Are We Having Enough Sex? How Sex Therapists Gauge A Couple's Sex Life
If you've ever been worried about the amount of sex you and your partner are (or aren't) having, you wouldn't be alone. It's common for sexual desire to ebb and flow throughout the course of a relationship, and it's also common for partners to have different levels of sexual desire. The question is: How do you know when things are getting a little too stagnant?
Here's what sex therapists have to say.
How much sex couples should be having, according to sex therapists.
There is no "right" or "healthy" amount of sex that every couple needs to be having, according to licensed couples' therapist and sex therapist Jessa Zimmerman, M.A., CST.
That is, having "enough" sex is not about striving to do it a certain number of times per month. Instead, "it's all based on what those two particular people want and how they collaborate together to create a sex life that works for both," she previously told mbg.
Her measure of whether a couple is having enough sex? Simple: "If both people are happy, they are having enough."
Contrary to the never-ending flow of internet sex advice telling couples how to get in the sack more often, couples don't need to be constantly trying to up the amount of sex they're having. And it's not necessarily a problem if a couple starts having less sex than they have had in the past or if they generally have little to no sex—as long as they're both content with that.
As licensed sex and relationship therapist Shadeen Francis, LMFT, puts it, "If folks do not want to have more sex than they are having, that is to be celebrated."
How to know when there's a problem.
How often a couple has sex won't tell you whether or not there are issues in their sex life or in their relationship. As Francis points out, there are legitimate reasons couples might have less, little, or no sex, whether for a period of time or as an intentionally sustained part of their relationship. It's not always a crisis, she adds, and it can, in fact, even be a good thing for the relationship.
"If both partners are in agreement to not have sex, then not having sex is not a problem and can bring people closer as they create the kind of relationship that honors their desires," she says.
So, when is it a problem to be having less sex?
According to Francis, a lack of sex in a relationship is only a problem "when folks are not in agreement about the sex they do or do not have; this can make sex a source of conflict and contention." And that's exactly what you don't want—for sex to feel bad or feel like a source of tension in the relationship.
If at least one person isn't happy with the state of their shared sex life, Zimmerman says, that's when there need to be some conversations about how to get to a place that feels good for both people.
But, she emphasizes, the way to assess the issue isn't to start counting how often the couple is having sex or setting benchmarks for how often they ought to be having it. "I believe that talking about frequency, at least talking solely about frequency, is the wrong conversation," she says.
One partner might want to have more sex, but making it simply about frequency ignores the very thing that's most likely to make the other person genuinely interested in more sex—that is, how pleasurable it actually is to have it. "We need to be talking about the quality of pleasure and connection, and we need to understand any barriers someone may have to wanting and enjoying sex," says Zimmerman.
To gauge the state of your sex life (or your relationship overall), "Are we having enough sex?" won't tell you much.
A healthy sex life isn't about doing it a certain number of times per month, and a healthy relationship doesn't require people to be having sex with any specific amount of regularity (or at all). Different people (and couples) will feel happy and satisfied with differing levels of sexual activity.
Instead of focusing on frequency, a better question is, "Do we both feel good about the sex we're having? If not, what needs to change to help us both enjoy it more?"
Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.
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