How Much Sex Is Healthy?

We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto this week's question: how to know how much sex is healthy for you and your relationship.

Q: How much sex should my partner and I be having? We’re coming up on two years together, and things have definitely tapered off from almost every day to maybe once or twice a week. I’ve heard that’s common, but I still get nervous sometimes that we’re not having enough sex. I know every relationship is different, but aren’t there any guidelines for what’s healthy?

A: Thanks for the question! This is a really tricky one to answer because relationships are just so different. What feels healthy to one couple will feel like not nearly enough to another couple, and way too much to a third couple. There’s no mathematical equation for figuring it out, but there are several key considerations. Here are seven steps to discovering how much sex is healthy for your relationship.

1. Start With How Often You Want To Have Sex

One of the biggest factors in how often you and your partner might want to have sex is your own sex drives. This might sound incredibly obvious, but I think a lot of people get so wrapped up in what they should be doing that they forget about what they want to be doing.

Generally, how often do you feel the desire to have sex, without any influence from your partner? If you’re not sure, try keeping a log for a month. Put a note in your calendar on every day where you felt the desire to have sex. Sex drives are complicated, and can’t be condensed down to a fixed, stable number, but it’s still a good idea to get a general idea of where you’re at.

2. Look At How Much You Masturbate

Another way to get a sense of your own sex drive is to think about how often you masturbate. How much did you masturbate before you were in this relationship? How much do you masturbate now? There aren’t a lot of barriers to masturbation (for example, you don’t need to wait until you and your partner are both home from work), so how often you masturbate is a good indicator of what your natural sex drive is.

3. Think About What Makes You Happy

Another good factor to consider is when you feel the happiest in your relationship. What amount of sex helps you feel satisfied and connected to your partner? You might notice that you’re actually happiest when you and your partner don’t pressure yourselves to have sex every day. Or you might realize that sex almost always makes you feel better afterwards, even if you’ve had a horribly stressful day.

4. Consider Your Partner’s Needs

I think it’s important to start with your own needs first (especially if you’re the kind of person who tends to put others before yourself), but of course you have to consider your partner’s needs as well.

Have the two of you ever had a conversation about what feels right for your relationship? Does it seem like you’re roughly on the same page about how frequently you have sex, or does it seem like your partner has a significantly higher or lower sex drive than you? Like most other aspects of a relationship, how much sex to have is a compromise that needs to take both of your desires into consideration. A healthy amount of sex will fall somewhere between what the two of you each want.

Try simply asking your partner, “how much sex feels healthy for you?” Ask your partner to track their sex drive when you track yours.

5. Don't Compare The Amount To The First 6 Months

A lot of long-term couples compare their sex life to what it was like at the beginning of their relationship, but that’s just not a fair comparison to make. Everything is new and exciting at the beginning of a relationship, and you put a ton of time and effort into your sex life. We’ll talk more about effort in a bit, but the point is that it's usually pretty difficult to maintain the same kind of momentum you had during your honeymoon stage. Don’t hold that period up as the gold standard for your relationship.

6. Expect Sex Drive To Change

I understand the temptation to come up with a specific number of times per week or month that you should be having sex, but you have to remember that your sex life will go through ups and downs, just as the rest of your relationship will. There are going to be periods in your life and in your relationship when you will feel more desire, have more time to be intimate, or generally feel more connected to your partner.

There are also going to be times when you’re depressed, when you’re battling injury or illness, when you’re dealing with overwhelming stress, or when you’re not sure if you should stay in your relationship. Expect that you’ll go through occasional ruts. Keep trying to make the time for intimacy, but try to also cut yourself some slack when sex is the furthest thing from your mind.

7. Try To Aim For More Frequency Than You Desire

Up until this point, I probably haven’t said anything too controversial. But this tip might not sit so well with everyone. After years of working as a sex therapist, I’ve come to believe that we should all strive to have more sex than we might naturally desire. It’s important to honor our sex drives, but it’s also incredibly easy to fall into a slump. Ever noticed that the longer you go without sex, the easier it seems to just keep not having sex? It’s far too easy for inertia to set in, and for us to lose touch with our sex drive.

I think having a healthy sex life requires active effort. You have to push yourself to create quality time with your partner, to get more and more comfortable with your own sexuality, to try to seduce each other, and to show each other that you value your sexual relationship. The good thing about sexual inertia is that it works the other way too; the more frequently you have sex, the easier it seems to keep having sex. You’re reminded of the positive benefits of sex — the physical experience of pleasure, less stress, an improved mood, and more connection, just to name a few — more often, so you naturally start craving sex more frequently.

It’s not about forcing yourself to have sex when you really don’t want to, but it is about trying to stretch yourself to prioritize your sexuality. One simple tip in this regard is to try asking yourself, “do I feel open to sex?” instead of “do I want to have sex?” That question will help you realize you’re probably much more open to the possibility of sex than you realized.

Good luck!

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