Exactly How Much Sex You Should Be Having

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How Often Should (And Do) Married Couples Have Sex?
Sex

I want to talk about a question many of you ask yourself but rarely say out loud: how often "normal" married and unmarried couples have sex, and how often they "should" be having it.

So many people worry that they’re either not having enough sex, or that they’re having sex too much.

If you ask two people who are getting it on with their partners with the same frequency — say, twice per week — one may feel completely frustrated because they wish it was happening daily, while the other may resent feeling pressured by their partner and wish they could scale it back to once a month.

How often should couples have sex?

The results of a highly cited study published in Society for Personality and Social Psychology indicate that for most married couples, having sex once a week is the sweet spot.

"Although more frequent sex is associated with greater happiness," said lead researcher Amy Muise, "this link was no longer significant at a frequency of more than once a week."

But the truth is that we’re all so different.

RELATED: Trying To Decide If You’re ‘Normal’ In Bed Is Getting You Nowhere

Defining what's normal in regard to most human behaviors, especially in regard to sexuality, is pretty darn difficult.

According to the Kinsey Institute:

  • 18- to 29-year-olds have sex an average of 112 times per year,
  • 30- to 39-year-olds an average of 86 times per year, and ...
  • 40- to 49-year-olds an average of 69 times per year.

Thirteen percent of married couples have sex a few times per year, 45 percent a few times per month, 34 percent two to three times per week, and 7 percent four or more times per week. And almost half of married couples have sex a few times per month.

Does that surprise you? It kind of surprises me.

When you think back to a time when your sexual mojo — in the true, Austin Powers sense of the word — was at its height, how often were you having sex?

Over time, the stress of jobs, kids, fatigue, illness, and marital challenges pile up for most of us, threatening to rob us of our mojo.

I had a patient, let’s call her Sophie, who had a baby. Afterwards she said she honestly didn’t care if she never had sex again.

Many compounding factors played a role; she was breastfeeding, she had postpartum depression, and the medication she took for her post-partum blues didn’t help her libido at all.

Seven years later, things haven’t changed much. The kids are older and sleeping through the night, the postpartum depression is gone, and she’s off her meds, but Sophie is still picking up the marital pieces of years of abstinence.

RELATED: How To Fix A Sexless Marriage Before It's Too Late

Another patient, we’ll call her Monica, married her high school sweetheart after the two had been together for twenty years.

At first, things were hunky dory, but as the years passed, their sexual frequency dropped off until they were only having sex a few times per year.

She tried seducing her husband, because her sexual needs demanded more sex than she was getting, but to no avail. As a result, her self-esteem dwindled and her libido suffered.

She asked him if he was gay, but he denied it, saying that he was attracted to women, just not her.

Ouch.

Monica came to me to ask if she was “normal” because she wanted sex every day.

She worried that maybe she was a sex addict or that something was wrong with her for wanting to enjoy more physical pleasure with her husband.

Four years later, I hear they’re getting divorced. No big surprise there. I feel for you, sister.

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After talking with Sophie and Monica, I got really curious about sexual frequency, so I started asking people in relationships to answer these three questions:

  1. How much sex would make you perfectly blissful?
  2. How much sex would make you feel satisfied and content?
  3. What’s the bare minimum sexual frequency you would need to get by, if you knew it wouldn’t last forever (such as when your partner is ill)?

The answers I got from my little straw poll were surprisingly consistent.

Granted, my study selection was limited mostly to married couples with children, so it’s a skewed population, and I asked more men than women. But here’s how they answered:

  1. Blissful: 3 to 5 times/week
  2. Content: once/week
  3. Bare minimum: once/month

I also asked my buddies on Twitter how much sex was enough, and here’s what they had to say.

  • “When you have enough sex, you know it. Just like an orgasm, there is no doubt ... you’re full and satisfied, and your cup runneth over. Divine sex is the only sex that touches the whole body.” — Doris Jeanette, holistic psychologist
  • “Money and sex are similar. When you have some, you can’t get all you want. If you don’t have any, you can’t get any. Another similarity between money and sex, you only need enough to get by on, and some days you need way more than others.” — Dave Olsen
  • “Seems like it ebbs and flows through the years and if no one is dissatisfied, it's all good. We check in. If it's been a while, we talk about it, and usually it's a mutual sense of just being too tired.” — Erin Moore
  • "How much do we get it on? A lot more now that hubby is home and walking around naked!" — Stephanie Elliot
  • “Can you ever have enough?” — Amanda Bee

I can’t help comparing everyone else’s answers to my own sex life (it’s impossible not to compare ourselves to others, isn’t it?).

My husband and I probably get down about once or twice a week. I’m pretty sure if I showed up in my black teddy more often he’d be all over that, so I guess I’m the one who puts the brakes on your sex life.

RELATED: The Not-So-Obvious Reasons We Have Sex

Why don’t I want to have sex more often? I mean, I love my husband and I think he’s totally sexy. So what gets in the way?

The answers are mostly the obvious — time, energy, not wanting the burden of any more expectation in my life. But despite this differential, we’re both content.

Is content good enough? I'm not sure.

Could it be better? I think so.

Could we grow in mojo as we explore our sexuality together? Yes.

Will we? I hope so.

If you and your partner are both happy, you're having sex often enough.

If one of you is dissatisfied, it bears exploration, because those seeds of discontent breed loss of mojo and relationship discord. Do your best to try talking with your partner about it. I know sex is hard to discuss, but touch base periodically. If you and your partner disagree about optimal regarding sexual frequency, see if you can reach a happy compromise.

So often, we make assumptions about our partners that simply aren’t true.

Maybe you wish you could have sex twice a week, but your partner only wants it every other week. Maybe you assume your partner just isn’t all that sexual, when in truth, your partner just doesn’t always want to put in the hour-long ordeal of loads of foreplay.

What if you could just have a quickie every now and then, just to tide you over? Would you be willing to sacrifice quality for quantity, or is it all about quality and quantity be damned?

How much sex is enough for you?

Talk to your partner about your wants and needs. And if you’re the one who's not putting out, ask yourself why that is and what roadblocks are keeping you from owning your sexuality in a rocking, sexy way.

You'll both be glad you did.

RELATED: 5 Things You Really Should Know About Your Man’s Deepest Desires

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Lissa Rankin, MD, is an integrative gynecologist, coach, mom, artist, New York Times bestselling author, and founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute.

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