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January 12, 2018

How Often *Should* You Have Sex?

Episode 41

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Jess and her partner, Brandon, chat about sexual frequency and discuss where they’re at in their relationship today. Jess also shares data on how often the “average” couple has sex and strategies for discussing frequency with your partner.

**Please see a rough version of this podcast transcript below**

Welcome and happy new year!

Now I took last week off while I was visiting family down in Florida. I was travelling with Brandon and my pup Lido and hanging with two of my favourite cousins — Mike and Denise.

Today, I’m down at Desire Resorts with my partner Brandon and while I’m here I’m teaching 2 workshops, hosting a few book signings and meeting couples from all around the world and, of course, having some very interesting conversations.

Now yesterday, we were chatting with a couple in their 50s and they mentioned that it was their 36th anniversary and they were talking about how coming down here has been great for their relationship and that even after 36 years of marriage, they still have sex. Regularly. That to me, is pretty great. Still having sex after 36 years. But not just having sex, but having it regularly. And here’s the kicker — they’re not just having sex. They’re not just having it regularly. They have it on average 6 times per week!

6 times per week after 36 years. I’m a sexologist and this came as a surprise to me.

Now they told me this while chatting with Brandon too and his reaction and my reaction was a little tense.

Cuz we’re sitting here fewer than 17 years into our relationship — and I’m supposed to be the sexologist and they’re having way more sex than I am — with Brandon or myself for that matter.

So I decided it’s time I talk about sexual frequency here on the podcast and maybe get a little personal since we all know Brandon has a much better radio voice than I do.

So babe, what did you think when you heard from this couple and was the tension between us that I felt real or did I imagine it?

Let’s be honest, how often do we have sex? And now we’re both about to stumble over our words or you folks are going to be faced with some awkward silence.

And do you want it more?

Do you feel like I want it more than you?

It has shifted over the years…and it’s affected by my travel schedule.

Here’s what the data says. And I’ll preface the data with a few thoughts.

First, I’m always reluctant to talk about frequency and averages because you’re not average. And you’re not an average. I’m always worried that averages will be used as barometers or yardsticks against which to measure your relationship’s success. But here’s the thing: frequency only matters as much as YOU feel it matters. You don’t need to have more sex unless you and/or your partner want to have more sex.

So if I share the data and you weigh in at a higher number, it doesn’t necessarily mean your sex life is satisfying. Because you may have sex more often than other couples, but it still may not be as much as you or your partner want it. Similarly, you may have far less frequent sex than average and have a richly fulfilling sex life, because the only true measure of your sex life’s degree of satisfaction is your own.

You can have sex once a day and be satisfied and you can have sex once a year (or not at all) and be satisfied. It’s a matter of you determining how often you want it and finding a balance between your frequency and your partner’s.

SO that’s the first thing I want to say before I share the data. The second is: people lie about sex even when surveys are anonymous because ultimately we lie to ourselves.

I’ve spoken to couples and one partner will report that they have sex weekly and the other will say they have it consistently every other day. Unless they’re having it with separate partners, which is a different story altogether, something has got to give. Someone is not telling the truth. And perhaps neither are – and perhaps it’s not intentional, but it’s inaccurate nonetheless, so please interpret sexual frequency data with a degree of skepticism.

But here is what some of the research says:

  • Married people have more sex than single people
  • There is some relationship between aging and a decline in sexual frequency

Data from the Kinsey Institute’s Sex, Reproduction and Gender research found:

  • 18 – 29 years old have sex an average of 112 times per year (about twice a week)
  • 30 – 39 = 86 times per year (just less than once every 4 days or so)
  • 40 – 49 = 69 times per year, which seems very high to me as it’s still more than once per week
  • And even though we don’t have as much data for older people, sex definitely doesn’t stop as you age…28% of Americans over age 45 report they had sexual intercourse once a week or more in the last six months, and 40% report having intercourse at least once a month.
  • Thirteen percent of single men age 70 and older had sex a few times per month to weekly. For partnered and married men in this age group, the rates were 63%

That’s a lot of data…another way to put it, is that for Americans in relationships, the most commonly reported frequency is somewhere between 3-4 times per month. Just under half of married men and women between the ages of 25 and 49 have sex a few times per month to weekly. This was the highest rate in this age category.

Another really important piece of research looks not at frequency alone, but the connection between sexual frequency and happiness levels. University of Toronto researchers found that there is a magic number on average and that more sex is positively correlated with greater happiness, BUT this associated happiness maxes out at once per week. Muise explains that weekly sex seems to be enough to maintain the connection and the happiness boost is really about prioritizing intimacy and sex — not about keeping score.

And though experts caution that quality is more important than quantity, addressing sexual frequency is essential, as desire discrepancies can lead to tension, strife and resentment if left unaddressed.

To overcome the universal experience of desire disparities, you need to talk openly about how often you want to have sex. This conversation is of paramount importance, because most of us cannot accurately gauge how often our partner desires sex. If you want sex more often than your partner, you’re more likely to underestimate their interest and they’re likely to do the opposite and overestimate yours.

To address this disconnect, I suggest you undertake a simple exercise with your partner every six months: record how often you want sex on a piece of paper (e.g. once per week, once per month, once per hour). Be honest. Underneath your number, write down how often you believe your partner wants to have sex. Have your partner do the same and then compare notes. Have a laugh. Have a discussion. And then address strategies to meet somewhere in the middle.

As you search for common ground (this is key to creating sexual compatibility), you’ll want to ask and answer a number of questions:

  • What can we do when one of us is in the mood and the other is not (e.g. self-pleasure, use toys, seek alternative forms of intimate connection, explore ways to get in the mood — this one is so important, as many of us only experience sexual desire after we’re aroused)?
  • What can I do to adjust my interest in sex (e.g. exercise, meditate, positive self-talk, fantasize, give directions, masturbate)?
  • What can my partner do to support my interest in sex (e.g. share workload, increase affection, spend quality time, eroticize daily interactions, improve sexual technique and seduction)?
  • How can we indicate to one another that we’re (not) in the mood and how can we stay connected when sex is off the table?

Regardless of whether you want sex more or less often than your partner, you’ll need to share in making attitudinal and behavioural adjustments to find some common ground. Cultivating compatibility is a team effort and. You are, of course, not required to meet your partner’s sexual needs, but if you’re in a monogamous relationship, you likely want to find a mutually satisfying balance to increase your odds of a happy, lasting relationship.

This podcast is brought to you by Desire Resorts

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