How Often Do Couples in Long-Term Relationships Have Sex 1

How Often Do Couples in Long-Term Relationships Have Sex?

What is the average amount of sex that couples in long-term relationships are having?

Sooner or later, people came to the point of discussing this question, seeking the ultimate criteria and checking whether they “hit the mark.” And that’s pretty natural.

Married, cohabiting, and engaged couples notice that the frequency of sex declines with time. Many are concerned and even ashamed of this fact. They tend to compare personal love lives with those of others and believe that frequency is the measure of success.

Besides, couples may consider this decline one of the main reasons for the worsening of relationship quality. Why?

Let’s have a character-based example. Here are Jerry and Mary. In the initial stages of their relationships, they had a regular, 3-days-a-week sex life. In 3 years, their statistics decreased to once a month while with sexual life still being satisfactory for both.

Their relationships are full of love and affection, but the decline in intimacy itself does worry them. They’ve just heard about the “standard once a week” and now are concerned for not being right on par with it.

“It may be that it’s not enough, and we’re not like “normal” couples. Are we moving towards a breakup?” 

So, Jerry and Mary and many other couples in long-term relationships want to get answers to these 6 common questions:

  1. How often do couples have sex in general?
  2. Should there be any “gold standard”?
  3. Is sex important at all?
  4. What can affect the amount of physical intimacy?
  5. Is it okay, or will it ruin relationships?
  6. How to improve the situation?

If you want to get the answers, keep reading. Below, we’ll explain all more directly, providing statistics, experts’ opinions, and helpful recommendations.

How Often Do Couples Have Sex? Frequency in the Numbers

It’s always interesting to look at the statistics to find out what’s going on in people’s intimate lives. Here’s the insights that scientific study can provide us with:

Once a Week Is the Average Amount of Sex in Long-Term Couples

Numerous researches derived the average amount of sex in engaged, married, or cohabiting couples. In particular, according to a 2017 study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior [1], the average adults have sex 54 times/year or about once a week. The researchers studied the sexual behavior of over 26,000 people from 1989 to 2014.

Also, it’s important to note that sexual frequency is the highest [2] during the early stages of relationships. And there are phases when couples have sex more frequently. For example, when partners are planning to have a baby.

The More Isn’t Always The Better

The surveys with over 70.000 responders for the “The Normal Bar” book found that 7.5% of the people have sex daily.

Yes, sex is associated with happiness, pleasure, and relationship satisfaction, but it doesn’t play a crucial role in this.

Sex once a week brings the same feeling of happiness as if couples had it more. In the most fulfilling relationships, partners have as much amount of sex as they both want.

The Frequency of Sex in Americans Declines

Interestingly, there’s a tendency of sex decline in Americans. People of the Silent generation (the 1930s) had sex approximately 63 times/year, while for late Millennials, the frequency is 57 times/year.

Also, married people had sex 16 times less per year in 2010-2014 compared to 2000-2004. And it’s nine times less per year compared to 1995-1999.

This decline is connected with twin trends: a lower number of people with a steady partner and less sexual activity among them. However, the frequency is still higher for married couples than people with no long-term partner. For them, it usually ranges from “weekly” to “once-a-month” statistics.

Sexless Marriages Are Not Uncommon

Roughly speaking, a sexless relationship is defined as a relationship with sexual activity less than 10 times/year or 1 time/month. However, the definition is not really accurate since sexual activity can involve not only sexual intercourse per se.

According to the Relationships in America survey, 12% of all married people of 18-60 y.o. didn’t have sex for at least 3 months.

Advanced Age Doesn’t Mark the End of Sexual Life

How Often Do Couples in Long-Term Relationships Have Sex 2

Age has a strong effect on sexual frequency:

  • Americans in their 20s have sex about 80 times/year
  • Average adult people have it about 54 times/year
  • For the Americans in their 60s, the amount is about 20 times/year.

However, as they say, age ain’t nothing but a number — intimacy doesn’t completely stop with aging. Many people over 80 are still sexually active [3].

How Often Do Couples Have Sex? Frequency Outside the Numbers

The truth is, for couples in long-term relationships, there is no “normal” amount of sex they should be having. And even if there was, it would not apply to everyone. Why?

Because the answer varies and is based on several factors:

  • Age
  • Social environment
  • Lifestyle
  • Mood
  • Occupation
  • Each person’s desire level and sex drive
  • Personal preferences and needs
  • Beliefs, ethics, and customs
  • The current state of mental and physical health
  • Impact of past experience that could cause anxiety-, stress-, or trauma-related disorders
  • The quality of the relationships

So, it’s impossible to follow any one-size-fits-all approach for everyone. There’s no right answer or an ideal number of times per week, month, or year.

Some couples make the mistake of focusing too much on numbers, thus checking whether their sex life is okay. Statistics are misleading.

When people try to check the box, pushing sexual frequency to match some “ideal number” to be good enough, they make their sex life performative. Sex becomes a daily chore rather than a special experience.

To evaluate the level of satisfaction with sex lives and relationships, couples should stop focusing on the numbers but start paying more attention to what they experience far beyond the bed.

What Does Really Matter Then?

Here’s what our expert says on this point:

The quality (and amount) of physical intimacy is dependent on emotional safety. Want more sex? Be authentic, open, vulnerable, and create safety for your partner. Listening and respecting boundaries is the foundation.”

Sandra L. Burke, Ph.D., Counselor at Calmerry.

 

Emotional safety is necessary for creating emotional and physical intimacy within a relationship. It’s the stable sense of emotional closeness to your loved one and mutual care for the well-being of each other. You trust them with all your:

  • Experiences
  • Pain
  • Joy
  • Vulnerabilities
  • Hopes
  • Fears
  • Happiness
  • Disappointments
  • Hurt, etc.

You both can freely express all your thoughts and ideas without the fear of being humiliated, shut down, or criticized. You’re familiar with one another’s inner worlds and live in harmony.

Emotional safety, love, respect, and intimate communication can help you to reach the desired quantity and quality of sexual activity. According to the research published in 2017 [4], a warm interpersonal climate between spouses and satisfying sex life matter more for marital satisfaction than the frequency of sexual intercourse.

So, if the overall feeling between partners is not positive, sex won’t necessarily translate into high satisfaction with the relationship. Thus the frequency should not be the main goal.

Having sex once a week just to shoot the number is not an effective strategy to keep the fire alive. Instead, prioritizing the happiness, comfort, feelings, and the best mental and physical well-being of both partners — it’s what matters to improve the quality of sex life and make the relationship strong.

To create a positive sexual environment, share positive emotions, love, affection, respect, and support. Work on relationships or deal with possible issues first. That will help sexual feelings emerge.

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After all, it’s not all about sex. There are many other ways to fulfill your intimacy needs physically and emotionally.

And it would be safe to say that if you have sex once a month or 2 times a day with your spouse, it doesn’t make your relationships better or worse. If it 100% works for you both, you’ve found your ideal amount, whatever the average is. If not, you should work on the problem.

How?

  • Improve communication and listening. Talk about what’s good, what’s wrong
  • Develop psychological intimacy before physical
  • Overcome the emotional issues in your couplehood
  • Discuss the desires and concerns of each other
  • Be open, authentic, sincere
  • No force. No blame. No pressure. Provide only care and a safe emotional environment
  • Show your significant other they can rely on you
  • Try more experimentation in the bedroom
  • Seek professional guidance and start relationship therapy

Is Sex Important?

Yes. Understanding that sex is a natural and important part of our life and well-being is one of the aspects of sexual health. Sexual health goes far beyond just sexual behavior and satisfaction.

It involves:

  • High awareness and free access to sexual health education
  • The ability to discuss it with your partner and healthcare professionals
  • Getting needed medical treatment and care
  • Feeling safe, confident, and respected, while being vulnerable
  • The ability to enjoy sexuality and experience contentment on physical and psychological levels, etc.

For people in healthy sexual relationships, sex is not just a way to satisfy their physical needs, but also a powerful emotional connector. They can freely discuss all sides of intimate life, including their desires, fantasies, concerns, the frequency of intercourse, etc.

Such couples have the key to healthy relationships and the benefits of sex at all levels. What are they?

How Often Do Couples in Long-Term Relationships Have Sex 6 And this list is not exhaustive. So, sex matters.

12 Factors That Affect the Sex Drive & Frequency

Yes, sometimes the sex drive doesn’t match. Not always both people are ready for sexual activity at the same time. Not always the desire for the frequency of one partner is synched with the desire or possibilities of the second. And that’s okay.

Although sex is beneficial for couples, it shouldn’t and couldn’t be a daily compulsory chore of life. Actually, a lot of factors can affect the sex drive and frequency.

For example, the everyday pressure one gets at work, trying to follow deadlines, or the stress because they can’t take time to relax for several days. In some cases, the sexual drive can decline naturally due to physiological factors, in others — psychological and interpersonal factors play their role.

Nevertheless, it’s okay to say “no”, restricting the number of times, discuss how you feel with your significant other, and get support to improve the situation. After all, that’s how healthy relationships work.

What are some common factors that affect a sex drive?

  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Mental health issues (stress, anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, etc.)
  • Medical conditions
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual performance anxiety
  • Medications
  • Body image issues
  • Lack of emotional satisfaction with the relationship
  • Relationship crisis
  • Childbirth
  • Caregiving for a loved ones
  • Substance abuse
  • History of abuse and trauma
  • Grief
  • Situational disappointment with a partner (because of a disagreement, conflict, misunderstanding, etc.)

All of these factors play a role in how often a couple has sex. Here, it’s necessary to remember emotional safety. An open, transparent dialog with a loved one can help deal with challenges and avoid further problems in the relationship.

How Often Do Couples in Long-Term Relationships Have Sex 4 However, these factors can intertwine in a combination of issues. And if a significant decrease in sex drive or the abundance of sexual activity causes distress and greatly affects people’s well-being, it’s crucial to seek comprehensive help and advice from healthcare professionals.

Can a Decrease of Sex Frequency Lead to Breakup?

In short, if partners are having sex less than the “statistical average” and are content with that, there’s nothing to worry about. Don’t rely on the exciting stories from the Internet and others’ experiences in general. Don’t use them as a measure of your relationship success. Everyone is unique. No one can dictate what the “normal” amount of sex for your couple is. Just make sure you and your partner are on the same page.

The lack of sex doesn’t mean you’re close to a breakup. Still, if the decreased intimacy brings detachment and is a real challenge for the partners, the couple has something to be fixed.

Usually, the root of the problem is deeper and not about the frequency of intercourse per se. It may be that some emotional or physical issues are behind this.

What to Do to Overcome the Challenges and Sync Your Sex Drives?

It’s normal to have ups and downs in your relationship. And there are some strategies couples can follow to improve their sex life, rekindle the passion, and make the relationship stronger.

However, it takes two to tango. For the positive changes to come, both partners must be involved and dedicated. Everything is within your power.

How Often Do Couples in Long-Term Relationships Have Sex 5 So, where to start?

Talk to Your Significant Other

You might be worried that the level of intimacy you once shared with your partner has decreased. Or, the abundance of sexual activity may cause you discomfort.

If you have any concerns, stop letting your mind wander into negative thoughts. Start discussing your and your spouse’s feelings and needs. It’s a no-brainer: you don’t know what they feel and think unless you ask them and vice versa.

Share opinions on what sex means for both of you and how often each of you would like to have it. Find out what life challenges or factors could affect intimacy. Validate their experience. Try to find possible solutions together.

Improvement starts with communication and becomes successful with the desire to overcome the problems as a team. And in general, talking to your loved one about sex often is always beneficial. You cannot enjoy a fulfilling sex life if you are afraid to talk about it with your partner.

If you find it difficult to bring up your concerns, write them down before saying them aloud. Or, give your spouse to read. Thus it will be easier to start an open dialog.

Note: There’s no room for blame, judgment, shaming, humiliation, belittling, or other negative tones in conversation and healthy relationships at all. Inquire but not accuse. Try using “I” statements and talk about “us” while delivering your message: I feel + emotion + because (we need to work on the quality of our sex life).

Be open, supportive, caring, and don’t be afraid of being vulnerable in front of each other.

Set the Mood

Yes, in a long-term relationship, it’s impossible for sexual attraction to always stay honeymoon-fresh. It’s ok. But couples can try to keep the sparks of romance alive with some activities:

  • Start setting mood early: If you often can’t make the time for sex, try to start setting a sexual mood from the beginning of the day and keep it through.
  • Try emotional “scheduling” of sex
  • Touch each other: kiss, hug, cuddle, make massage, hold hands every day to nurture a stronger connection and a greater sensuality
  • Share your fantasies
  • Plan intimacy dates weekly
  • Discuss experiments you’d like to try
  • Turn off the distractions — smartphones, laptops, TVs, etc.
  • Get sexually educated together
  • Carve out quality time for each other: Be present and available for intimacy to happen
  • Try relaxation techniques with your partner to reduce anxiety and stress
  • Focus on getting positive emotional impressions and enjoying moments with your loved one, not sexual satisfaction alone.

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Seek Help From an Online Therapist

If you really want to improve your sex life but it seems that nothing you do brings you any closer to success as a couple, then therapy can be the right choice for you.

There are so many reasons why a couple can be not satisfied with their sex life that may go unnoticed, ignored, or misinterpreted. An experienced online therapist can help you:

  • Validate your and your partner’s feelings
  • Explore potential issues that might be preventing you from having a fulfilling sex life
  • And cope with them.

Also, a mental health professional can advise you on how to keep the lines of communication open, land on the same page, and bring positive sexual energy back into your couple. This will help ensure your needs are being heard and your long-term relationships aren’t stuck in a pattern of negativity and miscommunication.

Final Word

When it comes to the perfect sex frequency for couples in long-term relationships, they shouldn’t rely on any average-based “gold standard.” It just can’t apply to everyone. Instead, it’s necessary to learn what best works for every couple individually and focus on improving the relationship.

If any problems interfere with healthy and happy sex life, there are some ways partners can deal with them. And professional support and guidance from licensed therapists can help you achieve these goals.

The key is finding the right online therapist that you feel comfortable with while touching sensitive matters. You can meet them on Calmerry.

 

References

  1. Twenge, J.M., Sherman, R.A. & Wells, B.E. Declines in Sexual Frequency among American Adults, 1989–2014. Arch Sex Behav 46, 2389–2401 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-0953-1
  2. Byers E. S. (2005). Relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction: a longitudinal study of individuals in long-term relationships. Journal of sex research, 42(2), 113–118. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224490509552264
  3. Schick, V., Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Sanders, S. A., Dodge, B., Middlestadt, S. E., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2010). Sexual behaviors, condom use, and sexual health of Americans over 50: implications for sexual health promotion for older adults. The journal of sexual medicine, 7 Suppl 5, 315–329. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02013.x
  4. Schoenfeld, E. A., Loving, T. J., Pope, M. T., Huston, T. L., & Štulhofer, A. (2017). Does Sex Really Matter? Examining the Connections Between Spouses’ Nonsexual Behaviors, Sexual Frequency, Sexual Satisfaction, and Marital Satisfaction. Archives of sexual behavior, 46(2), 489–501. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0672-4
Kate Skurat

Kate Skurat

Licensed Mental Health | Washington, United States

Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach. Read more