Scientists have always taken a hard line when in comes to sex and the consensus has been that it’s good for you, it gets better with age, and you should have it once a week. Tough but fair. But a new study, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology, suggests that it’s not exactly the fun part that benefits your health — it’s the cuddling that comes before and after. More shocking? The research was not conducted by your spouse.
Researchers from the University Of Toronto carried out a series of 4 experiments. First they surveyed 335 predominantly married individuals about how frequently the had sex, but also how frequently they engaged in “affectionate touching,” — aka cuddling, caressing, kissing, and other things you did before kids. Then they rated their “life satisfaction” on a scale of 5. An additional 78 couples were asked the same things but elaborated on positive emotions like joy, pride, contentment, amusement, and awe. The 5 stages of getting laid, if you will.
Finally, researchers capped it off with a third and four experiment. One had 106 couples, all of which had kids under the age of 8, keep digital diaries about sex, affection, and their general emotional state. The other had 58 college-age couples do the same … as if the parent’s sex journals weren’t depressing enough without the comparison.
Results showed a correlation between sex frequency, increased life satisfaction, and positive emotions. But this was dependent on touching. When researchers took affection out of the equation, the link between sex and well-being was insignificant. And this was true regardless of age, relationship duration, or relationship status. But if you’re not in the mood to snuggle, that might be because you haven’t had sex yet. Data from the digital diaries showed that most of that touching happened after rather than before. So you’ll get in the mood, Big spoon. You just need that oxytocin rush.
Either way, would it kill you to cuddle more? Remember cuddling isn’t what’s cutting into your sex life. It’s your kid, and you can work around that. The point is, sex and affection are not at odds. They go together — much like you and your partner. But don’t try that line at home.