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Ask A Therapist: Does How Often You Have Sex Mean Anything For Your Relationship?

Relationships
4 min read

Dear Therapist: Is there a “normal” or “not normal” amount of times to have sex with your partner? My husband and I experience intimacy together in so many ways that don’t involve sex but other people’s opinions on times per month make me feel like we may be in the minority here. Super curious what a therapist thinks about this, and if it means anything about the strength of the relationship.

Frame Therapist Katherine Smith weighs in...
I hope you find this encouraging rather than frustrating, but there is no “normal” or “not normal” amount of sex for people to have, partnered or not. Sure, there are statistical averages which can tell us about sexual behavior across large samples of people and give us a sense of cultural norms, but those statistics don’t necessarily tell us how people feel about the kind or frequency of their sexual experiences. For example, a 2017 study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior found that married couples have sex approximately 51 times a year. That study also found that the average adult has sex 54 times per year, regardless of relationship status. But how does the average adult feel about their sex life? I think that question is closer to what you’re wondering about.

In my experience, partners who don’t experience intimacy in other parts of their relationship may feel greater dissatisfaction with frequency and type of sex. The root of this sexual dissatisfaction is typically a dissatisfaction or doubt about in the relationship in general and frustration with poor communication and a lack of emotional intimacy. Partners may use sex as a substitute for other kinds of intimacy and feel especially threatened when sex becomes less frequent.

What I also see in my work is that long-term partners who enjoy having sex with each other and experience intimacy in other parts of their relationship are often satisfied with the kind of sex they are having, but might say something like, “Of course, we’d like to be having more sex, we like having sex with each other… but, you know, work… sleep… it doesn’t always happen.” It’s not that they are dissatisfied with how often they are having sex, but that life has a way of making other things a priority. 

Sexual behavior and sexual intimacy are influenced by many things (personal values, social messaging, religion, culture, gender identity, libido, physical health, disability, availability of sexual partners, kinks, sexual orientation, etc.) and it can be difficult to know how you feel about the frequency and kind of sex that you’re having. And that’s the most important question to explore in any sexual relationship: How do you feel about the frequency and kind of sex that you’re having? If you and your partner are satisfied with the kinds of intimacy you experience together, then you could be having sex every day or not at all and that’s the perfect amount for your relationship.

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About the author: Katherine W. Smith, PsyD is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Beverly Hills, CA. Dr. Smith specializes in inclusive psychodynamic psychotherapy for creatives, black sheep, outsiders, introverts, neurodivergent folx, and all loveable weirdos. To learn more about her appraoch and style, visit her Frame profile here. 


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