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A topic that often comes up in relation to the greater discussion of successful relationships, many experts agree that a healthy sexual connection is a key element for a long-lasting, positive relationship. The question remains, however, is sex really the big secret, or is there more to it?

A recent study out of Florida State University, published in ‘Psychological Science,’ focused on understanding the potential connection between the frequency of sex and its impact on the relationship in recently married couples. The study found that following sex, couples would experience a ‘high,’ which they described as a sexual ‘afterglow.’ This feeling of euphoria lasted up to 48 hours, and over time could have a positive influence on the quality of a relationship.

Lead author of the study Andrea Meltzer, a psychological scientist, explained, “Our research shows that sexual satisfaction remains elevated 48 hours after sex, 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.”

The study looked at the diary reporting of 214 newlywed couples across two different studies. Each couple had been asked to independently report, before bed, whether they had sex that date, and (regardless of their answer) to rate their level of satisfaction both with their sex life as well as with their marriage and partner overall. This revealed a pattern linking the days that the couples had sex with a higher level of satisfaction with their partner, their marriage and their relationship as a whole.

But is the answer really that simple? This specific study overlooked an important factor in the longevity of this type of relationship satisfaction. The study focused only on whether the couple chose to partake in sexual activity, however, it failed to address the importance of ‘pleasurable’ sex.

It is easy when reading data like that presented by this study, to believe that the answer is just to make it happen, having sex whether the couple is interested at the time or not. However, in order for the sex to be truly pleasurable, and to provide the necessary connection between the partners, the state of their relationship at the time plays an important role. The act of sex in and of itself will not solve a troubled relationship, or erase potential relationship problems. There is more to focus on in order to ensure a lasting, successful marriage.

Research shows that couples not only desire sex in their relationship but equally important is the desire for a romantic connection. A study out of the University of New Brunswick specifically challenged the myth that men prefer sex to romance. After studying the reaction of 182 participants who were shown images of couples engaged in sexual acts, as well as those associated with romance, the study concluded that both men and women were drawn to the romantic images.

Another study conducted by Dr. Helen Fisher, a Biological Anthropologist, used an MRI brain scanner to map the minds of those in love, discovering that the concept of romantic love is not merely an emotion that one would experience, but rather a drive.

Fisher said, “It comes from the motor of the mind, the ‘wanting’ part of the mind, the ‘craving’ part of the mind. The part of the mind, when you’re reaching for that piece of chocolate, when you want to win that promotion at work: the motor of the brain. It’s a drive. And, in fact, I think it’s more powerful than the sex drive.”

After reading and considering these three studies, it is clear that there is more to a long-lasting, happy marriage than just sex. Couples need to find a way to keep the romance alive, focusing on the overall relationship and the satisfaction of each of the partners. A relationship is like a living, breathing entity – it takes consistent nurture and care in order to remain healthy and strong, and stand the test of time.