It isn’t uncommon for us to receive questions from married couples asking about a normal frequency for sex. Should they have sex once a week, twice a week, or every day?! We understand that it can be challenging for two people with different levels of desire for sex to find a sexual rhythm and routine that works for both of them, but instead of asking, “What is normal?” try asking, “What is healthy?” It’s important to focus not on what everyone else is doing, but on what is good for you and your spouse.
Research suggests that having sex at least once a week is beneficial for a couple’s marriage. While that could be a minimum goal, it can be hard to say how often is “normal” as it depends on a variety of factors. When a couple asks how often is healthy or how often is normal, they need to account for personality, desire level, nature of sexual encounters, and season of life. Remember that this isn’t about having sex simply for the sake of having sex, but about building and investing in intimacy. Here are some factors to consider as you think through frequency of sex in your marriage:
What kind of sex are you having?
In a recent Q&A video, Juli answered a question about “duty sex.” In this video, she mentioned that a cycle of “duty sex”– when one partner is engaging in sex based on a feeling of obligation– is something that in the long term could sabotage true intimacy. If you’re having sex three times a week out of a sense of duty and are not really connecting and having fun with your spouse, it might be healthier to have sex once a week instead and use the time to bond so that you can build intimacy together. It’s helpful to remember that sex in and of itself is not intimacy but something that can be used to build intimacy.
Understand the season.
While you were created as a sexual person, you are an integrated being. This means that factors outside of sexual drive can influence both how you feel about sex and how you engage in it. Think, for example, about the season of life that you’re in. If you’ve recently lost someone, you may be in a season of grieving where it’s more difficult to be playful and fun. It might make more sense to engage in physical intimacy in the form of hugs and hand holding for a time. Or, if you and your spouse are parents of a newborn or you’re pregnant and “normal” for you used to be several times a week, it may no longer be feasible to have sex at the same frequency. Health is an additional variable as sex is a lot easier to engage in when you don’t have chronic pain or take medications which affect libido.
Explore your motivation.
If you’re asking what’s normal, it might be good to ask yourself: why does this matter to me? Are you asking because you feel your sexual desires are not being met or because you feel your spouse’s desire level is unnatural? Are you asking because you know of other couples who are having sex more often or a lot less frequently and you worry that there’s something wrong with you and your spouse? If you’re asking the question because of concerns you have about yourself or your spouse regarding sexual appetite, this could be a great opportunity to connect with your spouse on a deeper level, discuss your differing needs and wants, and find out how you can minister to each other in this area.
Reframe the goal.
The goal of sex in marriage is intimacy. It’s about connecting, having fun, and sharing vulnerable parts of yourselves with only each other. This is nuanced, and because of this, it’s dependent on what you are like as people; your sexual desires; your well being emotionally, physically, and mentally; and the season of life you are in. Frequency might play into this, but only in terms of what practically works for you and your spouse. How often, comfortably and willingly, can you engage both physically and emotionally to connect with your spouse sexually? How often can your spouse do the same for you?
Ultimately, you don’t want to have sex to check off a box that you’ve met the minimum requirement, but in order to connect with your spouse so the two of you can grow closer together and build intimacy as a couple.
You may also find the following resources helpful:
- Grab a copy of Juli’s book, God, Sex, and Your Marriage, or go through our new God, Sex and Your Marriage curriculum with your spouse.
- Java with Juli #454: Mismatched in Sexual Desire? You May Be Closer Than You Think
- Java with Juli #443: Is Your View of Sex and Marriage Gift-worthy?
- What If I Want Sex More Than My Husband Does? (blog)
- Q&A: When I Don’t Feel Desire, Is “Duty Sex” OK?
Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash