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Men Value Cuddling, Women Value Sex, Says New Research On Relationship Satisfaction

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There's a long-standing myth that men don't like to cuddle, but that's just not true according to a new study on what makes men and women happy in relationships.

Researchers from the Kinsey Institute in Bloomington, Ind. surveyed 1,009 heterosexual middle-aged and older couples in long-term relationships from five different countries, and found some surprising results, reports TIME.

Men who reported frequently kissing or cuddling with their partners were on average three times as happy with their relationships as men who reported limited interaction. Perhaps more surprising, the study found it was sexual satisfaction that was more important to women in long-term relationships. And it also found that for women, sex got better over time -- they reported significantly more sexual satisfaction after being with their partner for 15 years.

"This study makes it clear our assumptions aren't always borne out by research," Jennifer Bass, director of communications at The Kinsey Institute told ABC News.

Psychologists who were not involved in the research were intrigued by the study's findings that men need touch and affection to be happy in relationships.

Aline Zoldbrod, a psychologist in Lexington, Mass., told ABC News that touch in general is very important and, "touch from a person you love and trust is a major emotional resource and a way that people can regulate their emotions when they are upset. Couples who use touch to comfort, to compliment, and yes, to seduce and arouse, are bound to be happier."

In a press release, the study's lead author and Director of the Kinsey Institute for Research In Sex, Gender and Reproduction, Julia Heiman noted that while we constantly hear about studies on divorce, research on lasting relationships is also important. We already know from other research that being happy in a long-term relationship has some health benefit. "Perhaps we can learn more about what makes relationships both sustainable and happy," she said.

Women in long-term relationships may become more satisfied over time because expectations change once the children are grown, said Heiman. And "those who weren't so happy sexually might not be married so long."

The study also found that both Japanese men and women were significantly happier in their relationships than Americans, but Brazilians and the Spanish were less happy than couples in the U.S. Yet, according to Heiman, census data indicates that approximately 50 percent of U.S. couples stay in their first marriage for 20 years or more, and that the number increases to about 90 percent for Spanish couples in their first marriage.

This study is important, co-author Michael Sand, a clinical sexologist at Boehringer-Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, told MSNBC, because it shows that people can be in long-term relationships and still enjoy "healthy, vibrant sexuality."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated that 90 percent of couples in Spain did not remain in their first marriage.

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