One common habit could be key to improving your sex life, says relationship expert - it only takes 20 seconds and can even be done in public

This simple trick could bring you closer to your partner

A couple cuddling in bed
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If your sex life has taken a hit recently, trying this 20-second trick could help boost physical intimacy.

As many parents will know, your sex life can change quite dramatically after you have kids. Between sleep deprivation, postpartum hormones and leaky or sensitive boobs thanks to breastfeeding, you're likely feeling as though you've gone off sex. And even when your baby gets older, busy family life means being physically intimate with your partner might remain low down on your list of priorities.

So, if you feel like you need to spice up your relationship, then you're not alone. But trying something new in the bedroom like tantric sex isn't the only way to do this -there are much simpler things you can do to improve your sex life.

Appearing on a recent episode of the Diary of a CEO podcast, doctors John and Julie Gottman - who have been married for 36 years and spent decades studying relationships - shared a few small things couples can do to improve their relationship. But there was one habit in particular that makes a difference to sex life.

Citing research published in the book The Normal Bar, Dr John said, "There are really about a dozen things that people do and have a great sex life - saying, 'I love you' every day and meaning it is one of them, giving compliments, romantic gifts, having a lot of touch, and cuddling."

And it turns out cuddling is key, as he went on to say, "Of the people who don't cuddle, only four per cent of them said they had a great sex life. Ninety six per cent of the non-cuddlers had an awful sex life. So touch is very important - even physical touch and affection in public was a big thing."

A man and women hugging in bed

(Image credit: Getty Images)

So, if you feel like your sex life has been neglected recently, try to take some time to cuddle, and you might notice the difference. Dr John Gottman recommended that twenty seconds is the optimal length of time for a hug, because this releases oxytocin, which makes you feel safe and connected psychologically.

This was found by a study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, in which almost 200 people (who were partners in couples that were living together) were given the very stressful task of public speaking. But before the task, half the group had the benefit of a 20-second hug from their partner, while the other half just rested quietly on their own. Both men and women in the hugging group showed lower stress levels.

Feeling safe and calm with your partner is key to improving sex life, particularly for women, as Dr John explained in the podcast. Speaking to host and entrepreneur Steven Bartlett, he said: "Men don't need to feel safe to feel sexual, women do. Women need to feel psychologically safe and that means emotional connection - it also means there can't be a long to-do list of things that they have to get done."

This might explain why you rarely feel in the mood for sex after having kids - because chances are your to-do list feels neverending. But as well as that 20-second hug, communicating your needs and explaining the mental load to your partner could help you feel more physically connected again.

If you're looking for more relationship advice, we spoke to a body language expert to find out how to tell if someone likes you. We've also rounded up 12 tell-tale signs that you're partner could be cheating, and found out the meaning behind popular wedding traditions.

Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.