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Why you should have sex at least once a week
October 21st, 2010
12:45 PM ET

Why you should have sex at least once a week

Couples often ask me how frequently they should be having sex, and, until recently, I’ve always responded that there’s no one right answer. After all, a couple’s sex life is affected by so many different factors: age, lifestyle, each partner’s health and natural libido and, of course,  the quality of their overall relationship to name just a few.

What might seem like too much sex to one person may seem like too little to another: (Remember that scene in Annie Hall, in which Woody Allen and Diane Keaton are discussing their sex life, split-screen, with their respective therapists? Asks Woody’s therapist, “How often do you sleep together?”  To which he responds: “Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week.” Meanwhile, Diane Keaton’s therapist is asking her the very same question, and she replies, “Constantly. I'd say three times a week.”)

Every couple have to find their own middle ground. As my colleague and fellow contributor to Good in Bed, Dr. Gail Saltz, says: “If your sex drives are out of balance, your aim is to meet in the middle, having sex a bit more than one partner likes but probably a bit less than the other likes.”

So while there may be no one right answer to the question of how often couples should have sex, lately I’ve somewhat been less equivocal and advising couples to try to do it at least once a week. That’s because I believe that sex ruts are becoming epidemic. Not long ago CNN reported that 40 million Americans are stuck in sexless marriages, and in my own practice I’ve seen an increase in sex ruts and low-desire relationships due to a number of factors:

  • The stress of the recession and the toll it’s taking on relationships
  • Couples are too busy and too tired for sex
  • The side effects of many medications which inhibit desire (especially anti-depressants in the SSRI family)
  • The easy access to Internet porn
  • The rise in obesity and other health/lifestyle issues that dampen libido

Sex seems to be rapidly falling to the bottom of America’s to-do list but, in my experience, when couples stop having sex their relationships become vulnerable: to anger, detachment, infidelity and, ultimately, divorce. I believe that sex matters: It’s the glue that keeps us together and, without it, couples become “good friends” at best or “bickering roommates” at worst.

Beyond the fact that sex is fun and free and enables couples to stay tuned in and turned on, what are some other reasons to do it this week?

  • Sex rejuvenates you, relieves stress, boosts immunity, releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins, and—in men—improves prostate health.
  • A healthy sex life may even make you a superstar at the office: Recent research by biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D,. suggests that people who enjoy regular sex may be more successful at work, possibly because sex can increase confidence and increase self-esteem.

So go ahead and break that rut! Sex is a little like exercise. Once we stop doing it, it’s easy to get stuck in a slump, but once we get back on track, we remember how much we missed it. The old adage “use it or lose it” has some truth. So does my suggestion, “try it, you'll like it.” It's easy to forget how much fun sex can be, and just having sex once a week will put you back in a regular groove.

And if you’re stuck in a sex rut, think about the following:

1.      Exercise and eat right. Your sexual health is connected to your overall health, and it's no surprise that people who have sex more frequently are also healthier overall. If you're too tired for sex, it probably means you're too tired in other areas as well, and that you're not taking care of yourself as much as you should be.

2.      Minimize stress. Not only does stress release cortisol, which inhibits testosterone, but studies have also shown that for a woman to want to have sex (and to enjoy it) parts of the female brain associated with outside stressors need to deactivate. So figure out what's stressing you out and put together a plan with your partner to deal with it.

3.      Turn off (your computers), so you have some time to tune in to your partner and turn on. When you look at all of the precious time that gets sucked up by Facebook, surfing the Web, and email, no wonder you're plopping into bed exhausted and spent.

4.      Give your partner a hug. Non-sexual physical intimacy builds a foundation for sexual desire. Studies show that a 20-second hug raises oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is also known as the “cuddle hormone” and facilitates a sense of love and connection, especially in women. Most couples don’t take the time to hug at all, much less for 20 seconds.

In the end, remember, if you want to have a satisfying sex life, you have to have the sort of relationship that supports your sex life. Studies show that the difference between those relationships that succeed and those that fail is the ability to have a high ratio of positive to negative interactions. It’s actually believed that the ratio should be 5 to 1 — five positive interactions for every negative one. Of course, you can’t go through life tallying every interaction, but you can know whether you’re fundamentally in positive or negative territory and start swinging the pendulum back to where it belongs.

Like the Nike ad says, Just do it!

Ian Kerner is a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.


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soundoff (604 Responses)
  1. Tori

    As other’s have posted, I have enjoyed the comments more than the article. Thanks for sharing. My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 years and are in our mid 20s and are currently living together. We are intimate average 2-3 times a week. I definitely recognize he is the one that almost always initiates it, which is why we don’t do it more often. (I think he would feel awful if he was initiating it 7 times a week instead of 2).
    I specifically identified with the comments from women saying that they aren’t always in the mood for it, but once it gets started, they almost always enjoy themselves. I usually think I will not enjoy it because I have never climaxed during intercourse, however, I have the most amazing and powerful climaxes by myself. No man has ever been able to make me feel that way. But once things get started between my guy and I, I always end up having a great time and he does make me feel really great and amazing. He is a passionate kisser, good at addressing my needs, adventurous, vocal…. I love feeling our bodies next to each other and his hands on my skin. I know that I won’t experience the same climax I do when I’m by myself, but everything else (the touching, the kissing..) are things I know I can’t give myself while masturbating. That’s when I realize I actually do enjoy myself and really love sex, and I should show him that by initiating it more often. I think I know what I’ll be doing when he gets home from work tonight… thanks for the inspiration

    October 22, 2010 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Art

      Yes, masturbation helps to untnsrdaed the working of your organ better and u can put on a good show with your girl. U learn to avoid the sensitive pitfalls that cause quick ejaculation.

      August 2, 2012 at 12:06 | Report abuse |
  2. jleoxii13

    I think we should keep it simple. In a standard marriage, sex is a good thing. There are ups and downs and sometimes it takes time for both folks to be at the same place....but its a good thing. If I didnt want sex, I would have a problem, and I would talk to the doctor. If my wife doesnt want sex, she should see it as a problem, and talk to the doctor. If the problem is the relationship, then it's a problem that requires both folks to fix it. In a standard marriage, its actually pretty simple.
    (then again, I am a guy...what do I know?)

    October 22, 2010 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Ardy

    Wow, 3x a week? I'm a 26 yo guy and thought that I had a lot of sex... I guess I was wrong! I've had sex probably every week this year at an average of about twice a week. All this time I thought that I was bordering on nymphomania, but I guess according to this article I should be doing it more often! Well the difference is I'm not married and have multiple partners. Always play safe though! Don't want any accidental kids.

    October 22, 2010 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. EM

    If a couple has to ask a "professional" how often to do the deed, that's pathetic. Just DO it.

    Myself I haven't had sex since 1998. And I'm 57. Actually even then in '98 it didn't work out (she was a woman of Mediterranean heritage who had more hair on the inside of her thighs than I did, and it kind of turned me off, if you know what I mean). What's that, 12 years?

    I now weigh 325 pounds and am fat and ugly and of course, women have revealed their true calling, which is that they are shallow and hypocritical, and have shown 0 interest in me. They claim on millions of blogs that they want a man who is sensitive but they really want a good-looking stud. Liars.

    So basically, I can't stand women (even though I am heterosexual), and have retired to hole up inside my cabin in retirement and am very happy, thank you very much.

    So yeah, I disagree, you don't need sex. Not at our age anyways.

    October 22, 2010 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KN

      your just mad at the world because you havent had sex in a VERY EXTENDED time, to me it seems as if your trying to accept the fact that you do not need or want sex, When in fact you know that deep down in your heart and soul and ur manhood, that you want to get down and dirty( get laid )... pick up a prositute.
      SEX IS ENJOYABLE

      P.S I have sex when ever me and my partner are in the mood... normally twice a week, on a good week is 3x :)

      November 8, 2012 at 12:21 | Report abuse |
    • K

      You mentioned you didn't want to sleep with a woman because of the hair between her legs, and yet you think women are shallow and hypocritical for rejecting you based on your looks? You're the shallow hypocrit, and bitter on top of that. Those qualities in a person are very unattractive...

      September 13, 2013 at 14:30 | Report abuse |
  5. Reuniting

    Frequent affectionate and flirty behavior is vital, but if intercourse isn't an option on some occasion, other intimate behaviors will often substitute quite effectively. Here's a short post about this "The Lazy Way To Stay In Love." For example, if we'd like to have sex but can't, I can simply hold my husband's penis as he nods off...with a smile on his face. It's the connection and sexual acceptance that get the job of keeping us content done – not the orgasmic sex. Same thing was recorded in other pair-bonding primates. See: "Hormone study finds monkeys in long-term relationship look strangely human"

    October 23, 2010 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. seasideguy

    so interesting, reading all this. i admire much of what i've heard. i'm 70. irish and in the arts. my lady is 12 years younger and i love her . we have fun together 80% of the time. but there is stress – we work on odd days. and we both have a variety of physical aliments that result in a melange of medications. we used to make love 2 or 3 times a week ( we've been together 7 years but only living together 2)– the desire has clearly waned. we are aware of the danger of allowing this gift of lust and intimate satisfaction melt away. but, "insight" sometimes is crap.... and watching the remnants of your love life drift like a moon going behind a cloud......i dont know if we will ever rediscover it.

    October 24, 2010 at 04:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Stefanie

    When I got married in my early 20s, my mom told me never to tell my husband no – even when I do have a headache. And it works. Too bad I didn't take the advice until my second marriage. Even at its worst, sex is good. It keeps my man happy, which keeps him at home, which makes me and the kids happy,...I give him what he needs, and he does the same for me in return. I'm in my late 30s now and we have a total of 5 kids (yours, mine and ours) Kids are no excuse!!! He thinks I'm a great wife for fulfilling his physical needs, he romances me and wants to grant me every wish – be it physical, material, emotional, anything. I think a lot of women don't realize how important sex is to a man. By nature, men are hunters. By nature, their sex drive HAS to be enormous to accomplish the ultimate goal as nature intended: procreation. Women, on the other hand, are wired to take care of offspring, etc. Man is not made to be monogamous – society imposed this rule, not nature. To make the best of it, we as women would be better off to give our men what they need. They'll thank us for it. Recognize and validate your man's needs. Make your man happy and he'll do the same for you.

    October 25, 2010 at 00:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Trey

      Perfect response, couldn't have thought it any better.

      January 17, 2013 at 22:06 | Report abuse |
  8. Sexpert Lexi B

    So many of my clients have excuses why they are not having enough sex but can't pin point the issues....like Nike said "Just Do It" Love it!
    Awesome article

    October 25, 2010 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Bologna

    I'm very happy and I have a very active sex life but I don't exercise or eat right at all... I'm always stressed and always on my computer (or watching TV). And the last time I hugged a woman, it was my mother and I was probably 12.

    October 28, 2010 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. not so sure

    she responds only once every three or four months at best ... first few years were 5 or 6 days per week, then after the kids the frequency dwindled ... lots of reasons ... too cold, too hot, the kids will hear, the bed is squeeky, you have your watch on, your moustache smells, ......
    hugs are rarely welcomed with anything other than impatience to get back to the chores of the day.

    But I love her more now than when we were married .... for better or for worse .....

    December 13, 2010 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Ivy11

    My fianceé and i can go up to 2 weeks without sex. He craves sex less then me. i try not to make him feel like he doesnt satisfy because he does but i mean i feel like our sex decreases. we dont have any kids and as of right now is not part of our plans but shouldnt we be enjoying sex more. what should i do.

    April 10, 2012 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. yetty

    sex is a normal tin"""if u av sex it makes u feel like a woman,nd by way it helps ur immune system,sum believes in virgins datb if u re nt a virgin,it bad,nd it nt bad....sex is d best try it,u will lke it so so much"""""":"

    September 1, 2012 at 04:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ram

    We have been married for 10 years. My wife is a white caucasian from Boston and I am from India. We both have sex at least twice a week but some weeks we have three. I love it and my wife also welcomes it. It is a glue to make our married life happy. Our sex is natural.

    September 9, 2012 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. collins emeka

    Why is sexy vital

    December 4, 2012 at 02:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Chibuway

    Please i need white girl for serious relationship am from Nigeria thanks

    December 23, 2012 at 05:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Chibuway

    Please i need white girl for serious relationship am from Nigeria thanks,please call me with this number 08182413591

    December 23, 2012 at 05:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Anon

    This article makes me sad. Sex maybe free, but there are some of us that will never experience due to being hideous social retards.

    July 6, 2013 at 21:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Amy

    We've been married 45 years and we only had sex once in all these years. I forgot what sex is all about !!!
    I guess I missed out, now I'm in my mid 60s and have no more female parts left. My husband hasn't cared about me ever! I live in our house and lives his life in his garage.

    July 7, 2013 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. mccart

    my name is mccart i never believe in spell casting, until when i was was tempted to try it. i and my husband have been having a lot of problem living together, he will always not make me happy because he have fallen in love with another lady outside our relationship, i tried my best to make sure that my husband leave this woman but the more i talk to him the more he makes me fell sad, so my marriage is now leading to divorce because he no longer gives me attention. so with all this pain and agony, i decided to contact this spell caster to see if things can work out between me and my husband again. this spell caster who was a woman told me that my husband is really under a great spell that he have been charm by some magic, so she told me that she was going to make all things normal back. she did the spell on my husband and after 5 days my husband changed completely he even apologize with the way he treated me that he was not him self, i really thank this woman her name is Dr Aluta she have bring back my husband back to me i want you all to contact her who are having any problem related to marriage issue and relationship problem she will solve it for you. her email is traditionalspellhospital@ gmail.com,

    August 9, 2013 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. miline

    Thanks for making my family happy again, my father came back home and he can even take us out, something he never think of before! i wonder Dr egbenakheu are you god or what? amazing you make things happen! i will .Thank you very much. from Holland if you need his help contact email address Dr egbenakhuespelltimple@gmail.com

    August 20, 2013 at 04:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Andrea

    UM at least once a week. My marriage is 45+ years old and way beyond the years for sex. In fact I lost all my female parts about 3 years back, so there is no desire. In all those 45 years we maybe had sex 3 or 4 times in all those years. My husband has hates sex, intimacy, any touching of my body which includes sleeping with me. His idea of fixing the problem is move all his stuff out to his new garage also he volunteered to work midnights and all holidays. I've put up with this for so long I just don't care any more. I have the house and my anti-depressants.

    September 3, 2013 at 20:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Mark L

    This topic irritates me. My wife and I have, for most of our 20-year history, had frequent sex–almost daily for the most part. She always had a pretty strong sex drive.

    But over the past couple years, it has tapered off. I believe work stress may play a serious role in this. But what really, really bothers me is how I am treated when I simply bring up the subject: I am told that she is being objectified, used, and that my needs are not important, valid, or right. They don't matter. Now, if she wants more frequent smiles and hugs, well that's just fine. But my physical needs–which I did not ask for and cannot really abate through other means–well, those are base. Sinister. Wrong. Invalid. A sign of how rotten I am.

    And if I don't ask for sex, well it just doesn't come up. My needs are ignored. And this is OK.

    No, it's not OK, and I'm sick of it. I'm so tired of how the needs and wants of women are held up on a pedestal, while the needs of men are treated as being lowly, disgusting, wrong, and unimportant. Very, VERY tired of it.

    November 10, 2013 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Toni

    How about sex once in a life time. Married 46+ years and really I've only had sex once. So whats the big deal about sex and I never wanted to experience it again. As for my wife I really never cared what she did, or if she ever came home. She lives in the house and I refused to live with her and built an apartment, shop, huge garage for myself.

    February 12, 2014 at 23:01 | Report abuse | Reply
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