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Time for tenderness: More post-coital cuddles, better sex life, study suggests

TORONTO - Devoting time to sharing post-coital kisses and cuddles with your partner could be a big boost to your relationship — and lead to a better sex life, new research suggests.

"We know from other research that sexuality is an important part of overall romantic relationship satisfaction," said lead author Amy Muise, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychology at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

"But we know less about what features of sex — and what it is about sex — that enhance satisfaction in a relationship."

Previous research suggests that the time immediately after sex is particularly important for bonding and intimacy in relationships, said Muise. So researchers wanted to see how post-coital moments were affecting both sexual experience and overall relationship quality.

The findings were published in the recent issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior. The study was co-authored with Muise's UTM colleague Emily Impett and Elaine Giang of the University of Guelph-Humber.

The two-part study collected information from an online survey of 335 individuals. Most of them were married or living together, and had been in their current relationship between four months and 30 years.

Researchers also conducted a 21-day survey of 101 couples, where nearly half of the participants were living together (29 per cent), married (17 per cent) or engaged (three per cent). Remaining participants were in a committed relationship but not living together. In both studies, participants were predominantly heterosexual.

The average time study participants devoted to post-sex affection was 15 minutes, said Muise.

"What we found was that regardless of how long people generally spent (being affectionate), on days where they spent more time than they typically do, they reap these benefits," she said. "They felt more satisfied with the sexual experience that they had just had, and they also felt happier in their overall relationship."

In the first study, around 40 per cent of participants had children. In looking at the difference between people with and without children, the effect of time spent being affectionate after sex was "significantly stronger" for parents, Muise said.

"This is interesting, because couples who had children actually spent less time engaging in affection after sex which makes sense because ... our sample was at an age where probably a lot of their children were a bit younger. So, if they had children in the home, it might be more difficult for them to find time to be alone together and be affectionate. ...

"Even though they spent less time, it seemed to matter more for them in terms of their satisfaction."

Muise said the study of couples asked participants about the quality of the post-sex affection.

"Maybe spending 10 minutes cuddling is a long, wonderful amount of time for one partner — but maybe that's actually pretty short for the other partner," she said. "Even though they report the same amount of time, one partner might say: 'Yes, it was high quality, I was satisfied with that.' The other partner might be less satisfied with it.

"We did find that when people said the affection was higher quality, they felt more satisfied — and so did their partner."

Muise said men felt more sexually satisfied when they spent more time cuddling after sex which, in turn, made them feel more satisfied with their relationship.

"It's a very subtle difference that I wouldn't read too much into," Muise said. "It's possible that cuddling after sex might be a bit more relational for women, so it feeds into the relationship quality, whereas (for) men, it's slightly more sexual."

Pillow talk, cuddles, caresses and kisses after sex may be more beneficial to some than others. But Muise said the findings suggest it's important to focus on these more affectionate aspects of the experience.

"When we think about sex — especially in heterosexual relationships — we tend to think about intercourse and orgasm as being kind of like the goal of sex.

"It might be beneficial to broaden this idea of sex, and think about some of these more affectionate behaviours as being actually important for how satisfied you feel with the sex that you're having with your romantic partner, as well as how satisfied you feel about the overall relationship."

Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter.

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