How often couples should have sex, according to 3 sex therapists
The average American couple has sex about once a week.
However, sex therapists say that focusing on the quality of your sex life and the connection you have with a partner is more important than how often you have sex.
If you're unsatisfied with the amount of sex you and your partner are having, here's how you can improve your sex life.
This article was medically reviewed by Rosara Torrisi, LCSW, CST, MSSW, MEd, PhD, certified sex therapist at the Long Island Institute of Sex Therapy.
Have you ever wondered if the amount of sex you're having is normal? It's completely natural to have insecurities around how much sex you and a partner engage in. But, it's important to keep in mind each relationship is different, with varying sexual needs.
More sex does not always equal a better relationship. Instead, focusing on the quality of sex, your connection with a partner, and what's best for your relationship can make your bond stronger.
How often should couples have sex?
There is no right answer for how often you should be having sex — only what feels right for your relationship or sex life.
A 2017 study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior studied the sexual behavior of just over 26,000 people from 1989 to 2014. It found that the average adult has sex 54 times a year, or an average of about once a week.
It also found that, for married couples, the number stayed almost the same — 51 times a year. However, the frequency changed depending on age: 20-somethings reported having sex around 80 times a year, whereas the number drops to 20 for 60-somethings. It's also important to note that "sex" is a broad term that encompasses many sexual acts. Therefore, definitions can vary from person to person.
Once a week may be the average, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the right amount of sex for all relationships. "I've worked with couples who would argue that once a week is too much, and others who would say it's not nearly enough," says Stefani Goerlich, a licensed master social worker and sex therapist. Each couple determines the amount of sex that's right for them to have — a number which may change as their relationship continues.
"While there can be 'too little' or 'too much' sex, it really is subjective and dependent on the couple," says Christene Lozano, a licensed marriage family and sex addiction therapist. She says some people will still feel satisfied even if they don't have sex for months. Instead of looking for a non-existent rule about how much sex you should be having, she says to focus on your sexual relationship and what it means to the both of you.
Factors that can impede on a healthy sex life
However, if you're unsatisfied with the amount of sex you and your partner are having, certain factors may be to blame. "Sex is a multi-dimensional experience. Good sex is mental, physical, and emotional," says Goerlich. Therefore, sex is influenced by one's mental and physical health.
Examples of outside factors impacting you or your partner's sex life include:
Stress — in general or about the relationship
Changes in the body due to aging and health issues
Falling into a routine that's become boring
Being busy with kids, family, or career
Not feeling comfortable communicating with each other
Not feeling seen or heard by your partner
"These different factors can also affect one another," says Lozano. For example, if your body changes for some reason, you may begin to develop a poor body image. Feeling uncomfortable in your body might lead you to withdraw sexually from a partner.
How to improve you and your partner's sex life
Sex should be enjoyable, not something that causes more stress than pleasure. Here are six ways you and your partner can improve the quality of your sex life.
1. Reduce stress
Stress can hinder a happy sex life for you and your partner. Anyone experiencing stress may find a decrease in their libido. For example, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found women with high stress had lower levels of genital arousal.
If you notice you or your partner is stressed, talk to each other about it, and find ways to blow off steam. This can include: journaling, meditation, therapy, enjoyable body movement like dancing, or productive physical activities such as folding laundry. On the other hand, some people may use sex to cope with their stress, says Lozano.
2. Explore your sexual self
Lozano suggests practicing introspection, curiosity, and exploring your sexuality and sexual desires to become more familiar with your body. Sexual exploration can mean tackling body image issues or finding what pleases you.
If you're comfortable, get to know yourself physically and what feels good through masturbation. As you become more comfortable with yourself and what satisfies you, it may be easier to express your sexual desires with a partner.
3. Try something new
If you've been with your partner for a long time, it's easy to assume you know everything about their sexual preferences. Instead, ask them questions like what their best sexual experience was, a time they felt dissatisfied, or what's something they've always wanted to do.
Trying new positions, fantasies, or toys can revitalize your sex life, says Goerlich. She recommends using sites that specify your sexual interests like Mojo Upgrade and comparing results with your partner.
4. Begin "foreplay" before you reach the bedroom
Foreplay can be much more than physical touch or sexual acts. The path to great sex begins long before you enter the bedroom. Creating a safe space for your partner, and treating them with kindness, affection, and respect, provides a jumping off point for a deep, meaningful connection during sex.
5. Communicate with each other
If you want to try new things or change your sex life, it all requires open and honest communication. When discussing sex with your partner, Lozano says to keep curiosity, compassion, and vulnerability at the top of mind. Make sure your partner feels heard without judgment and comfortable sharing both their sexual needs and limits.
6. Work to sync your sex drives
Sex drives vary from person to person, making it difficult for couples to find the right balance. That's why Kamil Lewis, a sex and relationship therapist, suggests scheduling sex and prioritizing your sexual routine. This may mean one partner occasionally has sex slightly more or less often than they would prefer, but considering each other's needs is key.
It's important to keep in mind that consent is always necessary to engage in a sexual encounter. If you don't want to have sex, don't have sex. And, don't force a partner to have sex unless they are completely comfortable in doing so.
What are the benefits of sexual intimacy?
Regardless of how much or how little sex you have, it has many health benefits and can be an important part of a healthy relationship.
"Sex allows you to connect with your partner in a profoundly organic way where you are seen and respected, and importantly, feel pleasure and joy," says Lewis. "Sexual intimacy provides a fulfilling connection that cultivates trust, and trust is significant to any relationship."
Similar to how the amount of desired sex can vary between partners, the meaning behind the act also varies. "Sex can hold a different meaning, and therefore, a different significance depending on the couple," says Lozano.
Some benefits of sex may include:
Allows people to express and experience connection
Creates a pleasurable, physical feeling
Strengthens emotional bonds
Releases dopamine during orgasm, which helps people feel calmer and closer to each other
May lower your blood pressure
The bottom line
The average adult has sex about once a week, but that doesn't always mean you should, too. However you choose to be physically intimate with a partner, the where and how often matter much less than the quality of the connection or encounter.
Having sex more often is not a guarantee your relationship will be successful. Instead, focus on the quality of the experience itself. Doing so will likely improve you and your partner's sexual satisfaction more than if you just increased the amount of sex you have.
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