Couples in long-term relationships who put in hard work and effort are more likely to have a happy sex life than those who think it sexual satisfaction will happen just because you are with your “soulmate”, research has found.

The study by Jessica Maxwell, a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto involved about 1,900 participants and was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

She found that the couples “sexpectations” – either the need to work on sexual growth or rely on sexual destiny – can be so powerful it can either sustain an otherwise healthy relationship or undermine it.

“People who believe in sexual destiny are using their sex life as a barometer for how well their relationship is doing, and they believe problems in the bedroom equal problems in the relationship as a whole,” she said.

 “Whereas people who believe in sexual growth not only believe they can work on their sexual problems, but they are not letting it affect their relationship satisfaction.”

Maxwell found there is a honeymoon phase that lasts for around two or three years where both believers in sexual growth and sexual destiny indicate high sexual satisfaction.

But as sexual desire begins to ebb and flow after this initial phase, the benefit of believing in sexual growth is then realised.

“We know that disagreements in the sexual domain are somewhat inevitable over time,” she said.

“Your sex life is like a garden, and it needs to be watered and nurtured to maintain it.”

She also found that while women are often avid consumers of media with stories about soulmates and romantic destiny, they are usually more likely than men to believe that it takes work to have a healthy sex life in a long-term relationship.