Married sex: “How often should we be doing it?”
Written by Teddy Nykiel
There’s no magic number for the frequency with which married sex, or any sex, for that matter, should happen. Sex is personal, and what’s right for your marriage is probably different than what’s right for someone else’s.
But there’s a sweet spot that works for many couples, married or not: once a week.
“As people get older and as their relationship length increases, they tend to have sex less,” says Dr. Kristen Mark, Director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab at the University of Kentucky. “But they're still having sex around once a week, on average.”
Research shows that this cadence is ideal: A 2015 study¹ about the relationship between happiness and sex frequency found that peoples’ happiness improved the more they had sex, up until the once-a-week mark. Having sex more often didn’t decrease happiness, but it didn’t improve it, either.
What if one person wants it more often?
This is pretty much inevitable. You’re committed to spending your lives together, but you’re not the same person. It’s no one’s fault.
“It is important not to blame one person for either wanting ‘too much’ sex or not wanting ‘enough’ sex,” Mark says.
The solution (like many things in marriage) is compromise. The higher-libido spouse should find other ways to satiate their need for sex, and the lower-libido person should consider occassionally agreeing to sex even if they’re not in the mood, Mark says. These ideas can help you meet in the middle:
- Mutual mastubation
- Mastubation on your own
- Intimate non-sexual touch like massage, cuddling on the couch or kissing in the kitchen.
In addition to giving the higher-libido spouse sexual satisfaction without full-on intercourse, these activities may also help get the other person in the mood. Many people primarily experience “responsive sexual desire,” meaning they only start getting aroused after some physical stimulation. This is different than “spontaneous sexual desire,” where arousal comes on more suddenly.
What if we’re not having sex very often?
It’s a bit of a red flag if you’re married and not having any sex, Mark says. But don’t panic. Instead, think about why you might be having a sex drought, she says. Reasons (that are all totally normal) could include:
- Medications that impact sexual functioning: Some prescription drugs, including many antidepressants, can decrease libido and increase the time it takes to have an orgasm.
- Financial stress: Stress of any kind can hinder your sex life, and money is one of the biggest sources of stress. A study² published in 2017 found that financial stress was a predictor of sexual dissatisfaction for men but not women.
- New parenthood: A new baby can wreak havoc on your routine, sleep schedule and body. It’s completey normal if your sex life takes a backseat for a while.
- Transitioning to menopause: Womens’ hormone levels decline during perimenopause, which can lead to a shift in their desire for sex. You can still have (great) sex after menopause, but it might take time to adjust to your new normal.
If you can’t pinpoint any potential causes of the lack of sex in your marriage, doing a bit of “fake it ‘till you make it,” could help get you back on track.
“Think about the last time you were engaged in a healthier pattern of sexual behavior and try to recreate that,” Mark says. She also suggests reflecting on your relationship as a whole to see if there’s an issue that’s impacting your sex life.
“An unhappy relationship can certainly breed an unhappy sex life (and vice versa),” she says.
» RELATED: How to get your wife to have sex with you
Tips for good married sex
As a couple, you know each other best and that’s part of what can make married sex the best sex. But we all have ruts, so try these tips if you want to spice things up:
- Try a new toy or position: Incorporate a vibrator, dildo or penis ring into your sex life. Or, get your hands on a Kama Sutra book, flip to a random page and try the position it suggests.
- Get inspired: Watch a porn video or read a sexy story together to explore each others’ fantasies or discover a new one.
- Download the Coral app: Enhance your sex life with our interactive guide full of tips, tools, how-tos and more (it’s like having a sex coach in your pocket).
No matter what new things you decide to try, maintaining open and honest communication is key to a healthy sex life and a healthy marriage.» RELATED: 9 things they don't tell women about marriage, pregnancy and kidsReferences:
- Muise, Amy & Schimmack, Ulrich & Impett, Emily. (2015). Sexual Frequency Predicts Greater Well-Being, But More is Not Always Better. Social Psychological and Personality Science. 7. 10.1177/1948550615616462.
- Allsop, David B.; Hill, E. Jeffrey; LeBaron, Ashley B.; and Bean, Roy A., "Sex and Money: Exploring How Sexual and Financial Stressors, Perceptions and Resources Influence Marital Instability for Men and Women" (2017). FHSS Mentored Research Conference. 311.