Sex is an important part of any intimate relationship, and pretty much everyone thinks that more is better. However, studies have shown that since the year 2000, the amount of sex that the average American couple has each year has been in decline. The average couple is having sex 9 fewer times a year than they were 20 years ago.
Sexual frequency in couples has been linked to both general wellbeing and relationship satisfaction according to a number of studies. So how often should you expect sex in a relationship? Are you getting enough and what can you do if you feel like you’re not?
What’s So Great About Sex, Anyway?
Sex has been linked with a number of health benefits over the years. It reduces stress, it’s good for your skin, your heart, and your immune system, and it can help you get to sleep (hardly a surprise there for the ladies). It can also reduce pain and relieve headaches, according to a German study in 2013 (she can’t get away with that one now, guys!).
Even better for long-term couples, sex has been shown to increase romantic feelings between partners. Skin contact and sex itself both release oxytocin, and seeing as this is also called the “love hormone”, it’s not hard to see why. Plus, the average 25-minute bout of sex burns just over 100 calories for men and 69 for women, and more regular sex has even been linked with a longer lifespan.
Enough Is Enough
According to a paper published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal in 2015, while more sex is better than less, there’s actually an upper limit to the benefits of a busier sex life.
The paper found that having sex at least once a week showed a direct connection to how happy people were. However, according to the results, there was no evidence to show that people who had sex more than four or five times per month were actually any happier. In fact, there are potential links to people being less happy when they feel pressured to have sex more often, and when they compare themselves to what they think is the average.
The paper also showed that couples that had sex less often than once a week were less happy, and less satisfied in their relationships. They concluded that sex is like money: not having enough is a bad thing.
Who’re You Calling Average?
Now some good news: if you’re in a relationship, then statistically speaking you’re probably already getting just about enough to maximize your happiness and wellbeing. The average American adult has sex 54 times a year, which works out to about once a week. In other words, just the right amount. Don’t compare yourself to your friends though, as there are links between thinking that people are getting more than you and lower levels of happiness.
That said, the numbers show that couples are having sex less and less frequently, so there’s a good chance that you’re not one of the lucky ones. Couples with kids aged six to twelve are especially getting less these days, partly because they are spending more time with their kids and partly because people are having kids later.
The older you get, the less you get, according to the numbers. People under the age of 30 get nearly double the average number of sessions in, while those over 65 are only getting some about 30 times a year. Amusingly, men are somehow apparently having sex more often women are… take from that what you will.
Same Same, But Different
After around two or three years together, couples reach a stage known as ‘sexual satiation’. This is when you start to feel like you have been there and done that. This is because of a natural tendency in humans to get bored, which is nothing to worry about or be ashamed of.
In animals, there’s something known as the Coolidge Effect. Studies on rats have shown a natural tendency to stop mating with regularly available partners, and a loss of interest in sex over time. These studies also show that when new sexual partners are made available, there is an overall increase in sexual interest, especially in the males. In other words, it’s an animal instinct to get a bit bored, and for your eyes to wander. And humans are animals, after all.
That doesn’t mean you should start looking outside of the relationship for satisfaction, however. Most of all, a long-term relationship is about your mutual happiness, however you can find it. Plus, other studies have shown that people who have sex outside of their relationship are statistically less happy than those that haven’t. So, what can you do if you feel like you’re not getting enough?
Bringing Up Frequencies
First and foremost, try talking to your partner. What feels like not enough for you might be exactly as much as they need to feel satisfied. Everyone is different, and so clear compassionate communication can help you to understand where you both sit, and what your needs are.
Don’t worry about comparing yourself to numbers and statistics. Being happier in your relationship will most likely lead to you having more sex. Do what you can to ensure that all is well on the home front, and talk openly and honestly with your partner. Discuss what you like and don’t like. Explore some fantasies together. Being on the same page about your sex life can make or break a relationship, so don’t just suffer in silence.
The 2015 paper suggested that there’s a wide range of reasons for people having less sex, so don’t fret if you don’t want as much sex as you used to. There are a lot of new pleasurable ways to spend your time these days. What with there being an upper limit to how much more sex can make you happy, people are naturally going to find other things to do that will add more joy to their lives.
Sex Is Like Money
Studies have shown that sex has many health benefits, and couples that have sex more frequently are happier than those that don’t… but only up to a point. Even though the average American couple has sex less often than they did 20 years ago, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. How often should you expect sex in a relationship? According to the numbers, around once a week is all you need to maximize the potential benefits.
But really, the answer is: as much as it makes both of you happy. Talk it through with your partner, and don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. After all, sex is like money: it won’t make you happy by itself but it certainly helps, and only too little of it is a bad thing.