As the authors concluded, “Hence, sex seems not only beneficial because of its physiological or hedonic effects … but because it promotes a stronger and more positive connection with the partner” (p. 296). Over time, such experiences build to strengthen the bonds between partners, meaning that their long-term relationship satisfaction is bolstered as well. These effects extend to the experience of one’s partner because, as shown when partners responses were analyzed in terms of their effects on each other, “when one person draws emotional benefits from sex, their partner’s relationship satisfaction is also promoted over time” (p. 296).
One intriguing implication from this study is that, if affection is so important to personal and relationship satisfaction, can it replace sexual activity when couples lessen the frequency of having sex due to external factors? People may decrease their sexual activity as they get older due to physical changes, and couples recently having children may similarly have sex less often. As long as these sexless couples maintain their affection toward each other, they can offset the potentially negative effects of lowered sexual activity. Conversely, if couples feel they’re drifting apart and therefore having sex less often, if they work on their physical affection toward each other, their sexual relationship may become reestablished as well.