A Little Tenderness Goes A Long Way

A new study conducted by researchers at The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University is one of the first of its kind “to examine sexual and relationship parameters of middle-aged or older couples in committed, long-term relationships.” As they put it, “Research efforts to understand the place of sexuality in human lives rarely involves intact couples in ongoing relationships.”
Researchers studied over 1,000 couples from different countries that had been together for an average length of 25 years.

The study indicates that men are more likely to report increasing relationship satisfaction over time, while women are more likely to report increasing sexual satisfaction over time. Overall health was also important, as the study showed that men who were in good health were more likely to report higher levels of relationship happiness.

Surprisingly, men indicated that frequent cuddling and kissing was important to their relationship happiness, but women indicated no such thing. This result contradicts the contemporary American cultural perception that women are more clingy or needy than men, always wanting to cuddle after sex whereas men are deemed more likely to want to roll over and fall asleep. It would be interesting if further studies examined when in the couples’ interactions cuddling was rated as most pleasurable or most effective; perhaps one gender prefers little caresses throughout the day or time spent together, whereas another wants physical affection at specific times (before or after sex, or when greeting or leaving, and so on).

The take-home message seems to be that physical affection and tenderness function to support the emotional health of people in relationships, so it might be good to check in with yourself and your partner(s), if any, to see whether everyone’s cuddling needs are getting met.

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About Jeana


Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.

  • http://twitter.com/slikid2 Jevad Jackson

    Well I’m glad to hear it’s not just me that likes the ‘frequent cuddling and kissing’ more than my wife. I guess I bought into the ‘contemporary American cultural perception that women are more clingy or needy than men’ idea, too.

  • http://twitter.com/foxyfolklorist Jeana Jorgensen

    I’m tempted to reply with a flippant “screw stereotypes!” but many of them are deeply held and culturally reinforced 24/7 by scripted behavior, the media, peer pressure, and so on… so if you’ve found something that works for you, by all means enjoy it, regardless of what society says about it!

  • http://twitter.com/slikid2 Jevad Jackson

    I like to think I’m open minded a reject old stereotypes, etc. But it’s kind of neat when I catch myself in one!