Here’s How Often Married Couples Actually Have Sex
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When you’re married or in a long-term relationship, it’s natural to see changes in how often you have sex. When couples first get together, there’s often a period of high sexual frequency due to the initial excitement of a new relationship, says sex therapist Ian Kerner, Ph.D., author of So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex. Over time, though, the novelty factor naturally fizzles, and sexual frequency can go down as people return to their natural libidos, which might not line up. If your sex life isn’t what it used to be, you might find yourself scratching your head and wondering: How often do married couples have sex, anyway?
Everyone’s natural libido is different: For some, a natural libido could be a desire to have sex every day or a few times a week, while for others, it might be a few times a month, or less. People’s desire for sex can also fluctuate based on factors such as stress, sleep, medications, diet, and exercise. If you and your partner are dealing with a discrepancy between sex drives, it doesn’t mean your sex life is doomed, Kerner says. Even if you’re in a “sexless relationship”—when couples can’t remember the last time they had sex or have it less than 10 times a year, according to Kerner—there’s still hope.
How often do married couples have sex?
According to a 2017 study by the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the average American married couple has sex 56 times a year, which is around once a week. Experts in TIME and Prevention quote similar numbers, with 51 and 52 times a year, respectfully.
If your sexual frequency doesn’t match up to the numbers you see above, there’s no need to worry, as long as you’re satisfied. But if you’ve noticed a change in your sexual frequency and you’re not happy about it, it might be time to take action. “I think the stressors of life, all of the inhibitors, can really start to pile up so we sort of have to work and fight a little bit to keep creating a space for sex to happen,” he says.
How often should married couples aim to have sex?
There’s no “right” number of times to have sex, as long as both of you are happy with your sex life. But if you both know you want to be doing it more, and you’re not sure what to aim for, Kerner suggests trying to have sex once a week. A 2015 study published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology found that couples who have sex weekly are happiest.
“Although more frequent sex is associated with greater happiness, this link was no longer significant at a frequency of more than once a week,” lead researcher Amy Muise said in a release. “Our findings suggest that it’s important to maintain an intimate connection with your partner, but you don’t need to have sex everyday as long as you’re maintaining that connection.”
But Kerner adds that you should focus on what makes you and your partner happy—not just the research. Dwelling too much on numbers could make you forget the more important aspect of one’s sex life: quality.
“People love to remember peak sexual experiences, or they look at photos of vacations and remember that time they were having sex somewhere,” Kerner says. “So thinking about quality experiences or creating peak experiences is probably a better approach than just focusing on the number.”
The first step achieving a more mutually-satisfying sex life is talking about your desires with your partner. Communicating with them will help you better understand what may be missing in your relationship, Kerner says, whether it’s about how often you have sex, experimenting with new activities like using sex toys or roleplaying, or opening up your relationship. A difference in sexual needs could even mean you desire more physical touch or closeness from your partner outside of the stuff that happens in the bedroom. But you have to sit down and talk with your partner if you want things to change.
“Sometimes it’s just making the effort to become sexual again, or thinking about, ‘How do we want to define our sex lives going forward?’” Kerner says. “If for example, I’m experiencing desire a lot more than my wife or I’m feeling turned on, I should be able to still express that energy and my wife should still be able to feel desired, and not all of that sexual energy needs to be coupled with having sex.”
Masturbation is another great way to close the gap between mismatched libidos that doesn’t involve putting undue pressure on your partner, Kerner says. Plus, it makes you more in tune with your own sexual needs.
It’s important to remember that having sex frequently isn’t the only indicator of satisfaction in a marriage or long-term relationship. A relationship can be sexual and fulfilling through flirtation or romantic gestures, not just full-on penetrative sex. It’s more about you and your partner expressing desire and sustaining a strong emotional connection than anything else. So whether you’re having sex every day, or once a month, if you feel overall happy in your marriage and your sex life, there’s no need to stress.
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