How Often Should a Couple Have Sex?
Sex. It's one of life's greatest pleasures and an important part of a healthy relationship. But how much sex should you be having? Is there such a thing as too much or too little sex in a committed relationship? What is a “normal” frequency for couples to make love?
- What the Research Says About Sexual Frequency
- Key Factors That Influence Sexual Desire
- What’s Considered a Sexless Marriage?
- Common Reasons for Sexless Marriages
- The Consequences of Sexless Marriages
- At What Point Should a Sexless Marriage Cause Concern?
- Improving Sexual Frequency and Satisfaction as a Couple
- The Key to a Sexually Satisfied Relationship is Communication
- Frequently Asked Questions: How Often Should a Couple Have Sex?
- What is the average frequency couples have sex?
- What if we want sex more or less often than the average?
- Is there a definition of a sexless marriage?
- What causes low sex or sexless marriages?
- At what point should infrequent sex be addressed?
- How can we have sex more often?
- How can we know if our sex life needs help?
- What is most important for a healthy sex life?
These are common questions many couples ponder. The ideal sexual frequency differs for each partnership. Health experts note what matters most is that both people feel satisfied and intimate. However, studies provide insight into averages and norms.
What the Research Says About Sexual Frequency
Research on sexual frequency has found:
- The average married couple has sex about once per week. This statistic has held steady for several decades.
- Among unmarried, cohabiting couples, the average is a little higher at about 1 to 2 times per week.
- Couples in their 20s tend to engage in sexual intimacy more often than older couples. But sex lives change across all life stages and vary greatly between partners.
- Lesbian couples report having sex slightly less than once per week on average.
- For gay male couples, 2 to 3 times per week is typical.
- What’s considered sexually active? Having sex at least once per month meets this definition for most experts and studies.
So if you're getting intimate around once per week or more, your sex life aligns with average couples. But again, what matters most is whether you and your partner both feel satisfied. The frequency that makes both people content differs widely.
Key Factors That Influence Sexual Desire
What drives desire and sexual interest in romantic relationships? Here are some of the key factors:
Age and Life Stage
Younger couples tend to have sex more frequently on average. Multiple factors drive this trend. Biological sex drive and stamina reach their peak in a person's late teens and twenties. For couples in this life stage, the early flush of a new relationship also boosts sexual desire.
As we age, sexual frequency declines naturally. Post-menopause women often report decreased libido. But this isn't universal for all couples. Many still enjoy active sex lives into older age. Emotional intimacy and keeping the spark alive can counteract biological changes.
Physical and Mental Health
Chronic health conditions like heart disease or diabetes can interfere with sexual function for both men and women. Mental health issues also commonly affect sex drive. Stress, depression, and anxiety frequently cause diminished libido. Counseling and medication to treat mental health conditions can improve this.
The longer a couple stays together, the more likely a decline in sexual frequency occurs. In established partnerships, the new relationship energy dissipates. The natural drop-off has led to the notion of a “7-year-itch.”
Yet some research indicates the decline stabilizes after the initial years. Emotional intimacy and focus on the partnership can reignite passion. Trying new things together also helps make sex exciting again.
Generalizing by gender is tricky. But some patterns emerge in research on sexual desire and frequency. Men report wanting sex more often than women. Testosterone levels drive higher male sex drive.
Women experience more fluctuation in libido tied to menstrual cycles and life events like pregnancy. Stress and relationship issues tend to negatively impact female desire more. Estrogen loss during menopause also decreases lubrication, causing discomfort.
Open communication and understanding these differences helps partners bridge gaps in sexual interest.
Becoming parents represents a major life change that influences sexual frequency. In the first year postpartum, mothers experience plummeting libido. Exhaustion from infant care, postpartum depression, and breastfeeding all contribute.
Many couples struggle to be intimate as often after having kids. Finding time when both partners aren't completely depleted requires planning. Parents must also adjust to seeing themselves as sexual beings, not just mom and dad.
But couples can sustain satisfying post-baby sex lives with effort. Even quick encounters boost intimacy. Getting away from the kids for date nights also provides more opportunities.
All couples go through periods of high stress. Demanding jobs, financial issues, deaths in the family, moves - many life events sap energy and depress sex drive. Just getting through daily obligations can leave partners too drained for intercourse.
When both members of a couple work, women still tend to shoulder more household and childcare duties. The double-burden of career and domestic responsibilities creates chronic stress for many wives and moms.
Prioritizing intimacy can be difficult but crucial during stressful times. Partners need to give each other space to recharge. Trying new stress-relieving activities together also helps decrease anxiety and reconnect.
What’s Considered a Sexless Marriage?
While the average couples has weekly sex, some partnerships experience little to no physical intimacy. What defines a sexless or low sex marriage?
Sex therapists consider 10 or fewer times per year a sexless relationship. This equates to less than once per month on average.
Having sex less than 5 times per year meets another commonly used definition of a sexless marriage.
Some experts propose broader categories of sexual frequency:
- Sexless: Less than 10 times per year
- Low sex: 10 to 50 times per year
- Moderate sex: 51 to 100 times per year
- High sex: over 100 times per year
No single number of encounters per year determines a good partnership. But persistent sexual difficulties often signify deeper issues. Ongoing frustration around mismatch of sexual desire takes a toll on relationships.
Common Reasons for Sexless Marriages
Sexless partnerships seldom result from one partner intentionally depriving the other. A variety of complex factors contribute:
- Medical issues - Chronic illness, disabilities, hormone imbalances, and prescription side effects commonly suppress sex drive. Pain during intercourse also deters couples. Seeking medical advice can reveal solutions.
- Mental health problems - As mentioned, conditions like depression and anxiety frequently reduce libido and sexual enjoyment. Talk therapy often helps.
- Childbirth and caretaking - Postpartum recovery, exhaustion from parenting, and seeing a partner as a mother/father alters attraction. Couples therapy provides strategies.
- Poor communication and connection - Partners feeling distant emotionally struggle to be physically intimate. Marriage counseling aims to improve communication and bonding.
- Priorities elsewhere - When partners focus solely on jobs, kids, aging parents, or other obligations, sex gets pushed aside. Scheduling intimate time reminds couples of priorities.
- Anger and resentment - Built-up hostility corrodes emotional intimacy and desire for physical closeness. Letting go of grudges through counseling relieves tension.
- Infidelity - Cheating damages trust. The hurt partner loses interest in sex with the one who strayed. Long-term rebuilding of intimacy through couples work may help reconcile.
- Sexual violence - Current or past trauma impacts survivors' comfort with physical closeness and arousal. Specialized counseling offers paths to healing.
- Mismatched libidos - Partners have different innate levels of sexual interest. Compromising, empathy, and expanding sexual repertoires help.
- Erectile problems - Men experiencing ED often avoid sex from shame and frustration. Medications and emphasizing intimacy over intercourse can improve satisfaction.
- Menopause symptoms - Vaginal dryness and discomfort make sex painful for many women. Lubricants, medical estrogen, and focusing on foreplay help overcome this common issue.
The Consequences of Sexless Marriages
Couples in sexless marriages commonly report increased unhappiness and conflict. Sex promotes bonding through physical pleasure and release of feel-good hormones like oxytocin. Without this intimacy, partners often feel disconnected.
When sex disappears for extended periods, individuals question their appeal and self-worth. Partners become more irritable and quicker to anger. Sexual frustration arises.
One partner feeling rejected sexually often views the other as withholding affection purposefully. This breeds resentment between couples. Partners feel less motivated meeting each other’s needs overall.
People in sexless marriages run higher risks of infidelity. Seeking physical intimacy outside the marriage reflects longing for affection. But cheating further deteriorates bonds and trust.
Sexlessness also takes mental and physical health tolls. The frustration leads to anxiety and sadness for many individuals. Research indicates regular sex provides stress relief and various medical benefits.
At What Point Should a Sexless Marriage Cause Concern?
Sexual dry spells and fluctuations are normal in most relationships. Stressful life events often disrupt couples’ intimate schedules temporarily.
Brief lulls where sex occurs less often generally don't threaten otherwise healthy partnerships. Committed couples understand each other's needs evolve.
But when sex consistently drops off or ceases for months and years, paying attention is crucial. Ongoing sexual disconnection damages emotional intimacy.
Sex therapists advise couples seek help if they have sex less than 10 times per year. This degree of infrequency often reflects deeper issues needing attention.
That said, no universal number defines a problematic sexless marriage. The level of concern depends on partners' happiness and whether both accept the decline in sexual activity.
Mismatched libido is problematic when it leaves one or both partners persistently unhappy and unfulfilled. If either person feels distressed by the lack of physical intimacy, it's time to communicate and get help.
Improving Sexual Frequency and Satisfaction as a Couple
If you and your partner want to boost your sex life, many effective approaches exist. Here are some top tips for reigniting sexual chemistry:
- Schedule sex dates - It seems unromantic, but planning intimate time works. Otherwise, competing priorities crowd out sex. Physical closeness reminds you why to prioritize your partnership.
- Set the mood - Light candles, play music, use scents and give massages to enhance sensuality. A relaxed, inviting ambience makes lovemaking more appealing.
- Initiate flirtation - Exchange affectionate touches, compliments and innuendos throughout the day. This builds sexual tension for later payoff.
- Communicate your desires - Discuss sexual wishes openly and make compromises. Trying new things together prevents ruts.
- Focus on foreplay - Spend more time on kissing, hand stimulation, role-playing, massage and oral sex. This heightens arousal and pleasure.
- Make quickies count - Even short sexual encounters boost passion. Try positions requiring less exertion like spooning.
- Seek counseling - If tension or medical/psychological issues interfere with sex, get help addressing these obstacles.
- Practice self-care - Eat healthfully, exercise, reduce stress, and get enough sleep. When partners feel their best, sex lives improve.
The Key to a Sexually Satisfied Relationship is Communication
Every couple differs in ideal sexual frequency. No single prescribed number of intimate acts per week constitutes a healthy sex life.
Far more important than numerical benchmarks is open communication. Partners need to discuss their needs and desires candidly. Compromise involves finding a level of sex you both feel happy with.
Prioritizing intimacy when life feels busy or stressful presents challenges. But remembering physical closeness nurtures emotional bonds is key. Invest energy and creativity in keeping your sex life satisfying.
If you're struggling with sexual issues that communication alone can't seem to resolve, don't hesitate to seek help. Sex therapists and counselors offer tactics to get your love life back on track.
Frequently Asked Questions: How Often Should a Couple Have Sex?
Sex is an important part of a healthy relationship, but how much sex is enough? Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about sexual frequency for couples.
What is the average frequency couples have sex?
- Married couples: Average once per week
- Unmarried couples: 1-2 times per week
- Lesbian couples: Less than once per week
- Gay male couples: 2-3 times per week
The averages provide a general benchmark, but every relationship is different. Focus on whether you and your partner feel happy and connected, not comparing to statistics.
What if we want sex more or less often than the average?
There are no right or wrong amounts - mismatch in desire is only an issue if it causes distress. Compromise by taking turns initiating at different frequencies. Explore each other's needs and expand sexual repertoires beyond intercourse.
Is there a definition of a sexless marriage?
- Sex therapists define sexless as 10 or fewer times per year.
- Some say less than 5 times per year.
- Categories also used:
- Sexless - Less than 10 times per year
- Low sex - 10-50 times per year
- Moderate sex - 51-100 times per year
- High sex - Over 100 times per year
What causes low sex or sexless marriages?
Common reasons include:
- Medical problems
- Mental health conditions
- Childbirth and caretaking duties
- Poor communication
- Anger, resentment, infidelity
- Priority conflicts
- Sexual trauma
- Libido mismatches
- Erectile dysfunction
- Menopause symptoms
At what point should infrequent sex be addressed?
It's normal for life events to disrupt sex temporarily. But if sex consistently drops to 10 times or fewer per year, the situation likely signals deeper issues to discuss. Any time one partner feels unhappy with the frequency, it's time to communicate.
How can we have sex more often?
Tips to increase intimate frequency:
- Schedule sex dates
- Set the sensual mood
- Initiate physical flirtation
- Communicate desires openly
- Make foreplay a priority
- Have quickies when possible
- Seek counseling if needed
- Practice self-care
How can we know if our sex life needs help?
- Are we both reasonably satisfied with our sex life?
- Do we have sexual encounters that regularly connect us and meet our needs?
- Can we comfortably communicate about sex - desires, challenges, preferences?
- Do we both prioritize intimacy even when stressed or busy?
If the answer to any of these is no, consulting a sex therapist could benefit your relationship.
What is most important for a healthy sex life?
Open communication and willingness to compromise. Discuss your needs and wants while also listening to your partner's perspective. Prioritize intimacy frequently enough for both people to feel happy in the relationship sexually.