Sexual growth and destiny beliefs: Associations with couples' sexual well-being and coping during the pathway to parenthood
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When undergoing a challenging life event, an individual’s growth and destiny beliefs – their beliefs about what makes a good relationship – shape relationship outcomes. Sexual destiny beliefs refer to the belief that the success of a sexual relationship is determined by natural compatibility. In contrast, sexual growth beliefs reflect the belief that sexual satisfaction results from effort and hard work. There is limited information as to whether these beliefs relate to couples’ well-being and behaviours during actual life stressors. In my dissertation I examined sexual destiny and growth beliefs as predictors of couples’ sexual well-being and dyadic coping across two vulnerable periods for their sexuality: the transition to parenthood and medically assisted reproduction. In Study 1, I assessed whether couples’ (N = 203) beliefs in pregnancy predicted their sexual well-being across 3-, 6-, 9-, and 12-months postpartum. When expectant mothers endorsed greater sexual destiny beliefs in pregnancy, they reported lower sexual satisfaction and higher sexual distress at 3-months postpartum. Moreover, partners’ greater sexual destiny beliefs in pregnancy predicted their own and new mothers’ greater sexual desire at 3-months postpartum, whereas partners’ greater sexual growth beliefs in pregnancy predicted mothers’ lower sexual desire at 3-months postpartum. In Study 2, I tested the temporal associations at the between- and within-person levels among sexual growth and destiny beliefs and positive and negative dyadic coping in a sample of couples (N = 219) seeking medically assisted reproduction over a one-year period. Across couples, higher than average overall sexual destiny beliefs were related to higher overall levels of negative dyadic coping. Within couples, I found that reporting higher-than-average sexual growth beliefs at baseline was associated with their own lower-than-average negative dyadic coping six months later, whereas higher-than-average sexual destiny beliefs at 6-months was linked to an individual’s and their partners’ higher-than-average negative dyadic coping at 12-months. Greater negative dyadic coping at 6-months was associated with lower sexual growth beliefs at 12-months. My dissertation contributes important knowledge as to the function and temporality of sexual growth and destiny beliefs. My work may inform interventions that target couples’ ability to identify and potentially modify unhelpful beliefs about sex.