Contrary to expectations, happiness in a long-term relationship for men means more cuddling and caressing, while women want sexual satisfaction, according to an international study on long-term relationships.
More than 1,000 heterosexual couples from the United States, Brazil, Germany, Japan and Spain were interviewed by researchers from the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. Participants included 40- to 70-year-old men and their female partners who are married or have been living together for at least one year, with an average of 25 years.
Surprising results from the study found that men were more likely than women to report being happy in their relationship. Women, however, reported that they were more satisfied with their sexual relationship.
The study is the first to examine sexual and relationship parameters of middle-aged or older couples in committed, long-term relationships.
Researchers found that men and women were happier the longer they had stayed together. Couples that frequently cuddle, kiss, and caress one another and had sex more often reported being more sexually satisfied.
Men reported more relationship happiness in later years, while women said that their sexual satisfaction increased over time, especially for those who have been with their partner for at least 15 years.
“You hear repeated research and commentary about divorce; but it’s important to note that though divorce rates are high in the U.S., couples tend to stay married — more than 50 percent of U.S. couples remain in their first marriage, and that number goes up to 90 percent in Spain,” says Julia Heiman, director of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction and lead author of the study.
“We know from other research that being in a long-term relationship has some value to health,” she says. “Perhaps we can learn more about what makes relationships both sustainable and happy.”
Additional findings showed that Japanese men reported significantly (2.61 times) more sexual satisfaction in their relationships than U.S. men; and Japanese and Brazilian women reported being more sexually satisfied than Americans.
“We recognize that relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction may not be the same thing for all couples, and in all cultures,” Heiman says.
“Our next step is to understand how one person’s health, physical affection and sexual experiences relate to the relationship happiness or sexual satisfaction of his or her partner. So, we hope for more couple-centered than individual-centered understanding on relationship functioning and satisfaction.”
The study is published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
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