2023 Relationship Trends Revealed, Touch is the Biggest Priority for Couples

According to Paired users, snuggling is in, nibbling is out - and what this all means for love in 2024
on December 08, 2023
Read time: 15 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

Relationships in 2023 saw a lot of trending topics – from relationship beige flags to boundaries, but do you want to know the main thing on a couple's minds according to Paired, the #1 app for couples? Touch.

Our in-app data, which gathers insights from our 8 million users, showed conversations around sexual and non-sexual physical touch such as cuddling, snuggling, kissing, hugging and spooning were among the most popular for our users, with Daily Conversations such as "When you’re feeling down, which type of physical touch is most likely to make you feel better?" and "Pick one: kissing each other good morning or goodnight?" most likely to be answered by our community of couples.

And that's not all. According to our Physical Affection Survey, which gathered data from almost 5,000 Paired users worldwide, not only do couples prioritize non-sexual touch to build intimacy but they are more likely to do so after the pandemic. 

Surveys show that couples prefer non-sexual touch over sex

According to our Paired users, cuddling is officially cool again with non-sexual physical affection coming out on top across the board! 70% of people are satisfied with non-sexual touch in their relationships and seem to crave this kind of touching more than sex! 

Our research also shows that the wake of the pandemic may have stirred up a new appreciation for physical touch, with 51% of people agreeing that their desire for this kind of touch has increased since 2020. 

With all of our content around cuddling sparking incredible engagement across the board — it seems like our couples just couldn’t get enough. While these sweet gestures might seem small, they can actually have a huge impact on your overall relationship satisfaction. 

“Non-sexual touch brings a deeper connection to relationships by non-verbally communicating acceptance to each other,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.

“Having non-sexual physical touch be a part of your relationship routines, longer hugs, holding hands, snuggling on the couch, you’re giving your love a message of ‘I am here, right here holding you’.” 

Lisa Slattery Walker, Ph.D. researcher, sociologist, and professor of organizational science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, told Paired, “Snuggling is a form of nonverbal communication with many elements, so it sends multiple messages of connection at once.”

No wonder couples are obsessed with it. Slattery Walker’s research What Does That Smile Mean? The Meaning of Nonverbal Behaviors in Social Interaction, published in Social Psychologist Quarterly, supports that the meaning we attach to why our lover snuggles is a critical part of why that snuggle feels so good. 

64% of people prefer snuggling over any other form of touch

Even though there is a range of touches to choose from in a relationship, snuggling came out on top with 64% of people saying that this is the form of non-sexual touch that makes them feel closest to their partner. 

This unanimous preference for snuggles and cuddles was reflected in-app, with our ‘Classic Game: Snuggleholics’ being one of the highest-answered games with a 91% answer rate, alongside ‘The Cuddle Pack’ being one of the most popular question packs! 

Hugging isn’t to be left out, with 54% saying that this kind of affection made them feel closest to their partner, while 48% of respondents said that nothing was quite like a kiss on the lips to make them feel connected to their partner. 

In fact, ‘You or Me? Hugs and Kisses’ is our highest-answered game ever with 95% of Paired users engaging with this content. Our ‘Kissing Pack’ is proving just as popular, acting as one of our best performers since its release earlier this year! 

77% of those who believe they don't satisfy their partner’s need for affection are female 

While 44% of couples believe that they share the same desire for physical affection as their partner, 26% believe that their loved one wants more physical touch and affection than they’re currently offering them. 

17% of people are unhappy with the amount of non-sexual touch in their relationship, and with 22% of people rarely talking about their physical touch needs — we feel this lack of communication could be the root of the problem!

While a lot of people rarely discuss their need for touch, it’s women who are steering clear of the topic completely! Out of those who NEVER talk about touch, 59% of them are women. More than that, of those who believe that they aren’t satisfying their partner's need for touch, 77% of them are female. 

“Often you have one partner who desires sex more,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“Just bringing up a craving for more physical intimacy can give off a green light to the other partner, who is eagerly on the lookout for signs their lover is in the mood. On the other side, a partner who does not want physical intimacy might avoid the topic altogether to avoid confrontation. This can leave couples in an unsatisfying cycle, leaving both partners confused and frustrated.” 

One of the many perks of Paired is being able to broach these conversations in a more light-hearted environment, with games tailored to talking about touch. In fact, after 3 months of using Paired, the number of people unhappy with touch in their relationship decreased from 12% to 8%. 

While there could be many reasons behind these improvements, perhaps it’s simply about opening up the conversation — with 88% of people overall agreeing that Paired helped them to talk about touch and physical affection in their relationship. 

So, what about sex? 

According to our survey, 61% of people are VERY satisfied with their sex lives. 

Even though it lost out to snuggling, 41% of people believed that sexual intimacy made them feel closer and more connected to their partner.  

Of the 17% of people who are unhappy with their sex lives, this figure decreases with prolonged use of the Paired — declining to 13% after 3+ months of using the app. 

(Maybe it’s time to dive into the sex & intimacy packs after all!) 

What can couples expect from 2024? 

So what’s in and what’s out for 2024? Seeger DeGeare tells us more.

Netflix & Chill is out, No-flix & Connection is in! 

Even though “Netflix & Chill” is a firm date night favorite, and gets plenty of snuggle time in, it isn’t the kind of intimacy we’re rooting for overall. 

“Now I love a relaxing time next to my partner, where we don’t feel like we have to be ON all the time,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“But the thing about Netflix and chill is it’s not just that you aren’t talking, you don’t have the opportunity to share more of yourself, and you miss out on moments of deeper understanding. How are you growing together if you're not inviting your partner into how you are evolving?” 

Therefore, we’ve got a proposition for 2024 — eliminating all distractions, focusing on that connection, and getting creative with intimacy! Use Paired as a jumping-off point for brainstorming new possibilities in the bedroom, with emotional intimacy at the forefront of the conversation. 

Avoidance is out, authenticity is in!

As our survey showed, while people are all for affection, they’re not always so keen on talking about it. 

Even though this avoidance is common, there are untold benefits to peeling back those layers and revealing your authentic self to your partner. Often couples steer clear of these conversations because they’re afraid of the reaction or response they’ll get from their partner. Or, that their authentic answer will ignite conflict or confrontation. 

“It’s not just happy wife happy life, it’s healthy partner, healthy connection, healthy you,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“Relationship health is not just about having better sex, it impacts EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR LIFE. Healthy relationships lead to lower anxiety and depression symptoms, lower blood pressure, and increased empathy and healthy connection to others, not just your partner.” 

The way to unlock this kind of prognosis? Talking about it. 

Snuggling stays in, side by side with self-care 

Snuggleholics, don’t fret — we’d never deprive you of your favorite kind of touch! 

Research shows that hugging and snuggling releases a range of feel-good hormones, including dopamine, serotonin, and perhaps most importantly, oxycontin. This ‘love hormone’ is an essential part of bonding with your partner, and we’d never strip that away!

However, with snuggling going so well, why not take it up a notch? 

We challenge couples to take their snuggling game to the next level with a renewed focus on self-care and self-reflection.

We wager that 2024 will be the ‘Year of Self-Acceptance’, where two individuals focus on taking care of themselves, with their relationship health soaring as a result. 

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