People often ask me what the secret is to making my 20-years-long happy marriage work. And while I usually chalk it up to standard stuff like good communication, respect, etc., I’ve often wondered if there’s another factor fostering our continued attraction. I may just have my answer in a new study, which suggests that sex contributes to long-term happiness not only because it feels damn good, but also because of the expressions of affection — cuddling, hugs, hand-holding — involved before and after the act.
The study, which was published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that sexual activity was associated not only with general life satisfaction, but also with a better mood day-to-day. This provides initial evidence that sex actually promotes well-being by creating positive emotions.
But the good news doesn’t end there. This positive interaction between partners isn’t limited to the 20 minutes you spend spooning in bed after sex. Anik Debrot, one of the studies authors, shared in an interview online with PsyPost that sex was associated not only with momentary increases in mood, but also higher relationship satisfaction over time. “We showed that people feel more positive emotions after having sex, and this is the case because they feel more affection from and for their partner when they have sex.” And those feel-good vibes seemed to last for several hours after the deed.
In fact, the afterglow of happiness extends even longer than that. Debrot says that people that felt more positive emotions after having sex showed more relationship satisfaction after six months — so while sex and affection might feel great in the moment, having both in your life regularly means you’re very likely to be happier in the long-haul. So if sex and snuggling weren’t already high up on your to-do list, this study offers unequivocal evidence for why they should be.