How much sex is a normal amount? That is a question that has plagued our minds, and relationships, for as long as we’ve been talking about getting down.
A quick Google search of the term “how much sex should I be having?” brings up about 2.19 billion results. To say we’re obsessed with one another’s sex lives is putting it lightly.
In recent months, Canadian clinical psychologist and self-help personality, Jordan Peterson, captured the attention of the masses for this very reason.
Among many other things, Peterson’s latest book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules For Life, touched on the rules he feels are necessary to keep a marriage alive.
Unsurprisingly, the topic of sex received some attention.
“What do you owe each other sexually if you are entangled in a marriage?” he wrote.
“The answer is not ‘no sex’.”
Peterson went on to suggest that sex at least once a week is necessary to maintain a healthy marriage, though he feels more is preferable, and that zero is unsustainable.
Now, while the concept of “owing” sex is a dangerous idea, and sexual activity should never be seen as a promised exchange, there have been studies that have looked into how the regularity of sex impacts our level of satisfaction in relationships.
A study featured in Social Psychological and Personality Science indicated that those who had sex about once a week appeared to report better levels of happiness. That did not increase with more regular sexual activity, i.e. “more is not always better”.
That’s interesting to consider, but it’s also important to recognise that the trends found in a study are not going to align with every single person’s wants and needs. Sure, it may suit the majority of adults, but sex isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation.
I spoke with Kassandra Mourikis, a Sexologist with Pleasure Centred Sexology, to get a little more insight.
“This is something that grinds my gears because it contributes to unrealistic expectations, feeling abnormal and relationship conflict,” she told me over email.
If your interest in sex changes, the sex is probably not the problem
Mourikis explained that “one thing that is certain in most long term sexual and romantic relationship is that frequency of sex will fluctuate.”
This is not necessarily something to be concerned about. It’s common and there are ways to navigate through the situation.
“Changes to the amount of sex is not always a reflection of the strength of the relationship but a reflection of every day stressors and life experiences that tend to get in the way of sex,” she explained.
So, rather than focus on the shift in your physical relationship, maybe spend some time looking at the external influences that are disrupting your mood? Exploring this with your partner also means you’re communicating and they’re not left feeling rejected or slighted.
Expectations around sex are damaging
The idea that you “should” be having a certain amount of sex is not only inconsistent with different people’s needs, but it also causes “damage to relationship satisfaction and self-worth,” Mourikis shared.
“It creates pressure to have regular sex or to schedule sex which ultimately increases avoidance of sex, [or] avoidance other forms of intimacy that might lead to sex and sexual dissatisfaction.”
But more than that, it breeds insecurity. This may look like people “feeling broken or abnormal for having fewer sexual encounters than the ‘normal range'” or, on the other end of this, “folks start to question what’s wrong with them and why their partner doesn’t want them”.
It’s all bad, people.
In the end, you have to focus on what works for you
Not all intimate acts involve sexual activity, and not all sex feels intimate. If you’re hoping to maintain a close bond with your partner, your best bet is to focus on clear communication, compassion and mutual respect.
“It’s okay for sex not to be a big part of a relationship,” Mourikis said.
“It’s okay to have a lower level of desire and limited interest in sex. There are many ways to experience love, connection, closeness and pleasure, and sex is only one of these.”
The only sex rule you should be following is: do it as often as you and your partner like. Screw everyone else.