What is the right amount of sex for a couple to be having? How little is too little and how much it too much? Embedded in these questions are deeper concerns regarding the general health of one’s sex life and the emotional health of the relationship. However, while frequency of sex is one way to objectively measure an aspect of one’s relationship, there isn’t a particular number that will indicate that your sex life or your relationship is healthy and functional or guaranteed to last. General statistics suggest that an average of once a week, or 58 times a year, is more or less the norm, though these numbers also include couples at the far end of the age range when sex is typically less frequent. But statistical averages or “norms” don’t necessarily diagnose what is and is not normal.
Are Both Partners Satisfied?
Rather than focusing on a particular number, the more helpful question may be, “are both you and your partner satisfied with the amount of sex in your relationship?” It is a good idea to ask the question and discuss your answers openly and without accusations or judgment. Think about your sexual relationship with your partner, not only the frequency, but the quality of the sex as well. Would you like to be doing it more or less often? Ask the same question of your partner. The answer may surprise you.
In the end there is no magic number or yearly average that ensures a fulfilling sexual life or a healthy romantic relationship. What you must determine as a couple is what feels right for you. Averages and statistics should not be used to try to convince a less willing partner that he or she is slacking off in the bedroom. If there is a disparity in desire between partners, the first step is to discuss why this is and to see where there may be room for compromise. If you are unable to reach a satisfying agreement, or if promises to change go unfulfilled, it may be time to talk with a sex therapist. Many past and present psychological issues inform libido, interest and willingness. If one or both partners are unsatisfied, it is worth the time and effort to discover the root of the problem through sex therapy.
When Is It a Problem?
Hypersexuality, or sex addiction, is a legitimate concern and one that can create challenges for a marriage. It is not uncommon for the non-addict partner to feel used, or that sex is more a craving for the satisfaction of a need than a genuine and generous expression of love. The partner who is sex addicted may live in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction, even if sex is frequent within the relationship. For the addict, there is never enough.
If there is a disagreement between spouses, it is worth looking into why this is. Individuals will vary widely on their ideas of what the ideal sex life should look like—the most important thing, however, is that both people in the relationship discuss their expectations and the rationale behind those expectations. If Partner A is unresponsive to sex or rejects it, he or she may, inadvertently, be sending the message that Partner B is unloved or uncared for. Naturally, this subtext or narrative may not be intended, but it may be what the partner who is not receiving sex is understanding and it creates pain.
All relationships involve compromise and the territory of the bedroom is no exception. In a healthy and communicative relationship, both partners should have the right to state their desires and ideals, as well as the areas in which they would be willing to compromise. Perhaps one partner would be able to compromise in the area of frequency, if regularity could be counted upon. Partners who are completely reticent or unable to engage in sexual relations should also investigate why this may be. Trauma, built up resentment, mental illness such as depression, or childhood abuse may be the cause. Aside from their impact on sex, these are issues that need to be addressed for the health of the marriage. If the couple is not comfortable with the idea of couples’ sex therapy, each may begin by seeing a therapist independently.
There is no magic number, there is no right or wrong. Mutual satisfaction and contentment is the goal.