October 2, 2019


We all wonder how much sex other people are having, worrying whether our own frequency is below par. Unfortunately, this focus on quantity over quantity deflects from whether we’re enjoying the sex itself, and what the reasons are for its (in)frequency.

Lately, statistics are showing that divorce rates are lower, but that marriage rates are lower too. This matters because urban legend claims married couples have less sex than singles. A 1990 study placed the average number of sexual encounters at 63 per year. Another study in 2017 lowered that number to 54 a year, which is roughly once a week. Last year’s study had 26,000 participants from all over America – married, single, dating, and/or cohabiting.

Both studies were published in the Archive of Sexual Behaviour, and when the 2017 study narrowed its analysis to married couples, their sexual volumes were 51 a year on average, not much less than the singles. And it turns out diminishing returns apply to sexual frequency as well. While we’d all like to last longer in bed, couples that have sex once a week are happier than those whose intimacy levels are below the national (American) average.

When the average isn’t average

But according to the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, couples who have intercourse two or more times are no happier than those who have sex once a week. These results were arrived at after interviewing more than 30,000 participants in America. The survey didn’t query whether they were enjoying the sex. It focused on numbers and said those who had sex less than once a week reported less happiness. Michele Weiner Davis wrote a book called the Sex-Starved Marriage, defined as ‘sex less than ten times a year’.

Meanwhile, Dr. Donolly ran a separate study on sexless marriage. 16% of participants (that’s about 6,029 people) hadn’t had sex in the past month. 15% hadn’t been sexually intimate with the spouses for six months. We tend to focus on frequency because it’s low-hanging fruit that’s convenient for comparison. However, if the goal is an improvement, then the reasons we’re (not) having sex are more important. It could be a sexual reason, like reticence borne of premature ejaculation. (This reticence could come from either partner.)

It could be a social reason like work stress, physical exhaustion, hectic lifestyles, or parenting distractions. These can probably be alleviated by scheduling sex, at least as a first step. Other times, the problem is more emotional. You may have lost trust in your partner, fallen out of love with them, or are responding (non)sexually to other relationship challenges like poor communication and lack of intimacy. Talk therapy is a good trouble-shooter in these scenarios. If nothing else, it will identify whether your low sex count is a passing problem or a pattern of mismatched libido.

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