The science behind sex, intimacy & relationships

Amongst the rush of work, bills and everyday life, it can sometimes be difficult to keep sex at the top of your agenda. But just like brushing your teeth and exercising, sex is really important — not only for your personal health — but the health of your relationship. So what does the science have to say about it?

First of all, the science tells us that good sex is intrinsically tied to our general wellbeing. A team from the Guttmacher Institute in New York reviewed a number of studies on the positive aspects of sex on our wellbeing. They found that across the board, sexual health, physical health, mental health and overall well-being are positively associated with sexual satisfaction, sexual self-esteem and sexual pleasure.

But how about those other cues associated with sex — like intimacy and emotional connection — how do they impact on the long-term health of our relationship? We decoded some interesting studies in this area to find out.

The effects of saying “I love you” before, not after sex

Three little words can mean a lot. Back in the early 2000’s a study from the University of Illinois looked at whether having a strong emotional connection, and the effects of saying “I love you” before sex could positively impact the long-term trajectory of a relationship.

Their conclusion? Yes. An emotional connection combined with strong communication between a couple is extremely important do the long-term health of your relationship. The simple act of saying “I love you” before sex (rather than after) could change your relationship for the better.

MORE: What does she really care about in bed?

The effects of cuddles and affection after sex

The positive benefits of spooning has finally been given the scientific tick thanks to a recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour. Researchers from the University of Toronto found that couples who spend more time on post-sex affection such as cuddling, caressing, spooning and expressing their love for each other are more satisfied not only sexually, but also in their relationship.

What’s more, when we surveyed 2,000 women from around the world, the majority believed that men underestimated the power of a cuddle. The time after sex is extremely important for bonding between couples. So, for a stronger, more sexually satisfying relationship, cuddling post-sex is the ticket you need.

The sexual afterglow

Have you ever noticed you’re in a better mood after you have sex with your partner? That the two of you are more affectionate with each other? That you don’t snap at each other as much? A 2012 study looked to uncover how long the “sexual afterglow” lasts between couples after sex and why it’s so important for your relationship in the long-term.

Researchers pooled data from two independent, longitudinal studies of newlywed couples, who had reported on their daily sexual activity and sexual satisfaction for 14 days and their marital satisfaction 4 or 6 months later. The results showed that sexual satisfaction was high for at least 48 hours after sex and that couples who experienced a particularly strong afterglow reported higher levels of marriage satisfaction four to six months later.

MORE: What is Prolong?

Sex, intimacy and emotional connection are intrinsically tied together when it comes to relationship happiness and health. By focusing on the little things, like saying “I love you” and spooning after sex, you might find that your partnership goes from strength to strength.

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