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:
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?
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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If you are having issues with low drive and exhaustion I would recommend seeing your doctor and having him check your Thyroid. I had really been having those problems and come to find out that I had hypothyroidism and just after a week of meds I felt so much better and my sex drive improved and my hubby is lovin' it.
Someone want to tell my wife it's O.K. to "f" once in a while ... PLEASE? As it is it's a weapon of war. She acts like she doesn't even like sex...but won't let me get dirty on her...what do I gotta do? I'm as gentle as I can be...but it doesn't last and it only happens once every couple of months.
Well you can tell when the honeymoon is over,when you're taking a bath and she comes in and sit's down on the pot and farts like hell and get's up and leaves.Have been married 49 years and enough is enough.Think i'll just stay here and drink .LOL
Having been married just 14 years, I can not imagine this. She is gross.
I'm so tired of puns! They're EVERYWHERE.
How could I NOT respond. In the immortal words of Jean Claude Van-Damme on the tonight show back several years ago... "It cleans the pipes" : )
Well my story is that I am married to my high school sweetheart. We are both 34 and have 2 teenage boys. Yes, we started our family early. I must say that we have sex 2-4 times/day. We don't have the "perfect life" but ALWAYS make time for each other. And on occasion we have our in-laws watch our teenagers so we can get a little louder n' crazier. Thank God for grandparents!!! Just make sure not to leave any toys or oils out!!! I feel we are still young and need to enjoy each other before things don't work the same due to age.
Me and my girlfriend Thumbalina (my thumb + the other four fingers) do it three times a week - and we're quite happy! *sings* Strokeeeeeeee itttttttttt babbbbbbbbbyyyyyyyyy.
I was going to have sex, but after reading this story I'm too bored and tired to do so.
Wow-opinons are all over the map on this topic! For me-my guy and I have sex as much as possible. True, some nights we are tired...that's okay. Sex can be about intimacy or flat out dirty & fun...it does have a lot do do with how you feel about your partner and yourself.
So wake up America-Use it or Loose It! If you're not getting any action-find out why and fix it.
Can we all just get along and get a lot of sex? The world will be a much happier place I'm sure.
kaisersouse – I think he was joking. Lighten up! 🙂
That was to megathrobber. This comment software sucks
If it were up to me, I would have sex every night. I'm 43 and have had this high sex drive since I was 13. My husband was a sex maniac when we first met. By the time we were together 4 months it wore off, now we have sex once a week and have been together 13 years. It kills me to have to lay next to him and please myself just so I can sleep.
I find it cruely ironic that you are with a man who has no sex drive, yet you have a high one. I am with a woman with no sex drive, but have a high one. Why is life so mean!!!
i love this article
Well it seems we women are taking quite a hit here in not wanting sex. Hate to tell you guys this but there are men (at least one I know of) that do not like to have sex all the time. And it is frustrating to be with someone with such a limited sex drive. I love the man, but I need the connection that comes with making love to him. So all though I 100% agree with the article. I do feel that once a week is not enough in this day and age to keep a relationship healthy. Yes, we can talk all we want, hold hands, cuddle, whatever, but the connection felt when making love to your partner is only satsified with the full act of making love together. And is this day and age of internet and all it affords, we seldom have that one on one connection with anyone. So when we seldom get it with our partner it will cause issues that will ulitmately destroy a relationship and open the door for possible straying.
Wow, sounds doomed.
Spontaneity and spice keep it interesting even when you can't get your 2-3 x per week. If we do a once a weeker, then its like 4 times the next, or start fooling with him while he's surfing the net, sex is way more fun than looking at a computer. I've been visited in the shower many times. Killing two-three birds there, very efficient, ecologically responsible, and saving money on the water bill.
We've gone through some rough periods, close to bankrupsy and foreclosure due to job loss etc, but kept the relationship priority though it all, it tempers the bad with some fun good.
I've always been way more active than any of my partners. I love the way sex feels. I don't understand not "wanting" to. My ex would ask for a day off here and there because I was wearing him out. LOL Sex is the best invention EVER!
I use to have sex but it's been a while. Im 69 years old now and sex is not that important.
I quit having sex, about 25 years ago, when I accidentaly saw a 325 lb. woman in the nude. I have had ED since.
I'm sure there are some women out there that has experiened the same when they see a 350 lb. butter ball in the nude.
Maybe we need to put a sack over our heads.
It won't be long before we sue Burger King and McDonalds.
My advise in this matter - do it while you can. I havent gone blind or have heart trouble - actually I am in excellent physical health - but not having sex may be the reason why I act a little goofey, but I had rather be a little goofey than a dirty old man.
Oh, by the way - I do not have homosexually tendendcies.
Sex isn't what it used t o be. It used to be an enjoyable time you spent with your soul mate. It used to happen when it happened and there wasn't really any pressure about it. It used to be a special moment when you both were filling your needs together. Nowadays all you youngsters just do it to score. It has become a meaningless toss in the hay. Sex for sex's sake . Television and internet Porn have reduced sex to a selfish function. Ive seen women leave their husbands more and more for sex. Ive seen husbands disappear more and more into their computer rooms alone typing with one hand. Sex is too available now. It isn't the special moment it used to be anymore. More like flavor of the day. So go ahead... enjoy your selfish lonliness as you move from one to another looking for that special moment... good luck....you'lll never find it...
Your condescension and maturity are heard loud and clear. Good choice in your screen name...matches your maturity.
Actually, I think he hit it right on the nail. People are in my opinion more selfish when it comes to sex these days and are forgetting that it is in trying to please your spouse, partner, etc. and connecting mentally as well as physically that makes sex great. Animals can have sex, so clearly just getting to "climax" is not the end-all-be-all of sexuality. Selfishness is a real mood killer.
If I start having sex 3 times a week, do I have to tell my spouse?
Someone tell this to my spouse. I have been saying all of these things like clockwork. I try hugging, cuddling, anything and everything. In the end I get yelled at for and told to stop trying to cop a feel. Well, I'm sorry for finding my wife attractive...isn't that WHO I am SUPPOSED to be attracted to?!?! At some point, most couples in these situations religate themselves to the good friends/bickering roomates scenarios simply because beyond divorce, there is no solution. They say an alcholoic has to WANT to help themselves, before they can get help. Same thing applies....the spouse with the sexual issue has to WANT to admit there is an issue and want to make it better. I know in my case I don't think they want that. I think they feel there is nothing wrong, or simply religated into thinking its not a problem with them.
Problem is...you're the one left feeling hurt, and honestly...unloved.
Jenn you should show Jim how its done
Wow. I am a 27 year old, hard working, attractive mother of two, stressed to the max with bills and life in general. I haven't had sex in 6 months. However, I feel that if I could, even if it were only once a week, my stress levels would dimish significantly. Sex is something beautiful and wonderful and, like many others pointed out, free!
Heck... they could have stopped the oil leak in the Gulf Of Mexico a whole lot quicker... All they had to do was marry it. Then it would have quit putting out almost immediately.
Yeah, but you have to enjoy the sex for this to work. Try being in a relationship with a horrible kisser. Many wonderful qualities but the slobbery fish lips...yuck!
I'm 62 and once a week would kill me. I'm just not made to have sex only once a week. I need it almost every day or I start to get edgy. It's a great stress reliever. Not to say I really do enjoy it.
I have sex everyday with myself...
DAVID, Please stop "bashing" people because they have their own opinions. You really make no sense and are really annoying.
Other then that ONCE A WEEK IS NOT ENOUGH!!!
In response to an earlier comment about getting "sick of" the same partner . . . My husband and I have been married for 13 years and we have four children. For almost our entire marriage we have had sex at least 3 times a week and sometimes 4 or more. We aren't always both in the mood but we honor each other enough to respond when one person is wanting to be close. After 13 years, not only are we NOT sick of each other, our sex life is getting better and better! I attribute this to several factors: 1.) We waited to have sex until we were married so we have 100% trust and zero comparisons. 2.)Neither one of us indulges in pornography of any kind. 3.) We work to keep our relationship healthy and vibrant, both in and out of the bedroom. 4.) God blesses those who honor Him. Bottom line: Pure, married, God-honoring sex is HOT!!
I would just like to meet someone so I could have sex. I don't my hand once a day counts.
My husband and I have been married for sixteen years this month. I am ten years older than him. It was instant sparks when we met. After dating a couple of months, we got physical. Moved in together two months later, married six months after that. We were indulging in sex at least once or twice a day, more on days off together from work. We have slowed down a bit, but usually have sex at least five times a week, and still, more on weekends and vacations. We both seem to look forward to sex every day. The intimacy is great, and getting off is not so bad either! I must add that there have been several spans of time during our marriage when one or the other of us was having stress or depression due to life circumstances (jobs, finances, living situations during employment lay-offs, etc). The worst was when my husband was laid off for the first time, when he was twenty six. He was so devastated, it affected his libido for several months. His libido is more sensitive to stress than mine is. I've had many bouts of depression, and very little affects any of my appetites, including my libido.
I have been in a relationship for 7 years, the sex was awesome up till the economy tanked and my business failure. Making money for myself and not having to be dependent of someone else has made me feel less than the confident self made man. that I used to be. We have only had sex 2 times in the last year, and I can sense the relationship coming apart. I also got tire of always being the one who initiated sex, and figured that if she was interested, then maybe she would make the initial moves, as I was getting tired and humiliated by getting blown off for trying. I know that sex is healthy, but now i'm at the point where I just want out before I end up looking for it somewhere outside the relationship.
Sexual desires should get faded with age. This is natural and a positive change.
Anyway sex is the lowest form to express love.
"Sexual desires should get faded with age. This is natural and a positive change.
Anyway sex is the lowest form to express love........"
This is a sad sentiment. I'll be 46 in a few months. My libido is as high as ever. My Mom started menopause at 47. At the age of 53 she had a late 20something boytoy.
A major problem with many women is that fearful parents told their daughters that sex is bad, sinful, only "bad" women enjoy it, etc. Then bam, when the daughter get's married she's supposed to perform. Sorta hard to enjoy something that one's been taught is wrong.
Yes, hormones ebb and flow but what so many people don't understand is that the main sex organ is the brain. Health problems, financial issues and other stresses can affect one's libido but if you have it in your mind that you are a sex god/goddess you can use sex to relieve the stress from life's problems.
Sex is just one component of a relationship. It's not the lowest way to express love, it's on par with the other ways.
I've been married with my wife for 15 years. I married her because I "got around" a lot and wanted to settle down. I've always had a good libido. I had no idea that people existed that didn't when I got married. I spent the first few years pouring a lot of energy into the relationship. But, at some point I started to notice that it wasn't being reciprocated. I would test the theory by just abstaining from sex. Weeks, and in a couple of instances, months would go by – no sex, no passion, no intimacy. I had no idea that anyone could be like that. I can't imagine it. I want to spend as much time between a beautiful loving woman's legs as possible before I'm dead. I figured everyone felt the same way. I mean, women watch romantic movies and movies about lovers. Why the frick wouldn't they want to live out those fantasies? It's our culture. It's ego. "I'm not gonna' have sex with him unless he...". It's produced passionless high divorce rate society in which there is no happiness to be found. Sad. I love my wife. I love her on all the levels that so many of these no-libido-women have talked about as being so important. But, without the sex, the animalistic sex, there is a hole so big no amount of therapy can cure it. I've decided to live my life until death like I said I would for better or for worse. But, no a fan of our society and it's "values" at this point.
Wow. That is so sad. And you even tested her. Seize the day, my friend. I hope things change for the better for you but if they do not, then by all means find a beautiful woman/women that will give you all the love and pleasure you deserve.
Oh....and once or twice a week – hilarious. Like it's a fucking chore. Se sexy.
I hate to burst Blarfs balloon (so to speak) but he needs to know you can get pregnant while have your period.
I love sex! After my divorce, I selected two friends with benefits....for my benefit! But afer moving from GA to LV not met the right one to play with so unfortunately, do without.
I wish my husband could read this article. My libido has always been sky rocketin and would love to have sex every single day, but i guess his needs are not like mine, he is ok with sex once a week or 2 and i have to go to bed wanting it so bad, but he works really long hours and i would not want to hurt his feelings by demanding more.. oh well, that's when my dildo takes charge.
Share the wealth
Great advise, if you have someone to have sex with! No fun by yourself! : )
My wife who is a Physician and I are both seing an MD (sex therpist, OBGYN and Urologist). I almost feel like I have to beg my wife for sex. I am the only one that initiates anything intimate with her. She gives me no hugs, no flowers and decides to initiate something once in a blue moon. Granted money is an issue in our life, but that is not grounds to compromise our relationship. I will be honest, I have even thought about masterbating because it is better then cheating on her. I feel having two kids, you not only have to be faithful to your wife and the relationship, but also to your children. I have even gone out to search medication that would kill my urge to be intimate to my wife, but I haven't really found one. Anti-depreseent are supposedly the solution to kill the urge, but I feel uncomfortable talking them since I don't have depression. So my honest question is, what do I do? I have tried the candles, the bath tub, Victoria Secret, etc... but all fails.
she's cheating or you are so ugly she don't want to touch you.
@Joseph N – your post is heartbreaking! I am a woman who enjoys sex with my faithful husband frequently. I think the top reasons women avoid sex are as follows, in no particular order (and note that most of these are interrelated):
1) Emotional distance/lack of emotional intimacy between couple due to busyness/kids/stress/lack of sex/etc.
2) Anger or frustration in the relationship in general
2) Feeling ugly/unwanted
3) Not enjoying sex/having bad memories of prior encounters - this can be for many reasons. I will assume in my comments that your wife has never been abused and that she is not suffering physical pain during sex (although this may not be so!). Consider that only approx. 15% of women achieve orgasm regularly during an encounter. This is tough–it feels awful to be "left hanging". Now, imagine years of that experience, added up. Would you like sex? 3 things help (and you need both!): (a) women must learn to orgasm by themselves before they can learn to come with a partner (often difficult, as frequently women are taught that sex is bad/not to love their bodies); (b) men must learn how to help their partner to orgasm–some combo of "lasting longer" (it IS possible–it just takes practice) and creative just-for-her stimulation should help; (c) COMMUNICATION.
Good, frequent sex b/t long-term partners requires a healthy overall relationship: respect, communication, and selfless love. Your sex life is a barometer for your relationship's health. If I were you, I would stop treating this like a medical issue, and instead consider it a marriage issue–find a good relational therapist. Also, check out Harville Hendrix's book "Getting the Love You Want" (terrible title, great book). Hope this helps!
I don't think its true that the sex is free. I am single and don't have a girlfriend, so can someone please direct me to a place where it is free. Or at least show me a place where I will not be arrested if I pay for it.
I wish my husband could read this article, my libido has always been sky rocketing and his needs are not exactly like mine. i would love to have sex every single day but he is ok with having it once a week or every other week and i have to go to bed wanting it so bad. He is a sweetheart and works long hours , i dont want to hurt his feelings by demanding more. That's when my dildo comes and takes charge.
I'm a single female-early 30's with a pretty good job and rather comfortable life; it's not all of that but it will do for me. I have guys that I hang out with all of the time and I do not have sex with any of them. Mstrbtion hardly ever enters my mind, I'm very comfortable with my heterosexuality. Yet , I don't see a need for sex in my life and I am just find with that- I have too much fun doing other stuff. Based on the article, I should be miserable. Is there something wrong with me?
I agree 100%. If you're a person who just isn't interested, there is supposedly something wrong with you. I think the number of people who don't care about sex one way or the other is vastly underestimated, because nobody want to admit it for fear of being ridiculed.
I don't think there's anything wrong with you. It takes a lot of strength to stay both single and celibate. In my case as a guy about your age – I'll be honest despite knowing I'll be ridiculed, I haven't had sex in going on 9 years. In my case, I was extremely overweight as a teen and didn't start dating until I lost weight and was in college. However, even when I was really overweight I had a few times where I could have had sex...but I wanted to be in love so I didn't pursue the women (even one who said, quite vocally to my face that she wanted me and was only a phone call away). Eventually had sex but learned that it's worth waiting a little longer to find someone you really care about than going for someone that's easy to get into bed.
There are some reasons I could go into that might explain why I've become something of a monk these days, but the honest truth is that I'm just very comfortable being alone. This is mainly due to being single and not having sex for many years when I was young – and it's not that I really want to be this way, it's just familiar to me. Of course, I do get lonely sometimes and have a libido that's through the roof...I think a lot of it is that I have to struggle to make a living and am also recovering from some debilitating injuries, so I just don't have the desire to ask any women out. Combined with the fact that single women my age are very hard to meet where I live (and they know it!) I figure well, if I meet someone nice, that's great, and if not, well I have my hobbies and interests to keep me happy.
And believe me...when I finally meet someone after this long of a dry spell...she's going be real busy for a few days. 😉
Yep. You're not getting to meet any men really attractive to you.
Nothing wrong with you unless you decide to damn someone else to that life of celibacy. Many women get married and then turn off their sexuality and expect the man to also live celibate. Never works out. If you're happy without sexual passion, live on. But, don't condemn someone else to live that way.
I heard there are three stages of your sex life as your relationship matures:
Newlyweds and dating having S E X – TRI – Weekly
After 5years of Marriage or Kids S E X – Try – Weekly
After 20years of Marriage having S E X – Try – Weakly
seriously? as iff bills were not enough, lets find a way to make more babies on top of the fact u cant afford the ones u have! im in a sexless relationship on my end. i told him to do what he needs to do in the meantime. im stressed, on prozac, 3 kids...and everything was fine until we both lost our jobs at the same time! you cant make that work...sex isnt gonna fix that.
Passion, lust, intimacy, frequency, fun, happiness, stress, kids, single, married, gay,straight .......who cares? Other than the one YOU are with. LOSS that is what it is about. Without it we are at a loss, regardless of what reason. For me, i don't want to lose. We don't want to lose. We both want to win. We both work to insure each other is happy and satisfied, even when live deals us the pits. As far as once a week, thats only 52 times a year! Who wants to get short changed? Not us, and yes we have children, stress sickness, debt, careers, medications, and more. We look at it as; WE are entitled to our intimacy, we look forward to our next oppertunity. We are both fortunate to feel the same way about each other. ALSO we both are very happy to pay our frequent premium on our "fidelity insurance" with each other. For those of you who are short changed, I can only state it is real easy to die. Then it is way too late.
reality is, not everyone can afford it... and even if they can it's not always easy to get it when that's not all you have to work on outside of your day job.
far from free.
do you want to have sex with me ...im a freak.Just letting you know.(guys and sometimes girls!)
..great article...great comments...lots of funny people commenting...made my last hour of work go by fast! Ok, so I shaved my legs today...I think I'll have sex tonight w/the hubby :0)
Yea I know...so many girls are gonna read this and feel like hey I can do that...or I do that..or I am gonna do that TONIGHT!!! haha
I am divorced so I cannot tell how to make a marriage work; I can only tell you what we did to make ours fail. We lost interest in each other. Not just sexual-overall. We didn't talk about anything except the kids and bills. We forgot why we fell in love in the first place. Things we should have tried: Take some quiet time together-take a sick day and go to the movies. Drop the kids off at a babysitter and have a romantic dinner. Heck, put the kids to bed on tomorrow night, set the alarm in our bedroom for 0230 and wake up to do it. You gotta find a way to make your spouse feel important or someone else will.
Just going to make the point that intimacy goes a LONG way...and that doesn't automatically mean intercourse. It's incredibly meaningful to have a hug, a kiss, a arm around one's shoulder and heartfelt conversation. Frankly, some folks forget that it's about cultivating the closeness between partners daily that really is the 'foreplay' to sexual intimacy...
My husband and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary next may. We have an 11 month old son. We have sex maybe once every 2 to 3 weeks or so. We are very happy, never fight and neither of us feel we are being denied anything. I have endometriosis, and any woman who has this can tell you sex can be very painful. My husband is very understanding of this and no matter what if I start to feel pain we stop. We are just as happy just being together as we are having sex. This may sound funny to some people but I truly feel when you find the one person you are meant to be with, that is enough. There are a lot of fun things you can do with your spouse or partner that can be a very intimate experience.
you can have a hysterectomy to get rid of the pain and i doubt your husband is really as happy as you think he is.
Having drastic surgery is not something I have considered as I manage the pain. Have for years and will continue to do so. Seeing as you know absolutely nothing about the disease I will not take the time to explain all the details. And yes my husband is happy because he is actually in love with me and realizes sex is not the be all end all of a relationship.We have a perfect son,and a wonderful life together. Attitudes like yours are the reason the divorce rate is so high. You assume my husband is not happy we can't have sex all the time. There is so much more to relationship than that. when you grow up and become an adult you will understand these things.