Are you having enough sex? You might
have wondered if you should up your bedroom activity after reading about other
couples’ resolutions to have sex every day or about all the health benefits of
In what might be welcome news for everyone exhausted from work and frazzled from kids, research suggests you don’t have to get down every day to reap the rewards of sex, at least in terms of happiness and relationship closeness .
A recent study found that, although married people or people in committed relationships who had more sex tended to report feeling happier, the benefit leveled off at a sexual frequency of once a week. Those who said they did the deed four or more times a week did not report feeling any happier than those who had trysts only weekly.
science of a happy marriage
“I do think couples can end up
feeling pressure to try to engage in sex as frequently as possible,” said Amy
Muise, a postdoctoral researcher studying sexual relationships at Dalhousie
University in Canada. Once a week “is maybe a more realistic goal to set
than thinking you have to have sex every day and that feels overwhelming and
you avoid it,” said Muise, who is lead author of the study, which was
published in November in the journal Social Psychological and Personality
The study found that sex could boost
happiness because it makes people feel more satisfied in their relationship,
based on survey data from two separate cohorts, including 2,400 married couples
in the U.S. National Survey of Families and Households.
who share the burdens of childcare are happier together
“For people in relationships,
their romantic relationship quality is one of the biggest predictors of their
overall happiness,” Muise said. “Having sex more than once a week
might not be enhancing that (relationship connection), although it is not
However, there are a couple of rubs
with this research, Muise said. One is that it is not clear which came first,
sex or happiness. It may be that people who have sex once a week or more were
happier in their relationship and life to begin with, and not that the sex
helped make them happy. Or both may be true: Sex enhances happiness and
happiness enhances sex.
The other catch is that, although a
weekly romp might be just what some people need, it might be too much or too
little for others. “Certainly there are couples for whom having sex less
frequently will be fine for their happiness, and there are couples who will get
increases in happiness if they have sex more than once a week,” Muise
the right number for you? “One of the best effects of an
article like this (by Muise and her colleagues) is that it opens up
conversations with couples” about their sex life, said Vanessa Marin, a
sex therapist based in Berlin. For some couples, the question of how often they
should have sex might not have come up, which could be a sign they feel
sufficiently close and satisfied — or that they are just too busy or
disconnected to think about it.
“Most couples want to be having
more sex and I think this is really a result of how busy and full most of our
lives are,” Marin said.
Marin avoids prescribing an amount
of sex that couples should have, because every couple is different, and instead
recommends couples test it out for themselves. “I’m a big fan of having
clients experiment, like, one month try to have sex twice a week and see how
that goes, or once a week, try to play around with it,” Marin said.
same-sex marriage make America healthier?
As for those lucky couples that are
content with how often they get busy under the sheets, one study suggests they
may not want to change a thing. Researchers asked couples that were having sex
about six times a month to double down on getting down. Couples that doubled
their sexual frequency were in worse moods and enjoyed sex less at the end of
three months than couples who had stuck to their usual level of bedroom
“Being told you should do
something always makes it less fun,” said George Loewenstein, a professor
of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University and lead author of
the study. That is another reason Marin does not make recommendations to
couples about sexual frequency — for fear they could worry they are not living
up to expectations and lose their mojo.
However, there’s a far bigger
relationship problem than couples worrying they aren’t having quite enough sex
— “couples that have pretty much stopped having sex,” Loewenstein
said. For these couples, “I think once a week is a good final goal. … It
is almost like a natural constant to do it once a week,” he said.
Even if these abstinent couples want
to be having more sex, they may lack the desire for their partner. These
couples can try conventional strategies, such as scheduling more quality time
together or trying a change in scenery. “What couple has not had the
experience that you go to a hotel in a new location in a new environment and
the person you’re with seems different, and different is good when it comes to
sex,” Loewenstein said.
But if these tricks aren’t enough,
couples may have to appeal to their rational rather than lustful side and tell
themselves to just do it. “These couples might be surprised how enjoyable
it would be if they restarted,” Loewenstein said.
you schedule your sex? It might sound like the least
romantic thing in the world to pencil in sexy time with your partner. But if
you and your partner are game to try, there is no reason not to make a sex
some couples, scheduling sex works really well, it gives them something to look
forward to, they like the anticipation, they like feeling prioritized,”
Marin said. “Then other couples (say) scheduling sex feels horrible to
them, like sex is transactional and just another item on their to-do
When three isn’t a crowd
Again, Marin recommends couples
experiment with scheduling sex to see if it helps them, as long as neither is
opposed to it.
A good idea for all couples, whether
they like the idea of scheduling sex, is to plan for quality time together —
just the two of them. Ideally, this would be about 20 minutes a day with the TV
off and cell phones away, but for extra busy couples, it can help to reserve
just five minutes a day for a tete-a-tete, Marin said. This time is also the
“container for sex,” the time and privacy when sex can be initiated,
but you don’t have to feel pressure about it, she added.
Although scheduling sex can help
couples that want to be having sex but just can’t find the time, it can make
things worse for some. “If there are relationship issues or psychological
issues such as stress or anxiety, then scheduling sex might just add to the
pressure,” said Acacia Parks, associate professor of psychology at Hiram
As for when to schedule the sex, the
best time is probably the time when you are least likely to be pulled away by
life’s obligations. One of the perks of rise-and-shine sex is that testosterone
levels are highest in the morning, and this hormone drives sexual desire. On
the other hand, tuck-you-in sex could help lull you to sleep, as hormones
released during orgasm could help you relax and feel tired.
According to Muise, the participants in her research typically reported having sex at night before going to sleep, which is not that surprising. But it has to work for both parties. “This is another point of negotiation between partners,” Muise said. “One of them is just too exhausted. That might be something to play around with, is there a time on the weekend that we could try instead.”