexy: Sexualized, Objectified but NOT Satisfied (in Love).
Your body and looks are what really matters, is basically the message of sexual objectification. Therefore, you’re viewed and/or treated like an object. And not to state the obvious but — objects are— things. Things aren’t human. They don’t have feelings or thoughts.
Negative consequences are the outcomes shown in most of the research about objectification. And there’s lots of studies showing how it underscores happiness and self-esteem (among other troubling stats). It dehumanizes them.
Finally just to be clear, it’s usually women who are objectified and men are the ones doing it. There’s absolutely times when the opposite is true, men can and do get objectified by women. And, this also happens in the LGBQ community too. But the majority (and what I’m talking about here) is in men/women heterosexual context.
And in relationships, this can lead to pressure and coercion for sex. And lots of feelings of “not being good enough” for both partners.
Wanting to be Wanted
But feeling sexually desired is important. Right? Right!
We all want to feel desired, in romantic relationships. In fact, a big challenge with some of the couples I see is that they don’t feel desired by their partner. And they don’t know what to do about it.
So they ask indirectly for what they want. Or they pressure (sometimes relentlessly) for what they want. And both, usually end up feeling bad.
So, what these new research studies looked at, was how in a romantic relationship being “objectified” plays out. And the results were repeated in three separate studies.
The 3 studies delivered consistent results.
What did they find? Women who enjoyed being sexualized (the ladies who wanted to be valued for their looks and body) were often romantically involved with men who objectified them. And while the women wanted to be valued sexually, they had lower levels of relationship satisfaction. They were not satisfied in love, or at least not as satisfied.
The women being objectified within their romantic relationship, felt less satisfied in their relationship.
It’s Not All or Nothing
It can sometimes feel like you’re between a rock and a hard place.
This wanting to be desired, but not wanting to only be desired. Or when the urgent desire of wanting, fails to get the desired result. Because, most of us have an innate need to be desired by our partner and to be desirable. The yearning to be wanted physically and passionately is pretty basic.
So maybe it’s a matter of degrees. Thinking and wanting to be sexy… doesn’t mean that you DON’T want your feelings and thoughts to be valued.
Couples that come to see me, often identify sex as a BIG problem. And there’s 16 studies that show that after couples complete Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy the vast majority feel connected and satisfied in their relationship. For most couples in a connected, loving relationship, sex is identified as just one of many components of the relationship.
So maybe it’s more about wanting and getting all of it?
We all need intellectual connection, emotional connection, AND physical connection. So we can find ways to be together to love and cherish the whole person, and not just the favorite body part.
What You Can Do Today
So, what can you do if you’re feeling objectified? Or what if you’re not feeling desire but not desirable, how can you address that? Both are important.
I invite you to consider what would it be like to say something to your partner directly. Directly about the behaviors that are feeling bad and the feeling underneath them. Maybe you can start a conversation that reflects some of the needs you have. It might feel a bit risky at first, but maybe, just maybe it can be the start to change your relationship.
But if you’re not sure how (and want to try) the book Hold Me Tight might help. It’s a book designed for couples, based on Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.
Another option would be couples therapy. Preferably therapy with a couples therapist, that has formal training and uses an evidence based intervention. A skilled therapist can often, really help.
Changing the way you respond to each other, makes things shift. And can begin to change the relationship so that you both can get and keep the love that you deserve.
If you’d like more info on this study and insight from one of the researchers, here’s a link to a podcast by Relationship Matters.
I’m a Licensed Clinical Therapist in St. Louis County. My private practice focuses on relationships and how to make them better. We really are happiest when we feel loved by the most important people in our life. And there are ways based in science to create, nurture and repair that love. For more info on the science behind my work, click here.
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