Just doing it anyway may benefit the relationship – but…
Given that having sex for avoidance goals is associated with more negative outcomes for both partners, is it better to not have sex at all than to have sex for avoidance goals? Not necessarily. Couples reported higher relationship satisfaction on days when they had sex, regardless of their reasons for doing so, compared to days without sex. Having sex for avoidance goals may provide a daily boost in relationship satisfaction compared to not having sex at all (although not nearly as much of a boost as having sex for approach goals!).
So although sex (even if avoidance-motivated) provides a daily boost of satisfaction, how does having sex for avoidance goals impact a relationship over time? In one of our studies, we followed up with couples four months after they completed the diary study to see how their reasons for having sex over the course of the diary impacted their desire and satisfaction over time. Not surprisingly, people who had sex more for avoidance goals over the course of the diary reported lower desire and felt less sexually satisfied four months later. More interestingly, their partners also felt less sexually satisfied and less committed to the relationship four months later!
In short, it seems that having sex to avoid negative outcomes may provide daily benefits compared to not having sex, but if sex is commonly pursued avoidance goals, it negatively impacts the well-being of the relationship over time. “Giving it up” to avoid negative outcomes may not actually benefit the relationship.
As brilliant as this article is, it basically says one simple thing: If you are having sex only to avoid a fight — keep doing it and immediately do WHATEVER it takes to fix the relationship or the sexual intimacy itself so you WANT to have sex.