It’s Been How Long Since You Had Sex?

Marriage Counseling Insights From Westlake Village-Based Patricia McTague-Loft

Time is an intriguing subject. Think about some notable event in your life. The time you spent on your dream vacation. Or the number of years since a loved one passed away. Or the time before you had children. Have you ever said about that period — the time before kids, for example — “I can hardly remember not having kids — it seems like a lifetime ago.” Then, in practically the same breath, you say, “Wow, the kids have grown up so fast!”

The fact is that our perception of time is subjective and fluid. In a fascinating study, this simple observation has vast implications for romantic relationships. For example, how long has it been since you last had a romantic evening with your partner — or, to be blunt, how long since you’ve had sex? Are you happy about that? Strangely enough, how happy you are about the period of time since you’ve last had sex is more affected by how long you feel it’s been rather than how long it’s actually been.

Writing for Psychology Today, Mark Travers, Ph.D. cites a recent study, saying “After engaging in sex with a partner, sexual satisfaction or sexual afterglow, has been found to remain for 48 hours, which in turn, is associated with greater relationship satisfaction. One reason for this sexual afterglow may be because sex feels closer in time, but this might dissipate as the sexual experience begins to feel further away.”

The key here is that term, sexual afterglow. One conclusion of the study is that prolonging sexual afterglow makes a person perceive the last sexual experience as closer in time, which in turn can help a person be happier about that length of time. With that in mind, the question becomes, How do you prolong sexual afterglow? The study suggests that that may be accomplished by savoring the memory of the experience. Travers offers a few tips for doing exactly that — savoring your experience.

“Sexual mindfulness.” If you’re familiar with the concept of mindfulness you’ll immediately understand its importance in regard to sex. In short, mindfulness is the act of intentionally fully engaging with everything you’re experiencing in the moment — actions, emotions, physical impressions. In regard to sex, it’s especially important because it’s easy to focus on the primary sexual experience. Slow down and take the time to absorb the entire experience — your partner’s reactions, every part of the physical experience, even your breathing. These can form additional types of memories you can savor in the days ahead to keep the sexual afterglow alive.

“Sexual aftercare.” It’s a bit of a movie cliché to portray a poor romantic relationship by showing a couple rollover and go to sleep immediately following sex. Unfortunately, there’s also a grain of truth in the portrayal. “Sexual aftercare encompasses a range of actions aimed at ensuring comfort, reassurance, and connection following sexual activity,” Travers writes. “It involves open communication, tenderness, and attentiveness to each other’s needs and feelings.” It’s another excellent way to prolong the afterglow.

“Invest in your relationship.” Some people think you shouldn’t have to “work” at a relationship to keep it healthy. Actually, work may be the wrong way to think about it. Relationships need attention, which some people might interpret as work. Proactively scheduling date nights, for example, is simply attending to the relationship to make sure it stays healthy. Pay attention to your partner’s love language and take the time to speak to them in ways they appreciate. That will cultivate intimacy, and remember that intimacy goes far beyond physical intimacy. See How To Enhance That “Other” Kind Of Intimacy for further discussion.