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Intimacy and sexual desire in couples can be heightened by this practice

Researchers discover a link between nonverbal synchronization and relationship success.


Key Takeaways
  • Scientists say coordinating movements leads to increased intimacy and sexual desire in a couple.
  • The improved rapport and empathy was also observed in people who didn’t know each other.
  • Non-verbal clues are very important in the development stages of a relationship.

If you are walking side by side with someone, chances are your footsteps will eventually become synchronized. The same goes for intimate relationships, says a new research paper. Synchronizing with your significant other can directly affect the intimacy levels of the pair.

This capacity to sync up with others is observed from early childhood. For example, the heart rates of mothers and their infants become synchronized during free play, as a study showed. This suggests that the coordination aids social interactions with caregivers by fulfilling the need for safety and connection, as writes one of the paper’s authors Gurit E. Birnbaum.

Synchronizing motor activities can create a sense of unity even between people who didn’t previously know each other, increasing feelings of being connected, improving cooperation and compassion. The same goes for romantic relationships, with synchronicity being considered a hallmark of strong relationships.

Four recent studies, published under the title “Being on the same wavelength,” demonstrate synchrony has an intimacy-promoting function in the beginning and development stages of relationships. That’s when the need to connect is especially strong, causing both new and long-term partners to use non-verbal clues that indicate readiness to have contact.

The studies, carried out by Israeli scientists, looked at how people interacted while pedaling on stationary bicycles which shared a front wheel. In two situations, the subjects did not know each other previously. One of them was asked to share either a neutral or positive event (like a promotion at work), while the other listened. The researchers measured synchrony by looking at the speeds with which the participants pedaled and their rating of the other’s responsiveness or empathy. They found that pedaling in sync increased the reported rapport and a sense of connectedness between the subjects.

In the other two experiments, people in the couple were romantically involved. One study had the participants listening to the sound of coordinated or uncoordinated footsteps, while being asked to imagine themselves walking next to their partner. After that, the subjects rated their level of intimacy.

The study showed that imagining being sync with the partner directly related to how intimate the person felt they were with their partner. The reason for this, Birnbaum writes, is that “synchrony can signify unity between partners, thereby generating an atmosphere ripe for reciprocal exchanges of intimacy that may further intensify the emotional bond between them.”

In the last experiment, participants were asked to breathe either in or out of sync with their partner. Afterwards, they were asked to rate their perceived intimacy and describe a sexual fantasy. Results showed that partners felt closer and had more sexual desire for each other while breathing in-sync.

One big takeaway from the research that couples can build on is that “non-verbal displays of synchrony during ordinary activities in everyday lives can deepen the experience of closeness and sexual desire between partners,” state the researchers.

Check out their paper published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.


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