Couples that last are great at two things: Shagging and talking

And a lot of the talk is about sex

The secret to The singleton’s life (sexual or otherwise) can be unsatisfying – though it’s probably better than a boring couple’s.

Nope: foiled again. Happy couples do two things better than you: shag and talk. About shagging.

Additionally, they do loads of different sex moves, including oral, and give each other orgasms. When these things are happening as standard, people in couples report much greater happiness in the long-term – even when they’ve got completely used to each other.

It will appear in the Journal of Sex Research later this month. Almost 40,000 married and/or cohabiting people were asked to rate their current sexual satisfaction on a scale of one to seven, versus their sexual satisfaction when they were just six months into the relationship. This won’t shock anyone: 83 per cent said they were satisfied for the first six months, but only 43 per cent of men and 55 per cent of women said they would call themselves satisfied now. Everyone else was neutral or dissatisfied – particularly  men, at 41 per cent dissatisfied, compared to women, at 27 per cent.

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About 80 per cent of both satisfied men and women said they have sex about once or twice a week, whereas less than a quarter of men and women who weren’t satisfied said they did it that much. The factors that lead to that sexual frequency and satisfaction seem inextricable, too. When men and women ranked their “strongest predictors” of satisfaction, it looked like this:


  • Mood setting
  • Sexual variety
  • Communication


  • Orgasms
  • Mood Setting
  • Communication

Having an orgasm is such a given for men that they don’t even have to rank it as a predictor. It’s refreshing to see that setting the mood is important for men, who are typically portrayed as being able to fuck anytime, anywhere because they are so devoted to shagging.

That being said, the research shows that there are no shortcuts to a great relationship. Even when the sex was on the money, talking was still everything. Elizabeth Bernstein, writing about the study for the WSJ, reports that there were five types of communication that were most central to having the good sex life that leads to the greater happiness.

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In order of importance, both satisfied men and women say they praise their partner for something they did in bed, are asked by their partner for something they want, ask for something they want from their partner, talk on the phone or email with their partner during the day to tease about something they want, ask for feedback on how something felt.

It’s pretty basic to point out that openness and communication make sex, and relationships based on it, better. What’s wrong with us if we don’t do that? When it came to the happiest couples ranking the mood variables that mattered, there were more no-brainers:

  • Saying I love you during sex
  • Engaging in sexy talk
  • Laugh about something funny that happened during sex
  • They light candles or dim the lights
  • They play background music

Then the happiest men and women ranked the top 5 acts they felt were essential to a good sex life. Bernstein writes:

They both say that trying a new sexual position is what makes them happiest. After that, women say they are most satisfied by taking a shower or bath with their partner, getting or giving a massage, incorporating sexy lingerie into their sex life, and talking about or acting out fantasies. For men, the order was slightly different. They were most satisfied, in order, by incorporating lingerie, taking a shower or bath, talking about or acting out fantasies and getting or giving a massage.

Much of what the study reveals is what any of us might’ve guessed leads to a better relationship but it’s clear that while what makes most people happy is obvious, actually getting it is much harder.