What do you do after sex? Some people like to spoon or cuddle, others go to sleep, and yet others get up to grab something to eat or drink. But does what you do matter? For people in relationships, it certainly seems to, according to research. In fact, the more that couples spoon or otherwise express affection or intimacy after sex, the happier they tend to be.
Consider the results of a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior involving 138 men and 197 women in relationships (90% of whom were heterosexual). Participants were surveyed about the amount of time they usually spend on “after-sex affection” (we’re talking things like spooning, cuddling, or otherwise sharing intimacy), the length of time they usually spend on both foreplay and sex, how much non-sexual affection they express with their partner, and how satisfied they currently are with their sex lives and relationships.
It turned out that the more time people spent on post-sex affection, the more satisfied they were with their sex lives. This was true for women and men alike. In addition, post-sex affection was linked to greater relationship satisfaction for women, but not men.
These findings held even when accounting for the general level of affection expressed in the relationship. This tells us that the people who spooned more weren’t necessarily just more affectionate in general. The effects also held when controlling for time spent on foreplay and sex, meaning that people who spend more time spooning don’t just spend more time on everything else, too.
In a second study, researchers tracked 101 couples (94% of whom were heterosexual) for three months. For the first three weeks, participants completed a daily survey about their sex lives that included all of the same questionnaires given in the first study. Three months later, participants were asked to complete the sexual and relationship satisfaction questions again.
It turned out that on days couples spent more time on after-sex affection than they usually do, they reported greater sexual satisfaction and, in turn, greater relationship satisfaction. Also, the more total time couples spent on after-sex affection during those three months, the happier they were (both sexually and in terms of their relationship). The results did not depend on gender, meaning that after-sex affection appeared to be beneficial for women and men alike.
What these studies suggest is that the more time couples spend spooning or otherwise being intimate after sex, the happier they are. Of course, the reverse causality is also possible, meaning that perhaps being in a happy relationship causes couples to spoon. However, odds are that we’re talking about a feedback loop here, in which being happy increases the likelihood of spooning and cuddling, which further increases happiness and so on.
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To learn more about this research, see: Muise, A., Giang, E., & Impett, E. A. (2014). Post sex affectionate exchanges promote sexual and relationship satisfaction. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43(7), 1391-1402.
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