One of most common questions online and in therapy is “how often should couples have sex?” It’s only natural to want to know what’s “normal” and how you measure up in your relationship. The answer to this very popular question is somewhat complex. Put simply, there is no standard, one size fits all frequency that can be applied to all couples. So let’s break down the question and explore the deeper issues that contribute to sexual intimacy to help you determine what’s right for you and your partner.
Define Sex Within Your Relationship
Sexual intimacy is one of the foundational aspects of a romantic relationship. But sexual interactions, desires, and behaviors vary widely couple to couple. Some of the factors that influence what sex looks like within any given relationship are age, sexual orientation, culture/religion, physiology, emotional connection, mental health and much more.
With this in mind, each couple needs to gain clarity into what they expect out of their sexual relationship and how they define sex. Most people equate sex with intercourse, but this is a common misconception. There is a wide range of sexual behaviors that can count as sex and many ways to have a satisfying sex life. It’s up to each couple to discuss and agree on what their sexual or physical relationship looks like and the frequency of sexual intimacy that is mutually satisfying.
Most people believe foreplay is the “warm-up” to sex but I have a broader definition for it. I define foreplay as every interaction (sensual or not) since your last sexual encounter with your partner. It can be as simple as holding hands, going out on a date, or sharing a laugh. Every touch, flirtation, and shared experience can be considered foreplay. The more foreplay, the higher likelihood of more fulfilling sexual encounters.
Focus On Pleasure
The goal of sexual encounters is mutual pleasure, which in turn builds more and more desire between partners. In order to maximize pleasure and have a satisfying sex life, explore all sexual possibilities, not just intercourse. This is especially true for couples for whom intercourse is not an option, due to erectile dysfunction, menopausal discomfort, and a slew of other physical and emotional factors.
It’s worth keeping in mind that sexual pleasure is possible to achieve without orgasm. In fact, couples in their 60s and 70s report higher sexual satisfaction than younger couples. Older couples tend to focus on pleasure over performance, and report having more sexual contact with fewer orgasms. Regardless of age, some couples may need to adjust the range of activities which provide sexual pleasure, and this is not only normal but quite common and healthy in virtually all long-term relationships.
Navigate Mismatched Libidos With Empathy
Sometimes there’s a mismatch in sex drive between two partners, where one person experiences more or less sexual desire than the other. Quite often, one partner loses interest in sex entirely while the other is still interested in a physical relationship. Couples with mismatched libidos should first get on the same page about their wants, needs, and expectations.
It’s critical to be able to have open and honest conversations about sex. Hear each other out and come up with ideas and strategies that will allow you both to find a good balance. Empathy and compassion will allow you both to negotiate and come up with a working solution.
And if you find this is just too difficult to work through on your own, seek out a couples therapist who is experienced in counseling couples on matters of communication and sexual intimacy.
So, How Often Should Couples Have Sex?
Considering all the issues discussed so far, I can confidently advise that couples should engage in some level of foreplay every day. Whether it’s verbal, emotional or physical, foreplay strengthens your connection to your partner and increases your interest in and desire for each other. The frequency of orgasm is less significant than frequency of pure intimate contact.
However, if your definition of sex is based on frequency of orgasm, then you can have sex daily, weekly, or monthly. Whatever you and your partner feel is the the right amount can be healthy for your relationship. There is no norm, so avoid comparing yourself to other couples. Every couple creates their own norm for how often they have sex.
If you find that you and your partner are having less sex than usual, or if you’re struggling in a sexless marriage, it may be time for professional help. To learn more about how to repair a sexless relationship, follow the link below.