Men want cuddles but women prefer sexActs of affection like hugs and kisses were more important to men than women, researchers found.
And for women, sex tends to get better over time - after a couple has been together about 15 years.
Researchers surveyed over 1,000 couples from five different countries who had been in relationships for between one and 51 years.
Half of the couples had been together for at least 25 years.
The participants, aged between 40 and 70, were asked how many times in the past month they had kissed, cuddled, caressed and made love with their partner.
They were also quizzed about their degree of happiness in their relationships and sex lives.
Men who reported frequent kissing and cuddling were three times as happy, on average, as those who had less snuggling with their wives or girlfriends.
Women, meanwhile, said that such shows of affection had very little impact on their happiness.
Both men and women reported their sex lives improving the longer their relationship had lasted.
But men were more likely to say they were happy with their relationship while women were more likely to report being satisfied with the sex.
In the first 15 years of a relationship, women are significantly less sexually satisfied than men.
But once they have been in a relationship 15 years, their satisfaction level is 20 per cent higher than at the beginning.
Men were just happy to know that their partner enjoyed sex, and, in particular, that they had orgasms.
The survey of couples from the US, Germany, Spain, Japan and Brazil was carried out by researchers from the Kinsey Institute at America’s Indiana University.
Lead author Julia Heiman said that the first 15 years of a relationship may be emotionally draining for women while they are raising children. As they get older, they have fewer pressures.
She said: “It's possible that women became more sexually satisfied over time because their expectations change or life changes when their children grow up.
“The period of less satisfaction seems to overlap with the period of raising children, during which other things really take a focus.”
The findings about intimacy were the opposite of what researchers had expected, she revealed.
She said: “We became interested in relationships that endure and how might we begin to understand them.
“Cuddles were more important to men in predicting the degree of happiness.
“The really useful message is we should not make presumptions about the genders.
“Because there's no way to be sure we're going to be right in any way.”