Dating & Relationships

Spooning After Sex Might Be Good For Your Relationship

July 11, 2014 by Justin Lehmiller

Post-sex behaviors are highly variable from one person to the next. Some of us spoon or cuddle, some of us go right to sleep, and some of us get up to have a sandwich. But does what you do after sex matter? A new set of studies published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior suggests that, at least for people in relationships, it might. Specifically, the more that couples spoon and express affection after sex, the happier they tend to be.

In the first study, 138 men and 197 women in relationships (about 90% of whom were heterosexual) were surveyed about the amount of time they typically spend on “after-sex affection” (e.g., things like spooning, cuddling, and other forms of shared intimacy), how long they typically spend on foreplay and on sex itself, how much general (i.e., non-sexual) affection they express with their partner, as well as how satisfied they are with their sex lives and relationships.

What they found was that the more time people reported spending on post-sex affection, the more satisfied they were with their sex lives—a finding that held for both women and men. Post-sex affection was also associated with greater relationship satisfaction, but this result was only statistically significant for women, not for men.

Importantly, these findings held up even when you accounted for general levels of affection expressed in the relationship. So, it doesn’t appear to be the case that people who spoon more are just more affectionate in general. The effects also held up when controlling for time spent on foreplay and sex—so it also doesn’t appear to be the case that people who spend more time spooning just spend more time on everything else in bed.

In the second study, the researchers did a three-month longitudinal survey of 101 couples (94% heterosexual). For the first three weeks, participants completed a daily survey about their sex lives that included all of the same questionnaires given in the first study (e.g., time spent on after-sex affection, foreplay, and sex, as well as sexual and relationship satisfaction). Then, three months later, participants were asked the satisfaction questions again.

What they found was that on days when couples spent more time on after-sex affection than they usually do, they reported greater levels of sexual satisfaction and, in turn, greater levels of relationship satisfaction. The researchers also reported that the more time couples spent in total on after-sex affection over the course of the study, the happier they were with both their sex lives and relationships at the end of three-month period. Importantly, these findings did not depend on the gender of the partners—in other words, after-sex affection seemed to be beneficial for both women and men.

Together, these studies reveal that the more time couples spend spooning and engaged in other intimate activities after sex, the happier they tend to be. However, because these are correlational data, we cannot simply assume that spooning causes relationship happiness. It could also be the case that being in a happy relationship causes couples to spoon. In all likelihood, we’re probably talking about a feedback loop of sorts here where some initial level of happiness increases the odds of spooning and cuddling, which then further increases happiness, thereby perpetuating the cycle.

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To learn more about this research, see: Muise, A., Giang, E., Impett, E. A. (2014). Post sex affectionate exchanges promote sexual and relationship satisfaction. Archives of Sexual Behavior.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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