How Much Sex is Normal in a Long-Term Relationship?
In my clinic, I often see people seeking help for lack of sexual intimacy in their relationship. Both men and woman present with this problem and there is often concern about what is normal.
People want to know “how much sex is normal in a long-term relationship?” Often they have read the statistic that married couples have sex on average three times a week, and they are worried.
My answer to this question is that everything is normal. Some couples have sex very frequently, some have it once every three months, and some are not having it at all. I urge people to take the view that what is more important than a statistic is that the amount of sex in their relationship is negotiated and is an agreeable compromise between both partners.
The frequency of sex in a relationship is usually determined by the lower drive partner. Most couples are having sex as much as the lower drive partner is willing to participate in. Something I ask my clients to consider is whether the frequency is the only measure of importance. For example, that sex is enjoyable or satisfying could be more important than frequency.
Bedroom Problems That Reduce the Frequency of Sex and How to Fix It
1. You have little or no interest in sex
Low interest is stereotypically considered to be a female issue, but I have had a number of men brought to appointments.
First, it must be established whether there are any physical contributions to
the problem so sees a GP and get some blood tests done.
If there is no physical contribution look at what might be contributing to the lack of libido. Stress, childhood trauma and relationship problems are significant contributors. I’ve got some reading suggestions at the end of this article which can help, but you may also need support from a clinical psychologist or sex therapist.
2. You no longer desire your partner
It’s tough when you no longer want your partner. This can happen due to major betrayals and hurts that have occurred in the relationship, unexpected changes in physical appearance or poor hygiene.
I find most partners can adjust better to changes in physical appearance such as weight gain than they can to the major betrayals and hurts. For many people, they need to like their sexual partner and feel safe with them. Also when there have been sexual betrayals,
having sex with your partner can trigger memories of the sexual affair or comparisons to the affair partner.
Poor hygiene needs to be addressed in a firm but not hurtful way. If your partner has bad breath or body odor, tell them that’s the reason you don’t want sex and suggests ways for improvement.
It can be very hurtful to address physical changes such as weight gain with a partner, so it needs to be done sensitively. It is likely to be more helpful to try to focus on the parts of your partner you still find attractive rather than request changes such as a diet.
3. Your partner no longer initiates sex or responds to your advances
Some assumptions are often made when a partner stops initiating and or responding. These include my partner no longer finds me attractive, my partner is having an affair, or my partner is secretly gay. While it is possible that these assumptions could be correct, generally, through the course of therapy, we discover that they are not.
The most common reasons for men are:
- They are stressed by work and financial responsibility, and this has negatively impacted their libido,
- They are concerned about erectile difficulties which often occur with age and also as a result of stress,
- They have been criticized for their performance.
For women the most common reasons are:
- They have a baby or small children and feel too tired to want to have sex. These women dream of that half an hour at the end of the day where they can quietly read or watch a tv; so when their partner gives them the “how about it?” look the minute they sit down, it can lead to feelings of resentment and being overwhelmed by demands.
- They believe they are sexually unattractive
- Their partner pressures them for sex but is not affectionate,
- Their partner is selfish and does not make sex pleasurable for them
- As women age, their libido tends to drop, and they may also experience vaginal dryness or atrophy which makes sex less physically comfortable and enjoyable. I highly recommend having a sexual repertoire outside of penetrative sex throughout your relationship as it helps manage this transition.
4. It is painful to have sexual intercourse
Some women experience pain as a result of vaginal penetration. Sex is not enjoyable when it hurts, and it can lead to a cycle of pain-fear avoidance. If you are finding vaginal sex painful, do not put up with it. Ask your partner to stop when the pain that is beyond discomfort begins.
If you continue to have sex when it’s painful, your muscles can respond in ways that cause ongoing problems, and you may develop neuropathic pain. Once your brain makes an association with pain and sex, it ‘s hard to relax and enjoy sex.
Deal with current contributors such as lack of lubrication by ensuring adequate arousal and using lubricant. If it is an ongoing problem, seek a referral from your GP to a women’s health physio and a gynecologist. You may also need help manage anxiety and other feelings associated with this problem from a psychologist.
Sex is not the answer. Sex is the question. “Yes” is the answer. – Swami X
Expert Tips on How to Improve Your Sex life
The most valuable tool for dealing with sexual frequency is to talk and educate each other about the problem and possible solutions. Choose a time to discuss what is happening in your sex life with your partner. Approach the problem from the viewpoint of curiosity rather than judgment or entitlement about how much sex you are getting.
See a GP to determine if there are underlying biological problems. Read up about sex and learn more about your partner’s body and your body. Try to introduce some regular sex to avoid the awkwardness that can occur after long dry spells.
Work on the personal or relationship issues that are contributing. For suggestions see the reading list below or see a counselor or psychologist.
Importantly, if you want to increase sexual frequency in your relationship ensure you keep working on your relationship connection as a whole.
King, R. (2011 ) Good Loving Great Sex. Sydney: Arrow Book
King, R. (2010) Where did my libido go? Sydney: Arrow Books
Hall, J. (2004) Sex-life solutions. Easy ways to solve everyday sexual problems. Sydney: Finch books