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Health & Sex

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What Do Men Want? Turns Out It's Cuddling

Study Suggests Men Value Cuddling as an Important Ingredient in Relationship Happiness
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 7, 2011 -- Who says real men don't like to cuddle?

In a study that refutes gender stereotypes, researchers looking at couples in long-term relationships have found that men value cuddling and caressing as important for their relationship happiness more than women do.

For women, sexual functioning predicted relationship happiness, says researcher Julia R. Heiman, director of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction and professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, Bloomington.

The study included about 200 men ages 40 to 70 and their female partners from each of five countries, including the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Japan, and Spain. More than 1,000 couples participated.

The findings on gender differences in what made people happy and sexually satisfied were surprising, Heiman says.

"In longer-term relationships, we didn't expect a lot of differences between men and women," she tells WebMD.

But there were. ''Women reported significantly more sexual satisfaction than men, and men more relationship happiness than women, contrary to our hypothesis," she writes.

The study is published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Relationship Happiness and Sexual Satisfaction

The couples answered questionnaires separately about their relationship happiness and sexual satisfaction. Most of the couples were married, Heiman says. About 90% had children.

The men's median age was 55 (half were older, half were younger); the women's median age was 52. The median relationship length was 25 years.

"Most were happy sexually and in their relationship," Heiman says, so the results may not apply to the general population.

When the researchers looked at what predicted relationship happiness, they found distinct differences between men and women, Heiman tells WebMD.

What mattered for men? "Their partner's orgasm, kissing and cuddling often, being touched and caressed by their partner often, and their sexual functioning, as well as being in good health," she says.

In women, relationship duration and their sexual functioning predicted happiness in their relationship, Heiman found.

"The sexual functioning score was a combination of variables," she says. It included level of desire, frequency of arousal, frequency of lubrication, and frequency of orgasm.

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