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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 (634 Responses)
  1. garyM

    I totally agree, but what am I supposed to do? Forward this article to my significant other?

    October 21, 2010 at 20:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Honey

    I feel abnormal after reading all the comments. I want to have sex multiple times a day. I cannot seem to find a man who can keep up. Most men say they can but they always fall short.

    Currently I am painfully single and if I am lucky I get to do the Neptunian Fandango once a month!! My FWB (friends with benefits) is too focused on work to do it more and I travel constantly for work. I may be horny but sleeping around is unsafe!!!

    If I where a bitch, out of shape and ugly I might wonder why I am single but I refuse to have unconnected sex. Sex is the best when you can feel your partner all around you and within you!! Ladies do not settle for guys who are selfish lovers. Be a giver and expect it in return!!

    October 21, 2010 at 20:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. redneck bob

    i wasn't having sex for a while then i saw a blue light approaching the trailer park. The aliens took me into their craft and started probing my anus. At first it was creepy then a funny thing happened. They really knew how to do it with their advanced technology and i had the best orgasm ever. I told them they could abduct me anytime and so a few times we have hooked up like this.

    October 21, 2010 at 21:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. redneck bob

    sex is good

    October 21, 2010 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Help

    Hey guys, will you visit SaveStan.ORG a friend of mine with 4 young children is fighting for his life...... Thanks

    October 21, 2010 at 21:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mark R

    It sounds like most of the guys are either in one boat or the other. Sex all the time and sex none of the time. I'm in the latter. of 17 years together we've had sex two days in a row a whopping 4 times. Once we did it twice 1 time. The rest seems to be more like once every 3-5 weeks. The reason why guys remember our times as being so far apart is that it seems to be the only thing that grabs our attention.

    October 21, 2010 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. WhyohWhy

    I think there has been a lot of disrespect for both men and women in some of these comments. I guess everything works both ways.

    October 21, 2010 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Albert

    What provides a real bond in marriage is not sex but rather love. Love makes a relationship strong despite in rough circumstances, whether your high or low, or even stressed out. So therefore love (not sex) is the foundation of the relationship

    October 21, 2010 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. autom

    What if nobody wants me? 😦

    October 21, 2010 at 21:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. MashaSobaka

    Sometimes there are articles that I read just to see if my immediate, cynical, “Do they really pay these people to write?!” response was correct. Lo and behold, this time I was spot-on.

    October 21, 2010 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Forrest

    I guess i'm in alot of trouble then according to this article, because i've been celibate for the past 8 years now. Guess i'm doomed to constant self-esteem and work issues. Darn.

    October 21, 2010 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. TBL4EVA

    Half of you guys are 12 year olds who's mom is banging on the locked door telling you dinner is on the table. You have sex 3 times a day. Good for you. Chances are it's one of the most least attractive sights to be seen.

    October 21, 2010 at 21:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Marvin

    I would recommend Dan use the Fleshlight ! It feels good specially, if you use it while you are watching porn 🙂 and do not think about women/s ugly smelly vaginas.

    October 21, 2010 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Mustang95

    Actually, it would be more appropriate had this article been about proctology. I have never seen so many assholes spewing such unbridled stupidity and vulgarity in one place before. Instead of a "sexpert," we need the AssMan from the classic Seinfeld episode.

    October 21, 2010 at 21:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. TBL4EVA

    We are all losers

    October 21, 2010 at 21:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. v

    If I give my husband oral sex is that sex

    October 21, 2010 at 21:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KeithTexas

      It is when my wife does it for me.

      October 21, 2010 at 23:52 | Report abuse |
  17. Wifey

    I had to laugh when I read this. After 8 years of marraige my hubby and I still have sex at least five days a week, and usually in the morning and at night. I guess we are lucky to be in sync!!

    October 21, 2010 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. GuestPoster

    I too am in a sexless marriage. Apologies for appearing to be a male [insert your insult here], but it's largely due to the fact that I've lost my interest in the wife's physique. I just don't have a physical desire for her anymore due to her significant weight gain. I'm a good looking man in my youg 40s and my sex drive is just fine, but I'm not attracted physically to her at all. It's been well over a year since we last had sex, but I'm just so not interested. It's definitely become a roommates situation as the article pointed out. It's very frustrating to me and has me conflicted on so many levels. Children complicate matters intensely as do finances and other reasons. I just feel so confused, angry, frustrated, alone, resentful, hopeful and apathetic all at once. I'm sure many posters would recommend a divorce and move on, I just can't come to terms with that course of action yet. And so it goes on.

    October 21, 2010 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. dyinglikeflies

    Lies, damned lies, and statistics.
    "People who have sex have more energy, less stress, more success" etc. etc.Love THAT one. The truth is that people who have more energy, etc. etc. naturally, as a byproduct, have more sex. Sex does not CAUSE all that happiness, it's a symptom or sign, in itself, of happiness. Sex, by itself, DOESN'T cure unhappiness. Articles like this are complete, meaningless fluff.

    October 21, 2010 at 21:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. cindy

    as wonderful as this may be, am i the only one who feels this is a tad overrated? i mean, of course the media wants to stuff it down your throat, but i can think of 200 other things i'd rather do. would a man really take this over playing a around of golf, or would a woman prefer this to getting a nice pedicure? i mean, there are so many things you can do to find that relaxing time. sometimes sex is too much effort, but nobody wants to admit to that, instead you have these guru's telling you you have to do it every hour, come on now!

    October 21, 2010 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Frank

    This is great for me. Because of manly looks and muscular body not to mention my outstanding personality, I receive more offers than I can handle.

    October 21, 2010 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Dirk

    Seriously... if you are not doing it once a day at least... find a new partner. Life is too short...

    October 21, 2010 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Honey

      I agree completely. If I do not want to jump my mans bones everyday then it's time to move on.

      I was married for 9 years and we had sex almost every day unless we where traveling. You better believe we made up for lost time!! When I stopped wanting him everyday I moved on because I rather have great sex rarely than unsatisfying sex weekly.

      October 21, 2010 at 22:45 | Report abuse |
    • Mike Raduenzel

      Honey: what made you stop wanting him? Sounds like things were great....and then – BAM you lost interest. Why?

      October 22, 2010 at 01:31 | Report abuse |
    • Honey

      We are still friends to this day, but he just took me for granted. After 7 years I started really thinking about my life with him and where my career was heading. I needed to move to a different state in order to grow financially and he was unwilling to leave a company and job he hated. So I gave him 2 years to make the transition into something new. He never even tried to find a career that he could love.

      As for the intimate side of our relationship... The sex just started getting boring and I wanted more romance. In the 9 years we where together he never bought me flowers, opened a door, hung out with my friends, or wanted to get to know anything about my life. I am a very social person who enjoys events, modeling, professional dance, pro sports, extreme sports, dinner parties, and traveling. He only wanted to work, bone, and sleep. Boring!!! What is the fun of being married if you cannot enjoy each others lives? I seriously booked a trip for us as a surprise and he said he was not interested in leaving the USA for any reason.

      October 22, 2010 at 08:55 | Report abuse |
  23. Steve

    No matter how long the relationship, at least genuine intimacy is key! It is really important to have sex with your partner, husband, wife , whatever...Take it from me, I work in the adult entertainment industry and I speak to over 100 americans, canadians, europeans per day, GET OFF THOSE PORN SITES for at least a moment and communicate your sexual desires with your partner! I believe this to be the main reason why relationships, marriages fail at some point... You choose to be with this person because you love them, you should entail that sexually as well! Life is too short to make mistakes or have regrets!

    October 21, 2010 at 22:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. feel bad

    I am a mother of two and before my children my husband and I had a very healthy sex life but since then (going on three years) it's like pulling teeth. I have no urge to have sex with my husband and I feel really bad when we argue about it. I love him more than anything but I just don't want to do it. I take Zoloft so maybe that is the problem but if I stop taking that then there will be other issues to deal with that I think will be far worse.

    October 21, 2010 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dm

      I went through a similar situation. I had terrible postpartum depression but I refused to use Zoloft. I eventually got passed the issues with regular exercise. I don't know why you are on Zoloft and far be it from me to give medical advice but there may be a way you can get yourself weened from it. It's not easy but what I realize now is that if I hadn't found a way to work through this, my marriage would have ended.

      October 22, 2010 at 01:21 | Report abuse |
    • Mike Raduenzel

      Would you be open to him having lovers? I feel that women who choose not to have intimacy with their spouses should be willing to let them have it elsewhere....out of concern for THEIR well-being.

      October 22, 2010 at 01:33 | Report abuse |
  25. redcat

    anyone here been married longer than 30 years?

    October 21, 2010 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KeithTexas

      35 here, just as horny and in love as we were that long ago

      October 21, 2010 at 23:48 | Report abuse |
  26. Enrique

    Single life sucks!!!

    October 21, 2010 at 22:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KeithTexas

      too bad for you, sorry you are having a hard time

      October 21, 2010 at 23:47 | Report abuse |
  27. Johnny

    They forgot a recommendation...

    5. Visit RealSexAdvice.com

    Everyone needs to learn and share what works (and what doesn't).

    October 21, 2010 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. guest

    @dajackg...that was I was trying to say ...but you said better.

    October 21, 2010 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Mustang95

    The post above was a reply to another post farther up the line. This website is krap.

    October 21, 2010 at 23:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Lisa

    @Joseph N

    I "get" your wife... mainly because I was in a relationship much like yours and I was her.
    Let me tell you something... I can feel the tension and pressure in your household from here! And I guarantee you, she won't budge the way things are right now.
    Instead of trying out old cliches and seeking medical help (like there is something WRONG WITH HER!!), revisit in your own mind the times when sex was good and plentiful in your relationship. What was it ABOUT YOU that turned her on?
    You said she's an MD. With kids. And a husband. And likely a house to keep up, bills to pay and all the rest...
    Do her a favour and take her away on vacation for a minimum of 2 weeks.
    During that two weeks, you be the guy she fell in love with – and don't even TRY to have sex with her. TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF!! Let her chase YOU for a change... be a tiny bit unattainable... flirt... but leave her wanting.
    Rediscover the fun of romance!! Look at her with desire and admiration... make her feel beautiful and sexy...
    Trust me. It will work.

    October 21, 2010 at 23:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. KeithTexas

    Sex with my sweetie has been wonderful for 35 years. I want her more now than when we first got together. She has always taken care of me even though our sexual needs are very different. Then whatever it takes to make her feel special and get what she needs I will do it.

    We have been able to do this through kids, bankruptcy, and ever other difficult thing that can happen in a lifetime. It was harder to make sure we were taking good care of each other through the many wonderful things that can happen in a life time. We are finally just the two of us at home and we are enjoying ourselves like we did before the children came along. Life is good and I am a lucky man. I believe she thinks she is a lucky woman too.

    October 21, 2010 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. bjw

    You really don't know what you have until you lose it. My spouse died 5 years ago and sex is very infrequent for me. When he was alive, I would use all kinds of excuses to not have sex. If I could turn back time...

    October 21, 2010 at 23:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. runpoochrun

    Sex per se is not necessary for the benefits mentioned; masturbation works as well.

    October 21, 2010 at 23:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Wendy

    "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."

    I'm going to share this nugget of wisdom with hubby. No wonder he does so well at work!!

    October 22, 2010 at 00:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. joe

    I'd really like it at least once/week. Being widowed makes it difficult at 68 y/o. Even women my age want marriage first WHY? sex is good for both sexes but women don't seem to feel that way. Most want to keep their legs crossed till you produce a ring, crazy at this age ie those aged 55 to 70. Many, not all, have an ultrerior motive other than the shear enjoyment of the act. Not that I'm celobate as I'm not bt it is difficult to find a woman who wants it like a man. I've even suggested monogamous companionship.. not good enough. I have had 5-6 in 10 yrs but once/week no wat although one wanted it every night WOW, not easy at age 68 but I tried. Whats a good guy to do. I'm not interested in marriagem as I was for 33 yrs when wife passed away.

    October 22, 2010 at 00:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. ikantraed

    Unless...... of course..... your just...... too darn....... FUGLEY!!!

    October 22, 2010 at 00:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. donna

    We go three times a week, and if it happens on a weekend it's usually all in one night, lol! It can make you pretty tired at work.

    October 22, 2010 at 00:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. D.Moore

    I so love this article!!!!!!!! :*)

    October 22, 2010 at 01:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Mike

    It is a statistical truth that, if you get married, your sex life is over within 5 years. Once she's got a wedding ring, that's it. You just have to accept that, and find other things in life that make you happy.
    Yes, some couples do it well into their 60s, just like there are people that live to be 110. You just shouldn't expect to be one of them.

    October 22, 2010 at 01:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • wifenmom

      hogwash

      December 12, 2012 at 15:11 | Report abuse |
  40. Bolt Vanderhuge

    If my bitches don't give it up at least three times a day, I boot 'em out and cycle in some fresh sluts to take their place. After all, wimmen are only good for pleasuring their men and making their sammiches.

    October 22, 2010 at 01:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. RWH

    The problem is we as male and female are wired differently. Men are wired to do it, and woemn are wired to reproduce. Which generally leads to differences in drives. I feel too often my wife only wants to do it because she feels she has to not because she wants to. I beleiev most men have affairs due to this imbalance. (no I have not had one, but I have been tempted) If sex was something that didn't require contact with another human being there would probably be a lot less marriage. My biggest frustration is that our drives are not synced and too often when we do it she's just appeasing me there is no real desire on her part.

    October 22, 2010 at 05:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. kenforme

    For those that want more, try doing the other stuff for your partner so he/she has time to self and rest and time to think about something other than kids, chores, and jobs. It's a real simple solution unless your lack of doing a bigger part is more important than your desire for your partner. My spouse will cook dinner, tell the older kids to clean up, put the baby to bed and ask me if I want to take a relaxing bath. I can't say no and I wouldn't want to.

    October 22, 2010 at 07:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Meat Mallet

    I give it to my gf every night we're together, usually 3 times a week. But if we lived together, I'd be railin' it every night, and I'm 49 years old. She says I f like a 20 year old, and she should know, we dated 28 years ago for 2 years, and I knocked the bottom out of it back then, too! I'm a hammerin' machine! I'm the power load!

    October 22, 2010 at 07:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Meat Mallet

    I give it to my gf every night we're together, usually 3 times a week. But if we lived together, I'd be railin' it every night, and I'm 49 years old. She says I f like a 20 year old, and she should know, we dated 28 years ago for 2 years, and I knocked the bottom out of it back then, too! I'm a hammerin' machine! I'm the power load! And don't even get me started on the butt.......
    Her eyes get as big as headlights when I hit it back there! She also gets a thrill from watching herself in the mirror, she's such a dirty girl.

    October 22, 2010 at 08:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Prince Babatope Adegbayi Yusuf

    please how dangerous is it to my health because i make love to different women every day?

    October 22, 2010 at 08:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Olderguy

    We've fallen into being more housemates then soul mates. Her health's been a big factor and the resentments have built up over the last 7-8 years for taking care of her and the house. Finances limit our options but I just don't care if the marriage continues or not. I wouldn't be as comfortable if we divorced but wonder if I'd be happier living alone. In the meantime masturbation relieves my sexual tension adequately and there's plenty of free porn on the web.

    October 22, 2010 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Jim

    Forget the public appearence of Gays,do 4 out of 5 Doctors recommend Oral sex and Sodomy?What are the health risks involved,and how much will these type of activities cost in health care?

    October 22, 2010 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. crazy

    Wow all these married women I've been with every week... Now it all makes sense.

    October 22, 2010 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Lynn

    For all the guys who are having trouble with their partners being in the mood and for all the ladies who are having trouble getting in the mood, try the product Zestra. http://www.zestra.com 7out of 10 of you will be thanking me! Works for low libido due to depression, hormone levels, medications, MS, and other medical issues that affect our lives. Check it out!

    October 22, 2010 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Elizabeth

    Yeah, that would be nice, but I'm currently single and I think my minister would give me a good talking-to if I picked up a guy every week so I could be "healthy."

    October 22, 2010 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
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