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 (3,119 Responses)
  1. Eric

    I was really attracted to my boyfriend at first and we had sex every other day. After a year and 9 months though it seems I hardly ever want to do it–with him. I don't think I'm particularly stressed–except maybe about our sex problem. I don't know what to do really, except let him have outside "experiences". I don't think its fair of me to prevent him from being sexually fulfilled by someone else–since I'm the one who has the problem.

    October 21, 2010 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. hornylady

    Ok... call me 682-795-1615 .. I need to get laid asap 😉

    October 21, 2010 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mustang95

      Fine. Go phuck yourself.

      October 21, 2010 at 23:06 | Report abuse |
  3. Dan

    What if you have no one to have sex with? What if you are totally alone and unattractive, what do you do then?

    October 21, 2010 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cbozey

      Find the nearest bridge..

      October 21, 2010 at 17:16 | Report abuse |
    • um

      pay for it or get some one really drunk

      October 21, 2010 at 17:20 | Report abuse |
  4. LuLu Magoo

    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. The "I've got to have it" people are so dramatic and feel like they're entitled, because that's how it's portrayed in today's world.

    October 21, 2010 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. hasc

    Bill – Sex is free? Since when?

    October 21, 2010 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Burbank

      How do you think Haiti got to be so over populated? It's the only entertainment in between those free missionary handouts that doesn't cost anything!

      October 21, 2010 at 18:12 | Report abuse |
  6. Jim Bob

    I learned from half a century working with the elderly that a marriage with sex is good, but love is better. Many couples are physically unable to have sex but have more love than those who do.

    October 21, 2010 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Mike F

    Only once?? Dang.

    October 21, 2010 at 17:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. ladrikius

    As Cher said about her physical workout routine: " I don't work my workout into my day, I work my day into my workout"

    October 21, 2010 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Bubbah

    wow, this discussion sure is getting off track! the author fully understands how the stresses of the world cut into one's libido.

    but then again, plenty of poor people living on the edge seem to have no problem getting it on all the time, it's just the rest of us with jobs and mortgages and kids we feel the need to take care of who get all stressed out and don't have the energy to do it.

    October 21, 2010 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. alan

    I dream of the day that I wil have a lovely women in my arms and I dream everynight that I do then I wake up and there is no one there and thus I stay alone. : (

    October 21, 2010 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dan

      you're not alone man, it's the same here.

      October 21, 2010 at 18:17 | Report abuse |
  11. Tommydubs

    Seraphim0 – That is a horrible statement. First of all, lets not pretend that there is affordable health care in this country for everyone, secondly there are thousands of people effected by "medicine" that has caused health problems and then took part in a class action suit to be compensated for that lack of responsibility on the part of big pharma. Either of these situations result in the insured to be considered high risk resulting in large monthly payments in excess of $1000

    October 21, 2010 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Ozmodius612

    Sex once a week! Great! Now if I can only find someone I WANT to have sex with! 😛

    October 21, 2010 at 18:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. alan

    I have to chuckle when i read articles about multiple simultaneious orgasm, how to plase your man(women), how to find the gspot,etc. Until after World War II,the entire human race was a substince level existance trying to propogate itself into another generation while fighting famine,depression, genocide, etc. I am sure the average 40 yr old in 1930 was off sex and probably had it no more than 100 times in thierl lives with almost always one other person. That is still the case in large portions of the world. Now we must be skilled acrobats who must connect 100% of the time with any partner we choose. Did Henry Ford worry about it-did Lincoln, did Edison, did Louis Pasteur- heck no. What a waste of time

    October 21, 2010 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. alldayerryday


    October 21, 2010 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Burbank

    Sex at least once a week? This article must be written by a man of course! I'm sick and tired of these so called experts trying to tell me what to do with my sex life, including various religious and pedophile priests! I will do it if and when I want to whether that's 10 times a day or never! Not anyone's business to tell me otherwise!

    October 21, 2010 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Rick H.

    I am 52 and have been married for 30 years. My question is, what is sex? The word rings a bell but I can't put my finger on it. I will look it up on google and comment again.

    October 21, 2010 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • guest

      well..problem solved...finger goes in it, not just on it.

      October 21, 2010 at 22:52 | Report abuse |
  17. alldayerryday

    10 bucks says hornylady is a dude

    October 21, 2010 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. nizar

    the true in this life is NO SEX NO LIFE IS SIMPLE IS THE MOTOR IN THIS WORLD

    October 21, 2010 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. OhNo

    Oh crap, I'm about 600 times behinde schedule.

    October 21, 2010 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. mad dog mulligan

    my job is to tap that ass as many times as I can before I croak!!!

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

    i learned more from the comments than I did from the article. I too (like others have said) enjoy reading comments from those in healthy relationships.

    October 21, 2010 at 18:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WhyohWhy

      Agreed. So have I.

      October 21, 2010 at 21:05 | Report abuse |
  22. BlueTopaz

    Personally, I think this article is BUNK. Relationships need more than just regular sex to sustain them. I had a lousy relationship with my ex-live in boyfriend, but a great sex-life. However, we realized that as great as our intimacy was, it wasn't enough to keep our relationship going and so we broke up anyway.

    October 21, 2010 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Chris

    I think it is a lot better every morning, trust me :D...

    October 21, 2010 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. BevoTexas

    I'm single. I've been unemployed for a year and a half. Had no other option but to move back in with my parents. Not exactly desirable traits for having sex once a week. Women don't like that. *sigh*..I can't catch a break.

    October 21, 2010 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. GeorgeFBush

    >>> The side effects of many medications which inhibit desire (especially anti-depressants in the SSRI family)

    Wait.. what?!? Is that what's been going on?

    October 21, 2010 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. SWERV

    Well, at least you all are with your S/O's to complain about getting or Not getting. Being a Deployed Soldier, who would be satisfied with just holding his Wife's hand, hear you all bitching and whining.. Try being away from Your spouses 12-18 months at a time, then re-evaluate your Sexual Issues....

    October 21, 2010 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Jessica

    Err....I don't have a partner. So I don't have to worry about this crap yet. Or what any of you think. 😀 I say crap because as much as I THINK making love (Never done it) would keep me and my partner close, having sex when we feel like it sounds better than just doing it because someone says we should at least once a week. So it could be more often or less than that. Whatever.

    October 21, 2010 at 19:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. chucklebuck

    ...wow, there are people who get paid to tell other people how often to have sex?

    who'da thunk it...

    October 21, 2010 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. chucklebuck

    "For example, "I'd hit that" is totally objectifying and could indicate an abusive attitude."

    Wow you must go into catatonic shock and curl up in the fetal position when someone says "they want to jump your bones".
    It's just a figure of speech.

    It's only as "objectifying" as you make it out to be, and anything could indicate the potential for violence. It's all in the eye of the beholder, which is exactly why you don't have sex with every man who talks to you. So don't be a hypocrite.

    October 21, 2010 at 19:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. NoResponse

    I'm having sex right now.

    October 21, 2010 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WhyohWhy

      Must be pretty boring.

      October 21, 2010 at 21:08 | Report abuse |
  31. chucklebuck

    ..Violence is very real and word choices matter to those of us who've been assaulted...

    Spare me...when "really" the only differences that "matter" in terms of defining "violence" and "assault" are whether you consent to it and you're of a consenting age and frame of mind in the opinion of 12 jurors.

    Basically whether it actually happened in the first place, in their opinion.

    Oh and by the way, "word choices" matter to those of us who have not been assaulted, in your opinion, also. Like, "assaulted by irrational opinions" which I'm sure that you wouldn't consider to be violence upon our persons. It is nothing less than that when men get locked up as a result of stupid irrational women and their outrageously emotional opinions.

    We all know that violence is very real and we don't need a lecture on whether "word choices" matter. You epitomize that.
    Now get a grip on yourself and stop making a Federal case out of a mere play on words.

    October 21, 2010 at 19:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Newenglandguy

    I arranged a threesome one night, that was cool. There were a couple no-shows but it was still fun.

    October 21, 2010 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Boston Sailer

      Yep. I hear you.

      October 21, 2010 at 19:37 | Report abuse |
    • thebub

      This made me laugh and they say that is also healthy

      October 22, 2010 at 16:40 | Report abuse |
  33. sparknut

    Sex is free... but have you seen the cost of Viagra lately? And my insurance won't pay a penny toward it.

    October 21, 2010 at 19:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. pesqueira

    I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but my wife and I have been married for almost 3 years now and we have made love every night since we have met, with the exception of about 30-40 nights. We both work full time and would be considered as lower middle class, both smoke and drink, but in good health. I am 44 and she is 30 and I believe the reason why we have easily maintained this level of intimacy is the intense, passionate love we hold for each other. I also believe it has much to do with having a playfull and healthy attitude toward sex, the ability to not take each other for granted and realizing that love, passion, and play are far more important than the daily pitfalls life deals us all. Life is way too short we all really should try harder to see and feel all the beauty that each and every one of us has to offer to each other.


    October 21, 2010 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Are you sure once a week is enough and does it have to be with the same partner .

    October 21, 2010 at 19:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Kaiser

    "sex is fun and free and enables couples to stay tuned in and turned on"

    Sex is free? So how come i am paying $200/hr every week ?

    October 21, 2010 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. viktor

    no fat chix

    October 21, 2010 at 20:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Legman

    I wish to hell some of you ladies had available siusters! After reading some of your responses I wonder how you'd respond to a guy that's been living with a fridgid 57 year-old woman for 14 years, who has used every excuse under the sun why she doesn't want sex: I'm sick. I have a cold, I have to work tomorrow, headache, legs hurt, hips hurt,
    sky is blue, sky is gray, mouse in slippers, bhaaa, blaaaa, blahhh..............but will nEVER discuss the real problem, which is her damn doctor gives her Zoloft (she says to controll the depression she doesn't have).

    Your men are SOOOOO lucky to have you and I hope they're lucky enopuigh to have you in that state of mind for years to come.

    WANTED: ONE HORNEY AS A DOG WOMAN NEAR Rockford, Illinois???!!!

    October 21, 2010 at 20:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DKwoman

      Having been on anti-depressive med for 3 years, I can tell you, that the negative effect on the libido is very real.
      I chose to "force" myself to initiating intimacy with my husband at least once a week (once I got out of the apathy) , because I was afraid to lose it forever. And to accept all his initiatives.
      I'm using less and less medicine now, and the libido is returning – BUT I don't have to start from square one again. And my husband and I still love each other (at least we did last night.....(c:§ )

      October 22, 2010 at 11:26 | Report abuse |
  39. Nookie

    WHAT? Are you kidding me? I'll be the first to admit that I LOVE intimacy, and I LOVE intimacy with my husband...he really is the one that I desire, however in this world where you come home and have a house to clean, and he comes home to plop yourself on a couch and watch NFL, or stay on some sort of electronic device, or fall asleep on your "man chair", and have two toddlers running around, etc, etc, and have finances be a MAJOR stressor and cause of disagreements, etc., who WANTS to have sex? I sure as heck don't and I'll be BLATANT, that's how I punish him, and if in the end he goes and gets it somewhere else, then thats fine by me because that would just prove to me that he wasn't as committed as he said he was, when he got down on his knees at our wedding.

    October 21, 2010 at 20:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KeithTexas

      That is too bad because eventually he will. Anybody can be run out of a relationship, withholding sex will run your man off and it will not have anything to do with his commitment. Men need sex in order to give love, women need love in order to give sex.

      You need to look for a different way unless you don't care if he leaves.

      October 21, 2010 at 23:59 | Report abuse |
    • Mike Raduenzel

      What a great attitude. Your marriage has no chance; and, it's you. YOU'RE the problem.

      October 22, 2010 at 01:26 | Report abuse |
  40. joeee

    notice the "at least" once a week. Just make a mental note for future reference!

    October 21, 2010 at 20:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. StressDad

    Once a week? Wow... Maybe once every few years for me.

    I'm a 47 yr old single working dad, caring for two mentally ill teen boys. I've been married and divorced twice, both marriages being nearly sexless. I had a girlfriend once, but again, sex was a semi-annual event at best. I'm not ugly, but I'm not a stud either. Just your basic depressed, stressed out, low self-esteem pin cushion.

    I have also looked into meds that would kill my libido, but no luck there. Antidepressants never worked for me (either to kill my libido, or the intended goal of easing depression). I haven't "jumped" yet, but I'm not exactly enjoying life either.

    So if you have a partner in your life that loves you, try to be happy with that. Some of us would give our right arm just for a nice hug once in a while (of course, it would have to be a one armed hug I guess).

    October 21, 2010 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Captain_Awesome

    what if i slam my ham 4-5 times a day does that equal intercourse 3 times a week?

    October 21, 2010 at 20:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. stina

    Does masturbation count?lol

    October 21, 2010 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. David

    Me and my wife do it atleast once a week. I am self-employeed and my wife runs my office. We have 3 boys, 4,6,8.

    October 21, 2010 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. LuvmyHubby

    Ha ha ha... anyone else with a full-time job and a two-year-old out there? These people talking about going at it once a day crack me up. Frankly, once a week, that's do-able. Twice a week, woo-hoo! Three times a week!? Oh right, are you lying!?

    October 21, 2010 at 20:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Eric

    My girlfriend and I have 5 kids between us, ranging from 18 to 3, and we ALWAYS find time for each other. If you can't find time to be with the one you love, and share intimate time, then what's the point? I feel bad for those of you not being intimate with your partner on a regular basis.

    October 21, 2010 at 20:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Jason

    Once a week??? That is pretty sad

    October 21, 2010 at 20:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Peter

    I'm doing right now! Sweet!

    October 21, 2010 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Aaron

    Not all men are driven by sex and not all women like to have sex or have 'healthy" libidos. Everyone is different emotionally and chemically and the sure fire "answer" to happiness is not the same for everyone.

    Im 31 and have a very low sex drive and Im a male. I eat right most of the time, exercise, and have a large freind network. I just dont have any desire to go out and seek it like so many men do. To insist that something is wrong with me for being this way is more destructive to my self esteem than just saying be happy with yourself is.

    October 21, 2010 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. What?

    People need an excuse to have sex? Did I miss something?

    October 21, 2010 at 20:47 | Report abuse | Reply
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