WASHINGTON — Having strong sexual chemistry may help bring partners closer together in relationships, but it turns out it’s the “afterglow” of sex that forms a more lasting bond, a new study finds.
The report, published in the journal Psychological Science, found that the so-called afterglow can last for up to two days and plays a role in long-term satisfaction for couples.
“Our research shows that sexual satisfaction remains elevated 48 hours after sex,” says Andrea Meltzer, a psychological scientist at Florida State University and the study’s lead author, in a news release. “And people with a stronger sexual afterglow — that is, people who report a higher level of sexual satisfaction 48 hours after sex — report higher levels of relationship satisfaction several months later.”
Meltzer and her team at the onset of the study considered the fact that most couples aren’t enjoying sex on a daily basis. Perhaps intercourse offered partners more than just physical pleasure, they inferred, and some sort of “short-term boost to sexual satisfaction” instead carried over during days of abstinence.
So how did they reach their conclusion?
The team analyzed data from two independent, longitudinal studies that each examined about 100 newlywed couples. The couples were surveyed at the beginning of the experiment about the quality of their marriage. They were then required to independently complete a survey each night detailing whether they’d had sex with their partner that day, and then rate their satisfaction of their marriage, their sex life, and their partner for that specific day.
They were also asked to keep a daily diary over the two-week span of the experiment.
Another survey regarding their marriage quality was given about 4 to 6 months after the study.
After examining the reports, the researchers found that couples experienced greater sexual satisfaction that lasted up to two days after a day they had intercourse. The afterglow didn’t discriminate either — couples felt the boost regardless of age, gender, length of relationship, and other control factors.
As for how many days the couples reported having sex over the two-week period — despite totals varying from couple to couple, the average was four days.
Interestingly, couples reported a decline in marital quality in the follow-up session, but those who experienced higher levels of the sexual afterglow saw less of a decline in satisfaction than others.
“This research is important because it joins other research suggesting that sex functions to keep couples pair bonded,” says Meltzer.
All materials for the study are available online via the Open Science Framework.