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Birth Control   ::   Having Children   ::   Sexual Relations  ::   Resources

Frequency of Sexual Relations

Discussion: How Much Sex is "Normal"?

Sex is a very important part of most marriages and a good sex life often points to a good marital relationship and vice versa. However, most experts are reluctant to quantify what is "normal" in terms of a couple's frequency of sexual relations. That's because some couples don't have sex very often and both partners are satisfied with their sex life. Other couples may have sex quite often, but it is still not enough for one partner. How often married couples have intercourse varies depending on age, social class, how long they have been married, whether they have children, as well as a number of other factors. However, having sex once or twice a week is considered average and having sex fewer than 10 times a year is considered sexless and research has shown that sexless marriages are generally less happy and more prone to divorce. There is no prescription for the proper amount of sex a couple should be having, as long as both are satisfied with the frequency with which they have sex. However, if either partner is not satisfied with the amount of sex they are having, then it becomes a problem for both partners. Simply telling the partner with more desire to "tough it out" or the partner with low desire to "always give in and do it anyway" is not a workable solution. A caring compromise can and must be reached.

Discussion: Desire Gaps are Common

It is not uncommon for married couples to have differing levels of sexual desire at different times in their marriage. In fact, sexual desire gaps are the most frequent of all the sexually related relationship problems and Al Cooper has referred to it as "the common cold of sexual issues." Historically, women have usually been pegged as the partner most likely to be low on desire, but recent research shows that the desire gap goes both ways. Many husbands desire sex less than their wives. In her book, The Sex Starved Marriage: A Couple's Guide to Boosting Their Marriage Libido , Michele Weiner-Davis refers to marriages where there is a desire gap as "sex-starved marriages." It doesn't matter whether a couple has sex once a year or four times a week, they may still have a sex-starved marriage. Weiner-Davis explains the desire gap in terms of a Catch-22. She says that what usually happens is the partner with less desire wants all of the emotional aspects of the relationship to be going well before they want to be physical. But the person with more desire wants to be physical before putting out the emotional investment in other areas of the relationship. Partners may then become entrenched in their self-justifying attitudes towards having or not having sex. Their sex life then becomes a power struggle and a waiting game rather than an enjoyable and sustaining strength in their marital relationship.

Discussion: Reasons for Differing Desire Levels

Most newlyweds don't struggle with lack of sexual desire as much as they experience differing levels of sexual desire. There are many factors that may contribute to a couple's differing levels of sexual desire and it can be difficult to pinpoint just one because our desire results from a complex mix of biological, psychological, cultural, and relationship issues. Here are just a few of the many factors that may affect a person's desire for sex. Keep in mind that just because you and your partner have different levels of sexual desire does not mean that your partner does not love you or that your marriage is doomed. You can work out mutually satisfying solutions if you are willing to work at it and be considerate of your partner's needs and desires.

  • Biology - When your body is not functioning properly due to any of the following reasons sex will be less enjoyable. It may be a good idea to consult with a doctor you trust in discussing your sex-life and letting him/her know if you are experiencing difficulties.
    • Illnesses
    • Hormone Imbalances (due to pregnancy, childbirth, or male/female menopause)
    • Medications
    • Substance Use or Abuse
    • Problems Becoming Aroused
    • Problems Achieving Orgasm
    • Painful Intercourse
    • Ejaculation Problems
  • Psychology - Psychological problems are probably more frequent causes of sexual difficulties and differing desire levels than biological problems. Being tired and stressed out or feeling poorly about yourself, those around you, or your life circumstance is not a real turn-on. Seek out the help and support you may need to overcome problems in any of these areas by talking to a mental health professional.
    • Depression
    • Poor Self-Esteem
    • Prior or Current Abuse (Sexual, Physical, or Emotional)
    • Poor Body Image
    • Grief Over a Loss
    • Stress
    • Fatigue
    • Change of Life Stage
  • Culture - The culture you were raised in may have an impact on your desire for sex. If you were taught that sex is a wonderful and enjoyable expression of love between a married couple, your desire for sex will probably be greater than if you were taught that sex is bad, dirty, or it is only to be used for procreation.
  • Relationship - Most people want to feel good about their partner and their relationship before they are willing to have sex with them. It can be difficult to think about having sex with your partner if you are arguing about whose fault it is that the electric bill did not get paid on time.
  • Lack of Communication
  • Frequent Fighting
  • Unwillingness to Forgive
  • Uncaring Attitude
  • Selfishness More Than Service to Partner
  • Different Ideas of Intimacy

Examples

Exercises

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, November 28). Sexual Relations. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: http://ocw.usu.edu/Family__Consumer____Human_Development/Marriage___Family_Relationships/Sexual_Relations_5.html. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License