The 48-Hour Sexual "Afterglow" That Increases Satisfaction in Marriage

Sex in marriage is important.  No doubt about it.  But great sex in marriage is very, very important and here's why.  Sex is a way for couples to bond but great sex does more than just bond you with your spouse.  Based on a recent study by lead author, Andrea Meltzer of Florida State University and colleagues, indicates that partners experience a sexual ‘afterglow’ that lasts for up to two days, and this afterglow is linked with relationship quality over the long term.  

“Our research shows that sexual satisfaction remains elevated 48 hours after sex,” says psychological scientist Andrea Meltzer (Florida State University), “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.”

Who was included in the study?  

The researchers examined data from two independent, longitudinal studies, one with 96 newlywed couples and another with 118 newlywed couples. All of the couples had completed at least three consecutive days of a 14-day daily diary as part of a larger study.  Every night, before going to bed, the newlyweds were asked to report independently whether they had sex with their partner that day.

Regardless of the answer, they were also asked to rate how satisfied they were with their sex life that day and how satisfied they were with their partner, their relationship, and their marriage that day (on a 7-point scale, where 1 = not at all, 7 = extremely).  The couples 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.  On average, participants of this study reported that they had sex on 4 of the 14 days of the study. 

So even though the couples were not having sex every day, when it did happen, the "afterglow" of good sex sustained then.

This finding showed that participants continued to report elevated sexual satisfaction 48 hours after a single act of sex. Certain factors were taken into account in this finding which includes gender, age, sexual frequency, personality traits and length of relationship.  When marriage satisfaction was looked at it was determined that marital satisfaction declined between the beginning of the study and the follow-up session 4 to 6 months later. However, they found couples who reported high levels of sexual afterglow were more likely to have greater marital satisfaction than the participants who reported a less sexual afterglow across the first 4 to 6 months of marriage.  

Meltzer and colleagues also noticed the same pattern of effects that emerged from two other independent studies.  These combined studies 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.
— Andrea Meltzer

Co-authors that were included in this study from Florida State University are Anastasia Makhanova, Lindsey L. Hicks, Juliana E. French, James K. McNulty and Thomas N. Bradbury from the University of California in Los Angeles).