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How often do couples have sex?

By: Sara Youngblood Gregory

Good Vibes: How Often Should Couples Have Sex?

There are so many expectations about how relationships “should” look, especially when it comes to how often people should have sex. 

Often, frequency of sex becomes the measuring stick for what qualifies as a “normal” sex life for a couple. But in reality, there is no such thing as a normal sex life or an average couple— it depends entirely on the people involved and what feels good to them. For some, it’s normal for couples to have sex once a month, while for others that feels like too much or too little.

Below, we asked the experts how often couples have sex and how to keep your sex life healthy and exciting.


How Often Should You Have Sex? 

There is actually no “right” answer to this question according to Jules Purnell, an AASECT certified sex educator. “Someone ‘should’ have sex as much as feels right to them.” For some people, the right amount of sex might be every day while for others it’s once a month or once every few months. The right amount might also vary throughout a relationship, especially for long-term dynamics and married couples.

Good Vibes: How Often Should Couples Have Sex?“From a research standpoint, the average for married heterosexual couples is about once a week to once or twice a month,” says Purnell. “That said, it can fluctuate for all kinds of reasons, including stress at work, conflicting schedules, illness, childcare needs, and more.” Additionally, some research suggests that people of all backgrounds, genders, and regions may be having less sex in general. According to a 2017 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, American adults are having sex less than previous generations — especially those born in the 1990s. While there’s no single factor causing this decline, some experts believe a combination of economic constraints, changing cultural expectations, and stress may play a part. 

While it can sometimes feel reassuring to look at the numbers — and realize people are probably having less sex than you think — it’s also important to move away from comparing your sex lives to other people’s. Rather than wonder what’s “normal” or “average,” it may be more fruitful to ask questions like: Am I satisfied with my sex life? What about my sex drive? Do I feel respected and heard during intimacy? How can my partner and I make room for more pleasure?

Part of this work is also normalizing fluctuations in sex, desire, and emotional and physical availability — or what’s often called dry spells. “Differences or fluctuations in libido aren't the end of the world, and there are ways to navigate them by talking it through,” says Purnell. “Remember that no matter what, you should never be shamed for your libido. If your partner is making you feel badly because you want sex ‘too much’ or ‘too little,’ this can be particularly damaging to the 
health of the relationship.”


Intimacy Makes Us Feel Good

Intimacy describes feelings of deep mutual connection in a relationship. There are so many different ways to experience closeness, from quality time and deep conversation, to shared dreams and comforting touch. Sex, too, is often intimate because it requires physical and emotional vulnerability. But there is a difference between going through the motions of sex and cultivating sexual intimacy with your lover.

Good Vibes: How Often Should Couples Have Sex?“I like to distinguish sexual intimacy from just sex,” says sexologist and sociologist Dr. Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D. “Intimacy involves emotional closeness, trust, vulnerability, and mutual caring.” In other words, simply upping the frequency of sex alone won’t necessarily bring you or your partner more satisfaction. It’s also about the quality of sex and how well you and your partner connect. In fact, a 2018 study found that in long-term relationships, emotional intimacy was associated with higher sexual desire and frequency of sex — meaning partners who felt close wanted to get close, too.

In practice, sexual intimacy often looks like leading with intention and communication — like taking the time to share your fantasies, planning a romantic date night, or tapping into your playful, experimental side. “The main reason humans have sex is to connect and feel good together,” says Purnell. “As adults we don't often make space in our day to day lives to play, and playing with another person in the bedroom is a great way to tap into our inner creativity and spark. Sharing the vulnerability of trying something new together can build trust and encourage a sense of shared adventure.”

Not only can sexual intimacy encourage feelings of love and desire, Dr. Jenn says there are mental and physical benefits, too. “Sexual intimacy is beneficial for smoothing out hurt feelings and [disconnection], making people feel loved and desired, and reducing stress. It can boost self-esteem and one's immune system.”


Life Can Get in the Way of Sex — And That’s OK.

It’s completely normal for partners to experience fluctuations in sexual behavior, including frequency, desire, and sexual performance, especially in long-term relationships. Typically, life stressors and other external factors play a role.

“Some of the biggest reasons are high stress, young children, and health and hormonal changes to one's body and functioning,” says Dr. Jenn. Additionally, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause, health issues and medication side effects can all lead to big shifts in sexual desire, arousal, and pleasure. These changes aren’t always a bad thing — like landing a demanding dream job or welcoming a new child — but they often require a shift in priorities. Though life changes are unavoidable, the trick is to identify how these factors affect you and your relationship and work together with your partner to mitigate that impact.

Good Vibes: How Often Should Couples Have Sex?In addition to life stressors, there are internal factors that can impact your sex life — like self-esteem issues, body image, or insecurity. “If we aren't feeling great about ourselves, it can be scary to let our partners see us in our literal naked vulnerability,” says Purnell. The best thing to do? Be gentle with yourself and seek support. “Asking for positive affirmation might be a good first step,” says Purnell. During or after sex, for example, you might ask your partner for compliments and praise. Non-sexual activities can also play a part in quieting your inner critic. Try going for a walk, taking a yoga class, or doing breathwork with your partner, anything that “can help us get out of our heads and into our bodies together,” says Purnell.

Finally, it’s important to consider the length of a relationship and its impact on desire. In some long-term partnerships, Dr. Jenn says it’s natural to experience a decline in desire, even if the relationship is incredibly healthy and happy. Age, too, can play a part as many studies have found that people have less sex as they age — often influenced by menopause and medical issues like erectile dysfunction. “But resentments and feeling unappreciated in a relationship can also impact one's interest in sex with their partner,” cautions Dr. Jenn, so it’s important to make sure changes in your libido aren’t actually rooted in something deeper. 

How to Keep Your Sex Life — and Relationship — Healthy 

The first step to maintain a healthy sex life is to check in with yourself: how do you define healthy? What makes sex feel satisfying and exciting? Is there anything getting in the way of the sex life you want?
It’s also helpful to take time to connect with your own sexual self before trying to connect with your partner, says Purnell. Consider setting aside time for a solo date night to explore what feels good. If you struggle to communicate what you need during partnered sex, masturbation will help you learn what you want in bed and how to ask for it. Exercise, too, can help ground you in your body and boost your confidence.

Alternately, if you’re experiencing a block around pleasure that’s more mental than mechanical, try a more romantic approach. 

“If you're in an ‘I'm not feeling sexy’ slump, I'm a big fan of taking a sexy selfie,” says Purnell. “Even if you don't show it to your partner or anyone else, it can be helpful to see your body the way someone else might see it.” If you’re not sure where to start, put on your favorite lingerie or outfit, get some mood lighting, and play around with poses and angles. If you prefer to keep it simple, take some time to praise your body the next time you take a shower.

Once you’ve taken some time to get in touch with your own sexuality, consider the tips below to connect with your partner. 


Focus on Communication 

Good Vibes: How Often Should Couples Have Sex?Speaking honestly about your sex life — especially when you’re craving something different or need to workshop a few things — can be challenging even for the most open partners. Rather than letting your feelings fester (or just sweeping them under the rug), consider setting aside time for regular conversations. 

Dr. Jenn recommends weekly check-ins: “It's important to create a loving, non-judgment space to be authentic and vulnerable with each other. The more you can cultivate spaces for listening, learning, and connection, the more you can maintain your friendship and respect. These are fundamental to weathering the ups and downs of all long-term relationships and sexual intimacy.”

These check-ins don’t have to be too formal or time consuming. Dr. Jenn says even just a 15 minute conversation every week can be incredibly beneficial. Take the opportunity to discuss your sexual needs, thoughts, fantasies, insecurities, or simply take the time to affirm your desire for one another. 


Schedule sex into your daily life 

During your check-ins, it’s also a good idea to discuss your schedules, commitments, and availability over the coming week — and think about setting aside time for intimacy. 

“It might not sound like the sexiest thing in the world — unless Google calendar really does it for you — but it can feel nice to know that time isn't going to get booked in with the other distractions of day to day life,” says Purnell. For some couples, scheduling sex can build up anticipation — and can actually be a type of foreplay.

Your scheduled time should ideally be about intimacy in all its forms. “I specifically like to recommend something I call, Happy Naked Fun Time,” says Dr. Jenn. “It's a time to cuddle, massage, talk about your day, play a game in bed, read erotica, laugh, anything that makes you feel connected and appreciative of each other.” Though this time together can certainly turn sexual, Dr. Jenn says it’s best to focus on organic connection, not expectation or pressure for sex. 


Bring sex toys into the mix

Good Vibes: How Often Should Couples Have Sex?Whether you’re looking to expand your collection or try out a couple’s toy for the first time, sex toys are an opportunity to experiment together and enliven your sexual routine. The most important thing is to find a toy that you find mutually exciting and will center both your pleasure. 

If you’re into internal sex, either vaginal or anal (or both!), double dildos and strap-on compatible dildos are a great place to start. If clitoral stimulation is a priority, consider adding in an oral sex 
toy (we love the pulsating power of the Aer Clitoral Stimulator), a vibrating couple’s toy, or a discrete, palm-shaped vibrator.

No matter what your preference, use a new toy as a chance to talk about your fantasies and desires. You can shop for a toy together and plan a romantic date night to try it out for the first time. 

If you’re still struggling to strike the right balance in your sex life or simply need extra support, Purnell suggests seeking out a sex therapist or couple’s therapist to create a healthy dialogue and plan.

Just remember — you and your partner deserve a sex life you both feel good about.



Good Vibes: Guest Author Sara Youngblood Gregory


Sara Youngblood Gregory is a lesbian journalist and the author of The Polyamory Workbook. She writes about power, identity, culture, sex, and wellness. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, the New Republic, Vice, Teen Vogue, HuffPost, Cosmopolitan, The Guardian, and many others.  Read more at or connect on socials.