I once read that happy couples have sex once a week. So, when I was having more or less than that in a relationship, I started feeling like my sex life was wrong, and my relationship was doomed to fail. Onto the next one, I suppose! Needless to say, I relied way too much on Google’s answer to the question: How much sex is normal?
Relationship comparison is so real. Whether you’re scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, swooning over Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s controversial romance, or even just chatting about relationships with friends and family, it’s easy to feel like your relationship isn’t what’s considered “normal,” especially when it comes to intimacy.
You’re supposed to wait three dates to have sex, one year to move in together, two years to get engaged, and another year until you get married—all these arbitrary timelines are exhausting! Of course, we all want to be in the happiest relationship, but why do we have to follow the same timeline as everyone else? In the same vein, why do we all have to have sex the same amount of times in a week?!
In the most recent episode of The Everygirl Podcast, we chatted with sex therapists Kamil Lewis and Casey Tanner about myths around frequency and sex. Spoiler alert: All of these numerical expectations of frequency are the last thing any of us should be worried about when it comes to our sex lives. So, here’s how much sex you should really be having, according to the experts.
Trying to reach a quota will not benefit your relationship
Sociologists love studying couples almost as much as they love studying sex, so there’s tons of information out there on how often happy couples should be sleeping together. A study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science studied 30,000 couples over 40 years. They discovered that having sex once a week was the perfect medium for couples; however, couples having more sex weren’t more or less happy, but couples having less did report being less fulfilled sexually. Another study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that the average adult prefers to have sex 54 times a year, which roughly equates to once a week.
In spite of these studies that actually do support the idea that we should be having sex once a week, one exploration from Carnegie Mellon University revealed that attempting to reach a certain quota of sexual activity had no benefit for couples’ relationships. This study split couples into two groups: Group A kept their sex lives normal, while Group B had twice as much sex as they had had previously. At the end of the study, Group B actually reported that the sex “wasn’t much fun” and that it started to feel like a chore. Go figure.
Your sexual awakening might come from having less sex
In a world where it feels like there’s constant pressure to increase the amount of sex we’re having, we can often forget that being more in tune with ourselves sexually might involve having less sex, instead of more. “I really push back on the idea that the more sex you’re having, the better your mental health is,” said Casey Tanner, MA, LCPC, CST on The Everygirl Podcast. “For a lot of people, their sexual awakening will involve less sex, not more. It is different for every single person.” Often, getting the most pleasure out of your sex life means adjusting your sex life to fit your current needs, goals, and priorities—not adjusting it to an arbitrary number or to other people’s expectations.
If you’re having great sex and feel connected to yourself and your partner, there’s no reason to be concerned with fulfilling an arbitrary number.
If you’re finding yourself spiraling about how much sex you’re having, it may be an indication that you need to focus on the quality of your connection to yourself or your partner over the quantity of physical intimacy. “I think there are so many other ways to validate how you are feeling about sex other than frequency,” said Kamil Lewis, MA, LMFT on The Everygirl Podcast. “Usually when people are curious about the frequency, they really just want to feel more connected. They want to feel more present. They want to feel more in touch.”
Investigating the ways in which you can feel more in touch with yourself, your libido, your sexual desires, and your emotions might eliminate the frequency question from your mind entirely. After all, if you’re having great sex and feel connected to yourself and your partner, there’s no reason to be concerned with fulfilling an arbitrary number.
So, what should we be doing?
If there isn’t a strain on your relationship, and your needs are both being met, why should we (or science!) question how often you should be getting it on with your partner?! There’s really no need to mess with a good thing. It’s easy to feel like your sex life doesn’t measure up to someone else’s (i.e. that one couple your BFF knows who has sex every night vs. the other couple you know who is perfectly fine going once or twice a month).
Sexual pressure comes from all areas, but constantly worrying whether or not your sex life is normal is pretty counterproductive. How often you’re having sex isn’t what makes a relationship “happy,” and expanding our definitions of pleasure will help us understand the health of our relationships overall on a much more objective level. Stress at work, money troubles, or family drama all have a negative impact on our mental health and can decrease our libido. Just because you’re having less sex than your idea of “normal” doesn’t mean your relationship is bad.
Whether you’re having sex four times a week and loving every second of it or you enjoy your time in the bedroom once a month, your relationship shouldn’t rely on a number to be considered happy. You get to decide what your normal is. Anyway, “normal” is just a social construct to make us feel inferior to others, so to that, I say, good riddance with whatever the heck normal is.