How much sex is normal?

Last updated 10:22 05/02/2014

SEX FACTOR: Do you rate the success of your relationship on how often you have a roll in the hay?

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Two of the most common questions I am asked by my clients are "How much sex is normal?" and "What is the average amount of sex that other couples are having?".

These sound like simple questions, but there are no right answers.

After all, a couple's sex life is affected by so many different factors: age, lifestyle, each partner's health and sex drive, and most importantly the quality of their relationship.

I encourage them to decide what amount is right for them because there's no such thing as "normal".

This issue often comes up when the couple has what is called mismatched libidos.

If she likes to have sex four times a week and he only once or twice, they want to find out who is the abnormal one.

It is actually quite common for a couple to have different levels of desire and it does not generally reflect a lack of love.

Can we really expect to meet somebody who satisfies all the requirements we want in a relationship and who also has exactly the same sex drive?

In the case of mismatched libidos, unfortunately the partner who wants sex more frequently will usually feel rejected and unwanted. Always having to make the first move can be demoralising.

However, the partner who wants sex less frequently can often feel pressured and inadequate. This can result in a vicious circle where they often start avoiding sex all together.

It sounds unsexy but I advise my clients to schedule sex so the low-libido partner doesn't feel pressured and the higher-libido partner doesn't feel rejected.

A Kinsey Institute research paper based on psychological studies and surveys concluded that 18 to 29 year olds have sex an average of 112 times a year, 30 to 39 year olds an average of 86 times and 40 to 49 olds an average of 69 times a year.

Still, averages mean there are some people above and some people below any given number, and they don't help decide the question of what is right for an individual.

I also believe that people who answer sex surveys like to overestimate their performances, to feel better about themselves!

In my experience there are happy couples who have sex every day, have sex once a week or once a month.

It's not a matter of quantity but quality. More important than the frequency of sex is how satisfied couples are with their sex lives.

Less sex doesn't automatically equate to less love, happiness and fulfilment, especially for couples who have been together for a long time. For them companionship, trust and mutual reliability are often more important than lots of steamy sex.

Another problem of estimating sexual frequency is that people often only consider sexual intercourse as having sex.

Many other activities can be considered sex, such as oral sex, genital touching, mutual masturbation or just affectionate behaviour such as kissing, cuddling, caressing and holding hands.

All these activities are also associated with higher sexual satisfaction for both men and women.

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Does frequent sex make us happier?

Associate professor Tim Wadsworth of the University of Colorado Boulder published a paper in February last year titled "Sex and the Pursuit of Happiness: How Other People's Sex Lives are Related to our Sense of Well-Being".

He found that people reported steadily higher levels of happiness as they reported steadily higher sexual frequency. But people who believed they were having less sex than their peers were unhappier than those who believed they were having as much or more.

He concluded: "Having more sex makes up happy, but thinking that we are having more sex than other people makes us even happier."

Most sex therapists agree that couples having sex less than 10 times a year could be labelled a "sexless" relationship.

A lack of sex doesn't always mean the relationship is in trouble, as long as both partners are satisfied with the frequency.

But in my experience, when couples stop having sex their relationship can be overtaken by feelings of anger, disappointment and detachment which can lead to infidelity or divorce.

Lovemaking is a sensitive area to discuss as there is a fear of

hurting each other's feelings, but I believe having sex is important: it's like glue that keeps us together. If your relationship is in trouble, getting help when you are struggling is extremely important.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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