By Dr. Charles & Dr. Elizabeth Schmitz for YourTango.com

For starters, we all know that good sex can be fun, romantic, exciting, and something that makes most consenting adults feel warm and fuzzy all over. Over the years we have interviewed thousands of successfully married couples, and most report a reasonable degree of satisfaction with their sex life. But here is our most important research finding concerning this issue: no marriage was ever made successful because the couple had a great sex life!

And more importantly, when we asked successfully married couples how important sex is to the success of their marriage — to rank on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest — the average rank was only 6! This finding has held true over the more than 30 years of our research. The results are hardly a resounding endorsement for the importance of sex in a successful marriage.

You see, marriage is a multi-faceted and highly complex relationship, and in the best marriages, no one aspect stands out as the "make or break" part of it. The truth is, there are seven pervasive characteristics present in all successful marriages. And guess what: sex isn't one of them! Sex is only one part of the seven characteristics of a successful marriage.

As we say so often in our many interviews and writings, all of the married couples, representing the best marriages we've interviewed, have shared with us the importance of touching in their relationship. One gentleman we interviewed told us that if he passed his wife in the house a hundred times a day, he touched her. To touch someone you love is to acknowledge their presence and to communicate your desire for them. That's why the most successfully married couples amongst us do it so often.

We believe that the overemphasis of sex on television, in the media, and in books about marriage cause people to believe that if they don't have stupendous sex everyday, there is something wrong with their marriage. But marriages that fail do so for a variety of reasons, not for a single reason. Simply put, our research findings hold true that no marriage was ever saved, or made successful because the couple had a great sex life.

We've reported many first-hand accounts from successfully married couples who tell us how important the human touch is to a loving marriage. They hug each other often, they kiss, they touch each other while talking, they sit cheek to cheek on the couch while having a conversation, they curl around each other when they sleep or just gaze at the stars, and yes, they have sex from time to time — when it's right for them.

You see, people touch each other in many, many different ways, and no single form of touching wins the day. It's what we like to call "the accumulation of touching" that matters. Touch the one you love often and in whatever way your heart desires. It's that human connection that wins the day — and wins the marriage! The simple truth is, the best marriages engage in a lot of touching, and sex is only one form of touching.

Creating a successful marriage is not always the easiest thing to do. And truthfully, we've learned in over 30 years of marriage research that there are proven, effective ways to ensure a happy and healthy marriage. In fact, as love and marriage experts, we took hundreds of tips from the thousands of happy couples we interviewed throughout the world and put them into our award-winning and bestselling book, "Building a Love that Lasts."

You can see how you stack up to the best marriages around the world. Take the Marriage Quiz to assess your chances of achieving a successful marriage of your own and buy How to Marry the Right Guy to find out if your guy has the essential 33 characteristics to be a great husband.

More Stories From YourTango:
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The Post-Divorce Dating Club: A New Site For Divorced Singles
Time To Move On: 10 Things You Need To Replace After Your Divorce
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Expert Advice From Divorce Coaches

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  • Top Turn-Ons

    Women's top turn-on was "feelings of love" for their partner, followed by "when your partner takes initiative." Men's top turn-on was "seeing your partner in sexy clothes," followed by "feelings of love."

  • Men Marry Their Best Sexual Partner

    Did you marry the best sex of your life? Turns out 68 percent of men tied the knot with their best sexual partner. Only 45 percent of women said the same.

  • Number Of Partners

    When asked how many sexual partners they have had, the most common response among men was six to 10 (25 percent chose this answer). The most common response among women was two to five (31 percent chose this answer). Yet, 19 percent of both men and women reported having just one sexual partner.

  • Men Watch More Porn Than Women Think

    Although 42 percent of women said their spouse never watches online porn, only 21 percent of men agreed. Sixty-three percent of women said they never watch porn.

  • We Don't Know What Our Spouse Is Thinking

    It seems that we often don't really know what our partner thinks about our sex life. Though 79 percent of men think their wives are happy with their sex lives, only 61 percent of women said they are. And though 55 percent of women think their husbands are happy with their sex lives, 79 percent said they are.

  • Sex Gets Worse Post-Baby

    Babies may be a blessing, but they might not help your sex life. Fifty-two percent of women and 49 percent of men said they had better sex before they had kids.

  • What Men Want

    The most popular desire on men's "sex wish list" was that their partner would initiate sex more often (42 percent). More oral sex was next (41 percent), followed by anal sex (30 percent).

  • What Women Want

    What do women want more of in bed? Foreplay (35 percent), to hear more loving things (32 percent), for their husband to last longer (28 percent) and oral sex (22 percent), according to the survey.

  • Men Cheat More And Are Less Trusting

    Men admit to cheating more than women (28 percent vs. 13 percent), and are more likely than women to say they'd have an affair if there was zero percent chance they'd get caught (32 percent vs. 13 percent). At the same time, 34 percent of men say they've checked their wife's phone for evidence of cheating, compared to 20 percent of women. And if they could cheat, who would it be with? Among men, 21 percent said a celebrity and 20 percent said a friend's spouse. Among women, 39 percent said an old flame and 24 percent said a casual acquaintance.

  • How Happy Married People Really Are

    On average, a majority of people reported being happy with their sex lives, though there was a noticeable gender gap -- 61 percent of women and 80 percent of men said they were satisfied.