Having sex with your partner brings not only pleasure, but a 48-hour ‘afterglow’ which keeps people feeling content in their relationship and bonding partners together, a new study suggests.
It was unknown how long the warm, fuzzy, post-coital effect lasted for. To find out, the researchers examined data from two independent, longitudinal studies of 214 newlywed couples, to fill daily sex diaries for 14 days, which recorded how many times they made love, and how they felt about their relationships.
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The partners also completed three measures of marriage quality at the beginning of the study and again at a follow-up session about 4 to 6 months later.
The research shows that sexual satisfaction remains elevated two days after sex, says lead author psychological scientist Andrea Meltzer, Florida State University. People with a stronger sexual afterglow are people who report a higher level of sexual satisfaction report higher levels of relationship satisfaction even several months later.
Importantly, sex on a given day was linked with lingering sexual satisfaction over time. Having sex on a given day was linked with sexual satisfaction that same day, which was linked with sexual satisfaction the next day and even two days later. In other words, participants continued to report elevated sexual satisfaction 48 hours after a single act of sex.
The scientists believe they know why.
Previous research has found that men’s sperm concentration diminishes when having sex too much, but is restored by around day three.
Overall, participants’ marital satisfaction declined between the beginning of the study and the follow-up session 4 to 6 months later. But participants who reported relatively high levels of sexual afterglow seemed to fare better relative to their peers, reporting higher initial marital satisfaction and less steep declines in satisfaction across the first 4 to 6 months of marriage.
The same pattern of effects emerged in the two independent studies, providing robust evidence for sexual afterglow, Meltzer and colleagues note. Together, the findings suggest that sex is linked with relationship quality over time through the lingering effects of sexual satisfaction.
“This research is important because it joins other research suggesting that sex functions to keep couples pair bonded,” Meltzer concludes.
The research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.