Research Reveals How Your Perception Of Time Influences Your Sex Life

Time, and our perception thereof, impacts more than just our schedules. Here's how it might affect your sex life.

Mark Travers, Ph.D.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | April 15, 2024

A 2023 study found that when it comes to sexual desire and satisfaction, how long it feels it has been since your last sexual encounter appears to matter more than how long it has actually been. This subjective perception of time is called a "time perspective" and it plays a significant role in sexual and relational well-being.

"Although people often think about time as objective (e.g., "the drive will take us two hours"), it is also subjective (e.g., "it feels like we have been driving forever!"). For one person, having engaged in sex seven days ago might feel like a very recent experience, whereas for another person, a sexual encounter from seven days ago could feel quite far away," the researchers explain.

How Time Perspectives Influence Relationships

"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 researchers explain.

The authors discovered that a longer perceived gap since one's last sexual experience with a partner is associated with lower satisfaction and desire on the day but enhanced sexual desire the next day, likely in anticipation of the next encounter or wanting to improve one's sex life.

"It is possible that when sex feels closer (vs. farther away), people recall the enjoyment of the sexual experience more and rate their sex life as satisfying. Also, when people were more sexually satisfied and had higher sexual desire, they felt like sex was farther away the next day, suggesting that when satisfied and interested in sex, it might feel like sex is harder to wait for" the researchers add.

Based on these insights, researchers suggest that truly savoring sexual experiences could help prolong the "sexual afterglow" by making the last experience feel closer in time.

Here are a few ways to nurture and savor your sexual connection, despite variations in time perspectives.

  • Sexual mindfulness. Sexual mindfulness involves being fully present and aware of sensations, thoughts and emotions without judgment or distraction during sexual experiences. Techniques such as deep breathing, tuning into bodily sensations and maintaining eye contact with one's partner are great ways to savor the moment.
  • Sexual aftercare. Sexual aftercare encompasses a range of actions aimed at ensuring comfort, reassurance and connection following sexual activity. It involves open communication, tenderness and attentiveness to each other's needs and feelings. For instance, partners can engage in gentle physical touch, such as cuddling or holding hands and expressing verbal affirmations of love, commitment and appreciation. This fosters deep emotional intimacy and enhances relationship satisfaction.
  • Invest in your relationship. Cultivating a strong foundation in your relationship involves more than just physical intimacy. Schedule regular date nights to prioritize quality time together, allowing space for meaningful conversations and shared experiences. Small gestures and moments of affectionate touch throughout daily interactions can reinforce romantic bonds while enhancing physical intimacy.

It's essential to remember that just like time perspectives, the dynamics of a happy and fulfilling sex life are deeply subjective and unique to each couple. There is no universal standard, timing or frequency to adhere to.

Instead, explore and discover your own rhythm as partners, taking into account how time perspectives on sex may influence you and your relationship. Choose what feels best to you both to navigate your sexual relationship with respect, love and authenticity.

Curious about how happy you are in your relationship? Take this test to find out: Relationship Satisfaction Scale

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