What’s more important are the kisses, cuddles, hugs and affectionate touches that go on before, during and after sex, according to research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
In a series of studies, psychologists in Switzerland and Canada suggest that it’s the affection in a couple’s life, as well as the sex, that brings long-term happiness and satisfaction.
Sex is beneficial not just because it makes us feel good, wrote coauthor Anik Debrot, a researcher at the University of Lausanne’s Institute of Psychology in Switzerland, and her colleagues, “but because it promotes a stronger and more positive connection with the partner.”
The research involved four studies of couples in the U.S. and Switzerland. The first two involved surveys of American couples asking about their sexual frequency, how often they had “affectionate touching” (cuddling, hugging, kissing, caressing), how they rated their “life satisfaction,” and how often they experienced positive emotions.
A second pair of studies involved Swiss couples — a group of married couples with children and a group of university students — who were asked to keep a diary of their sexual activity and positive emotions.
What researchers found was that sex led to longer-lasting positive emotions when it was accompanied by affection. And don’t think it was just women who wanted loving touches and hugs. Both men and women in the study said affection was important.
Granted, research based on surveys and self-reporting has its limits and doesn’t prove causation — or even that cuddling is necessary for every couple. But the findings still underscore how for many couples, affection can deepen both the benefits of sex and the overall relationship.
And when sex isn’t possible for a couple, for whatever reason, Debrot and her team said the results suggest that being affectionate in other ways could still be beneficial.