Surefire Ways To Tell If You And Your Spouse Are Sexually Compatible

When it comes to love and romance, "compatibility" is something of a buzzword. Millennial and Gen-Z singles are known to search for compatibility via their partner's astrological signs (via Evie Magazine), while personality tests promise they'll find out whether or not you're a match with someone (via Mindbodygreen). Furthermore, many couples end up breaking up because they're just not compatible with each other. 

Indeed, romantic compatibility is an essential part of being in a relationship, although researchers say that having the "right" sign or enjoying the same activities isn't actually what defines compatibility. On the contrary, according to psychologist Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., partners show that they are in sync by treating each other with kindness, as opposed to agreeing on what food to order (via PyschAlive). As Firestone explained: "Relationship compatibility exists, first and foremost, when a couple relates with equality and respect ... Relationships thrive when two people share companionship and activities. However, a couple doesn't have to have every interest in common." 

Interestingly, sexual compatibility is, in many ways, an extension of Firestone's take on romantic compatibility. Of course, as noted in Brides, sexual compatibility occurs when partners are interested in the same "sexual activities." Even so, married partners won't always agree on what activities to try or how often to try them. Nonetheless, they might still be compatible based on how they navigate their similarities and differences.

1. You enjoy the same activities in bed

The most basic definition of sexual compatibility is when two people enjoy the same types of erotic interactions. "Perceived sexual compatibility is defined as the extent to which a couple perceives they share sexual beliefs, preferences, desires, and needs with their partner," sex and relationship researcher Kristen Mark, Ph.D., explained (via Psychology Today). In practical terms, this could mean that you and your spouse are into the same acts, positions, or practices. For example, maybe you and your partner love to start sex out with a relaxing back rub. Or, perhaps you both enjoy something kinkier, like breaking out the handcuffs. Either way, sharing these things is what, superficially, makes you compatible.

While having some common ground in the bedroom does make sex easier, absolute compatibility is not only unnecessary — it's basically impossible. Just like it's practically unheard of for two people to like all the same foods, it's extremely uncommon for two partners to want all the same things in bed. Because of this, the most important part of general sexual compatibility is knowing how to talk about sex in a kind way. As certified sex therapist Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., said: "More important than sharing that same view is having a proper understanding of each other's views on sex, and respecting that" (via Healthline).

2. You have similar sexual fantasies

According to Teen Health Source, sexual fantasy is "a mental image or thought that can be connected to sex or sexual arousal." Couples who have compatible fantasies get turned on by similar ideas, thoughts, or images. While having overlapping fantasies might sound like a tall order, research shows that most people's erotic daydreams fall into the same categories. Sex educator Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., found that there are seven main sexual fantasies people tend to have including non-monogamy, group sex, and forbidden sex (via Healthline).

Because of these commonalities, couples can actually increase their sexual connection by talking about their turn-ons. One 2019 study asked couples to fantasize about sex, both separately and together. Throughout the study, participants recorded the impact of their erotic imagination on their relationships. According to the results, couples that fantasized together grew closer together. As noted in the abstract, "dyadic fantasizing was associated with heightened desire and increased engagement in relationship-promoting behaviors."

In order to find out if you and your partner share any of the same sexual daydreams, the best thing you can do is talk about it. However, as noted by clinical psychologist and sexology lecturer Matt Tilley, you should share your fantasies with your partner without pressuring them to make it real (via ABC Australia). Instead, Tilley said that couples should try to "identify if there's any common ground between their fantasy and what you're happy to do."

3. You can handle having different fantasies

While it can be extremely satisfying for couples to open up about their sexual fantasies, they shouldn't expect to have a 100% overlap. Knowing how to talk about having different desires is an essential part of maintaining a healthy approach to sexual compatibility. According to experts, one of the best things you can do for your relationship is to refrain from judging your partner for having their own turn-ons. 

Sex therapist Kassandra Mourikis warned that doing so can be detrimental to your sex life — and your relationship as a whole. "A good reminder is that when you judge or shame a partner for sharing their fantasies, you enter into a cycle where they are more likely to withdraw from intimacy, internalise shame and begin to experience distress," Mourikis explained (via ABC Australia). Instead of reacting negatively to your spouse's fantasies, Mourikis recommended approaching the situation from "a place of curiosity." According to the sex therapist, you can diffuse tension by asking your partner questions and receiving their answers with an open mind.

Of course, just because you're able to hear about your partner's sexual fantasies doesn't mean that you should feel pressure to engage in them. Spouses should never pressure each other to do anything they don't want to do. As clinical psychologist Robyn Salisbury wrote for Stuff: "A healthy sexual relationship requires informed, non-coerced consent in all activities. No force and no sulking either."

4. You can talk about how often you have sex

A couple that is 100% sexually compatible would always agree on how often to have sex. Unfortunately, however, it just isn't realistic for two people to always be in the mood for intimacy at the same time. The reason for this is that sexual desire isn't as simple as just looking at your partner and finding them attractive. Many factors — including stress levels and overall relationship satisfaction — can keep a couple from heating things up between the sheets. One 2013 study reported that women with high stress levels were linked to a decrease in genital arousal and seemed preoccupied when confronted with erotic videos. A separate 2014 study found that financial stress and depression can also decrease men's libido, although not as much as women's.

Since sex drives often ebb and flow, it can be common for couples to have mismatched libidos. Consequently, the most sexually compatible couples are oftentimes the ones who can talk about their desires or lack of them. Sex therapist Dr. Linda De Villers advised spouses who are out of sync to try exploring their pleasure centers through other kinds of erotic interactions. "There are different kinds of sex that you can have," Villers said (via USA Today). Back scratches, hand massages, and head rubs are all good strategies for experiencing non-sexual intimacy.

5. You know how to react to sexual rejection

Because of differences in sex drive, it's likely that both you and your partner will, at some point in your relationship, initiate sex only to be turned down. While this is a normal part of a healthy relationship, it's not always fun to face rejection. "When our intimate or sexual partner has low desire, it can be a blow to self-esteem and the ego of the other partner," said clinical psychologist and sex therapist Dr. Peter Kanaris (via USA Today).

While it can be easy to take one partner's low libido personally, part of being compatible partners is knowing how to navigate these differences appropriately. For the person receiving the rejection, this means keeping things in perspective. "If your partner declines a sexual invitation, it's not a rejection of who you are as a person, nor does it say anything about the relationship. The more you can separate those two things, the better off you'll be," explained sex therapist Dr. Katherine Hertlein (via Blueheart).

Meanwhile, the person who doesn't want sex can protect their partner's feelings by rejecting them kindly. According to a study performed by University of Toronto psychologist James Kim, partners who provide reassurance along with sexual rejection experience higher levels of relationship satisfaction than those who don't (via Psychology Today). Therefore, if you're turning down sex, you might also tell your partner that you're still into them.

6. You're as sexually adventurous as your partner — or not

In life, some people enjoy skydiving, while others prefer reading a book. When it comes to sex, the same is true: Not everybody is equally adventurous. According to a study performed by Dr. Kirsten Mark (via Longevity), this is evident in the sexual acts that people say they've tried. Per Mark's research, over 90% of people have had sex with the lights on. Additionally, 89% of women reported having experimented with sexy lingerie. Meanwhile, other sexual interactions were much less frequent — between 6% and 10% of people said they had participated in sexual activities such as a threesome.

When spouses are sexually compatible, they generally fall within the same range of sexual adventurousness. However, this doesn't mean that spouses who fall on different ends of the spectrum should just separate. Certified sex therapist Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., revealed that she has counseled successful couples with vastly different sexual interests. "I've had one couple where one partner loved kink and bondage and the other much preferred vanilla style sex," Skyler said (via Healthline). Presumably, everything worked out because, as Skyler explained, "they were both happy to compromise." Unfortunately, though, this level of compromise can be challenging. Plus, as Skyler said, there is one case where meeting in the middle is impossible: "If not and one person wants monogamy and the other wants an open relationship, the relationship is doomed."

7. You know how to talk about becoming more sexually adventurous

Although not everyone is equally adventurous in bed, research indicates that most people who live together are more willing to try new things than they let on. As reported by the Daily Mail, a survey done by UKMedix asked 2,013 cohabiting British couples about their sex lives. The participants were reportedly asked the question: "Do you believe that you are more sexually adventurous than your partner?" For the purpose of the study, the phrase "sexually adventurous" was defined as "open-minded and willing to try new things." 

Interestingly, a whopping 67% of participants replied that they were, effectively, more adventurous than their respective partners (via the Daily Mail). This result was fascinating, as it would be mathematically impossible for more than 50% of the participants to actually be more adventurous than their other halves. In the survey, both members of each couple responded to the questions, although separately. This means that some couples likely contain two partners who are more compatible in terms of adventurousness than they believe.

Couples who want to up their compatibility might consider talking about becoming more adventurous. Sexologist Dr. Jireh Serfontein said (via News24) that one way to do this is with a Yes-No-Maybe questionnaire. This mini-survey asks partners, separately, which specific sexual acts interest them. Afterward, Serfontein suggested couples "sit together to compare the notes." If there's any overlap, partners can discuss bringing these acts into the bedroom.

8. You don't expect your partner to like everything that you like

When couples talk about trying new stuff in bed, they may not always be interested in exploring the same things. As counterintuitive as it may sound, partners who are, in fact, compatible are often the best at accepting these differences. According to sex and relationship psychotherapist Silva Neves, there are strategies to help couples navigate their sexual differences. "A lot of couples have different erotic worlds that don't match ... but you can still have a successful relationship," Neves said (via The Guardian). Apparently, the key to navigating sexual differences is to allow partners to explore their unique interests independently, through mediums like erotica, imagination, or masturbation. Meanwhile, Neves said that the partner who isn't interested in exploring a certain kink should "make it very clear that this one thing is not for you."

Unfortunately, however, there are some cases where partners might find it too challenging to deal with their dissimilar preferences. According to professor and founder of The Casual Sex Project Dr. Zhana Vrangalova, couples might consider breaking up if one person has a kink that the other can't get on board with. "With kink, those desires and needs can be very strong. If you can't get those needs met in your long-term relationships, you won't be very happy. Just like non-sexual needs, sexual can be critical to who you are," Vrangalova said (via Vice).

9. You agree on what constitutes cheating

Cheating might sound like a universal concept, but different people view different behaviors as cheating. Partners who are compatible must have the same definition of cheating — otherwise, they are likely headed for disaster. Unfortunately, even though infidelity is a deal breaker for many people, most couples haven't traded notes on what they consider unfaithful behavior. According to one study, almost 70% of people admitted that they'd never spoken with their partner about what cheating means to them (via the BBC). Experts say that this is a mistake.

Psychology professor Susan Boon discussed the reasons why couples try to avoid this conversation. "I'm not sure why people don't talk about it considering how often you see it in movies or songs. Part of it is that we're not aware of the variability of standards. We assume wrongly that what I consider unfaithful you would too," Boon said (via the BBC).

Luckily, there are ways for partners who have differing views of cheating to up their compatibility and get on the same page. According to licensed marriage and family therapist Heidi McBain, M.A., spouses can discuss other couples' infidelity as a way to talk about their own boundaries and anxieties. "It can be helpful to talk about what happened in the other relationship, and how you can keep the same thing from happening in your own," McBain suggested (via Romper).

10. You communicate openly with your partner

While it can be helpful for couples to have a sit-down chat about their desires and fantasies, it's even better for them to engage in a lifelong conversation about sex in general. After all, people change with time, and so do their sexual interests. In an article about his book "Tell Me What You Want" (via Sex & Psychology), social psychologist Justin Lehmiller discussed findings about how sexual fantasies evolve throughout the years. 

According to Lehmiller, 58% of women between the ages of 18 and 29 say that they fantasize about BDSM, while the same was only true for 33.3% of women over the age of 60 (via Sex & Psychology). Meanwhile, both men and women report fantasizing more about non-monogamous sex as they age, although this tendency does decline again slightly later in life. Overall, the data reveals that sexual compatibility isn't a fixed set of characteristics that partners have or don't. On the contrary, compatibility is about exploring and growing together as the years go by

A 2011 study showed the impact of changing sexual tendencies on long-term relationships and found that partners who experienced greater sexual changes — and welcomed these changes — also reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction. Thus, by frequently checking in about their respective sexual desires, partners can build and maintain long-term compatibility.

11. You're able to keep compatibility in perspective

Everybody— and every body— is different. It's essentially impossible to imagine that two people will always be in the mood to have the same kind of sex at the exact same time. Because of this, the couples that are the most sexually compatible are also the ones that know how to keep compatibility in perspective. They don't expect their other halves to be exactly like them, and therefore, don't catastrophize their differences. "Being sexually compatible is about the way you and your partner relate to each other regarding sex," said licensed psychotherapist and clinical sexologist Dr. Stan Hyman (via Volonté). "It [is] about the ease with which the two of you manage your sex lives together. It is more to do with your perspective on how the two of you feel about your differences."

Because of this, experts say that sexual compatibility — like anything in a relationship — takes work. "Staying compatible for the long term is something that requires a bit of effort and an ongoing conversation," said social psychologist Justin Lehmiller (via Sex & Psychology). "It's not something that you just set and forget." Luckily, Lehmiller said couples can improve their compatibility game by asking questions such as: "Do you want different things than you used to? Do you want a different amount of sex than you did before? Have your fantasies changed?" By listening to each other's responses, spouses can achieve more compatibility.