Dr. Jess on Sex: Toronto researcher tackles the “Are you getting enough?” question

Amy Muise uncovers the answer to sexual frequency needs

Studies suggest that couples who have sex more frequently are happier, but Amy Muise (PhD), now an assistant professor at York University, and her team found that this associated happiness maxes out at once per week. Muise explains that weekly sex seems to be enough to maintain the connection, and the happiness boost is really about prioritizing intimacy and sex — not about keeping score.

Once per week is in line with the North American average for married couples who report that they have sex “several times per month to weekly.” And although experts caution that quality is more important than quantity, addressing sexual frequency is essential, as desire discrepancies can lead to tension, strife and resentment. 

To overcome the experience of desire disparities, you need to talk openly about how often you want to have sex. This conversation is of paramount importance because most of us cannot accurately gauge how often our partner desires sex. If you want sex more often than your partner, you’re more likely to underestimate their interest and they’re likely to do the opposite and overestimate yours.

To address this disconnect, I suggest you undertake a simple exercise with your partner every six months: record how often you want sex on a piece of paper (e.g., once per week, once per month, once per hour). Be honest. Underneath your number, write down how often you believe your partner wants to have sex. Have your partner do the same and then compare notes. Have a laugh. Have a discussion. And then address strategies to meet somewhere in the middle.

As you search for common ground (this is key to creating sexual compatibility), you’ll want to ask and answer four questions: 

  1. What can we do when one is in the mood and the other is not (e.g., self-pleasure, toys, alternative forms of intimate connection, explore ways to get in the mood — this one is so important, as many of us only experience sexual desire after we’re aroused)?
  2. What can I do to adjust my interest in sex (e.g., exercise, meditate, positive self-talk, give directions, fantasize, masturbate)? 
  3. What can my partner do to support my interest in sex (e.g., share workload, increase affection, spend quality time, eroticize daily interactions, improve sexual technique and seduction)? 
  4. How can we indicate to one another that we’re (not) in the mood and how can we stay connected when sex is off the table?

Cultivating compatibility is a team effort, and you are, of course, not required to meet your partner’s sexual needs, but if you’re in a monogamous relationship, you likely want to find a mutually satisfying balance.