The current research examined the role of post sex affection in promoting sexual and relationship satisfaction in ongoing romantic partnerships. Since romantic partners view the period after engaging in sex as an important time for bonding and intimacy, we sought to determine if and how the duration and quality of post sex affection might promote satisfaction in romantic relationships. In two studies, we tested the link between post sex affectionate behavior (e.g., cuddling, caressing, shared intimacy) and sexual and relationship satisfaction. In Study 1, a cross-sectional survey of individuals in romantic relationships (N = 335), duration of post sex affection was associated with higher sexual satisfaction and, in turn, higher relationship satisfaction. In Study 2, a daily experience study of 101 established couples (N = 202) with a 3-month follow-up, day-to-day changes in post sex affection duration and quality were associated with both partners’ sexual and relationship satisfaction, and engaging in longer and more satisfying post sex affection over the course of the study was associated with higher relationship and sexual satisfaction 3 months later. In general, the pattern of results was consistent for men and women, but the association between the duration of post sex affection and relationship satisfaction was stronger for women than for men (Study 1) and women, but not men, felt more sexually satisfied when their partner reported higher quality post sex affection (Study 2). The findings suggest that the period after sex is a critical time for promoting satisfaction in intimate bonds.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Bolger, N., Davis, A., & Rafaeli, E. (2003). Diary methods: Capturing life as it is lived. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 579–616. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.54.101601.145030.
Brezsnyak, M., & Whisman, M. A. (2004). Sexual desire and relationship functioning: The effects of marital satisfaction and power. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 30, 199–217. doi:10.1080/00926230490262393.
Buhrmester, M., Kwang, T., & Gosling, S. D. (2011). Amazon’s Mechanical Turk: A new source of inexpensive, yet high-quality, data? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 3–5. doi:10.1177/1745691610393980.
Buss, D. M., & Schmitt, D. P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100, 204–232. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.100.2.204.
Byers, E. S. (2005). Relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction: A longitudinal study of individuals in long-term relationships. Journal of Sex Research, 42, 113–118. doi:10.1080/00224490509552264.
Byers, E. S., & Wang, A. (2004). Understanding sexuality in close relationships from the social exchange perspective. In J. H. Harvey, A. Wenzel, & S. Sprecher (Eds.), The handbook of sexuality in close relationships (pp. 203–234). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Call, V., Sprecher, S., & Schwartz, P. (1995). The incidence and frequency of marital sex in a national sample. Journal of Marriage & the Family, 57, 639–652.
Carpenter, L. M., Nathanson, C. A., & Kim, Y. J. (2009). Physical women, emotional men: Gender and sexual satisfaction in midlife. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 87–107. doi:10.1007/s10508-007-9215-y.
Cheung, M. W. L., Wong, P. W. C., Liu, K. Y., Yip, P. S. F., Fan, S. Y., & Lam, T. (2008). A study of sexual satisfaction and frequency among Hong Kong Chinese couples. Journal of Sex Research, 45, 129–139. doi:10.1080/00224490801987416.
Colson, M. H., Lemaire, A., Pinton, P., Hamidi, K., & Klein, P. (2006). Sexual behaviors and mental perception, satisfaction and expectations of sex life in men and women in France. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 3, 121–131. doi:10.111/j.1743-6109.2005.00166.x.
Floyd, K., Boren, J. P., Hannawa, A. F., Hesse, C., McEwan, B., & Veksler, A. E. (2009). Kissing in marital and cohabiting relationships: Effects on blood lipids, stress, and relationship satisfaction. Western Journal of Communication, 73, 113–133. doi:10.1080/10570310902856071.
Gangestad, S. W., & Simpson, J. A. (2000). The evolution of human mating: Trade-offs and strategic pluralism. Behaviorial and Brain Sciences, 23, 573–644. doi:10.1017/S0140525X0000337X.
Gulledge, A. K., Gulledge, M. H., & Stahmann, R. F. (2003). Romantic physical affection types and relationship satisfaction. American Journal of Family Therapy, 31, 233–242. doi:10.1080/01926180390201936.
Halpern, J., & Sherman, S. (1979). Afterplay: A key to intimacy. New York: Stein & Day Publishers.
Hartmann, U., Philippsohn, S., Heiser, K., & Ruffer-Hesse, C. (2004). Low sexual desire in midlife and older women: Personality factors, psychosocial development, present sexuality. Menopause, 11, 726–741. doi:10.1097/01.ju.0000164397.64370.d9.
Haselton, M. G., & Buss, D. M. (2001). The affective shift hypothesis: The functions of emotional changes following sexual intercourse. Personal Relationships, 8, 357–369. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2001.tb00045.x.
Heiman, J. R., Long, J. S., Smith, S. N., Fisher, W. A., Sand, M. S., & Rosen, R. C. (2011). Sexual satisfaction and relationship happiness in midlife and older couples in five countries. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 741–753. doi:10.1007/s10508-010-9703-3.
Hinchliff, S., & Gott, M. (2008). Challenging social myths and stereotypes of women and aging: Heterosexual women talk about sex. Journal of Women and Aging, 20, 65–80. doi:10.1300/J074v20n01_06.
Hudson, W. W., Harrison, D. F., & Crosscup, P. C. (1981). A short form scale to measure sexual discord in dyadic relationships. Journal of Sex Research, 17, 157–174.
Hughes, S. M., Harrison, M. A., & Gallup, G. G, Jr. (2007). Sex differences in romantic kissing among college students: An evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary Psychology, 5, 612–631.
Hughes, S. M., & Kruger, D. J. (2011). Sex differences in post-coital behaviors in long- and short-term mating: An evolutionary perspective. Journal of Sex Research, 48, 496–505. doi:10.1080/00224499.2010.501915.
Impett, E. A., Muise, A., & Peragine, D. (2014). Sexuality in the context of relationships. In D. L. Tolman & L. M. Diamond (Eds.), APA handbook of sexuality and psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 269–315)., Person-based approaches Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Kenny, D. A., Kashy, D. A., & Cook, W. L. (2006). Dyadic data analysis. New York: Guilford Press.
Kruger, D. J., & Hughes, S. (2010). Variation in reproductive strategies influences post-coital experiences with partners. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 4, 254–264.
Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lawrance, K., & Byers, E. S. (1995). Sexual satisfaction in long-term heterosexual relationships: The interpersonal exchange model of sexual satisfaction. Personal Relationships, 2, 267–285. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.1995.tb00092.x.
Lui, C. (2003). Does the quality of marital sex decline with duration? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 55–61.
Mulhall, J., King, R., Glina, S., & Hvidsten, K. (2008). Importance of and satisfaction with sex among men and women worldwide: Results of the Global Better Sex Survey. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5, 788–795. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2007.00765.x.
Potts, A., Grace, M., Vares, T., & Gavey, N. (2006). ‘Sex for life’? Men’s counter-stories on ‘erectile dysfunction’, male sexuality and ageing. Sociology of Health & Illness, 28, 306–329. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9566.2006.00494.x.
Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 879–891. doi:10.3758/BRM.40.3.879.
Preacher, K. J., & Selig, J. P. (2010). Monte Carlo method for assessing multilevel mediation: An interactive tool for creating confidence intervals for indirect effects in 1-1-1 multilevel models [Computer software]. Available from http://quantpsy.org/.
Rahmani, A., Khoei, E. M., & Gholi, L. A. (2009). Sexual satisfaction and its relation to marital happiness in Iranians. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 38, 77–82.
Raudenbush, S. W., Bryk, A. S., Cheong, Y. F., & Congdon, R. T. (2004). HLM 6: Hierarchical linear and nonlinear modeling. Chicago: Scientific Software International.
Regan, P. C. (2000). The role of sexual desire and sexual activity in dating relationships. Social Behavior and Personality, 28, 51–59. doi:10.2224/sbp.2000.28.
Rusbult, C. E., Martz, J. M., & Agnew, C. R. (1998). The Investment Model scale: Measuring commitment level, satisfaction level, quality of alternatives, and investment size. Personal Relationships, 5, 357–391.
Selig, J. P., & Preacher, K. J. (2008). Monte Carlo method for assessing mediation: An interactive tool for creating confidence intervals for indirect effects [Computer software]. Available from http://quantpsy.org/.
Smith, A., Lyons, A., Ferris, J., Richters, J., Pitts, M., Shelley, J., & Simpson, J. M. (2011). Sexual and relationship satisfaction among heterosexual men and women: The importance of desired frequency of sex. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 37, 104–115. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2011.560531.
Sprecher, S. (2002). Sexual satisfaction in premarital relationships: Associations with satisfaction, love, commitment, and stability. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 190–196. doi:10.1080/00224490209552141.
Traeen, B. (2010). Sexual dissatisfaction among heterosexual Norweigans in couple relationships. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 25, 132–147. doi:10.1080/14681991003622518.
Trivers, R. L. (1985). Social evolution. Menlo Park, CA: Benjamin/Cummings.
van Anders, S. M., Edelstein, R. S., Wade, R. M., & Samples-Steele, C. R. (2013). Descriptive experiences and sexual vs. nurturant aspects of cuddling between adult romantic partners. Archive of Sexual Behavior, 42, 553–560. doi:10.1007/s10508-012-0014-8.
Waite, L. J., Laumann, E. O., Das, A., & Schumm, P. L. (2009). Sexuality: Measures of partnerships, practices, attitudes, and problems in the National Social Life, Health, And Aging Study. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 64B(S1), i56–i66. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbp038.
Yabiku, S. T., & Gager, C. T. (2009). Sexual frequency and the stability of marital and cohabitating unions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71, 983–1000. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00648.x.
Zhang, Z., Zyphur, M. J., & Preacher, K. J. (2009). Testing multilevel mediation using hierarchical linear models: Problems and solutions. Organizational Research Methods, 12, 695–719. doi:10.1177/1094428108327450.
This work has been supported by a Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) postdoctoral fellowship and a University of Guelph-Humber Research Grant awarded to Amy Muise and a SSHRC grant awarded to Emily A. Impett.
About this article
Cite this article
Muise, A., Giang, E. & Impett, E.A. Post Sex Affectionate Exchanges Promote Sexual and Relationship Satisfaction. Arch Sex Behav 43, 1391–1402 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0305-3
- Post sex affection
- Sexual satisfaction
- Relationship satisfaction