A question I very frequently get on the topic of sex advice for married couples is this: “How much sex is normal?” The reason for this is that very few couples agree on the desired frequency of sex. Although there is no way to generalize to all couples, the situation most frequently is that the male partner wants to have sex all the time, while the female partner feels she needs a break (often due simply to the stress of holding down a job outside the home, and sometimes bearing the bulk of cleaning, cooking, and laundry duties, as well).
Steven M Cohn, PhD, LMFT
The Portland Couples Counseling Center
1940 NE Broadway
Portland, Oregon 97232
One key contributing factor to frequency of sexual intimacy is the number of children in the home, particularly if they children are young and still require the parents’ time and energy in abundance.
Regarding sex advice for married couples, when women were asked to keep a diary of how many times they were having sex, researchers found a huge variation between couples, particularly among cultures. The highest rates were reported by European women, although rates tended to decline after the women reached the age of 50. Among Asian women, the frequency of marital intercourse declined starting at age 30. And among women from Africa and South America, there was not much change in frequency related to age.(1)
Although age has been shown to be a contributing factor to the frequency of sexual encounters, it is interesting to note that dementia does not play a large role. Although senility does have a major impact on many aspects of a marriage, it appears to have a very small impact on intercourse, when couples experiencing dementia in one or both partners are compared to couples who are not experiencing this particular aspect of aging. (2)
When asked about sex advice for married couples, I like to explore any religious beliefs the partners hold. A book published in early 2009 reviews the attitude of the Catholic Church towards marital intercourse throughout history. In this book, the writer asserts that the majority of church leaders have regarded sexual pleasure as sinful because, based on Adam and Eve’s original sin, sexual temptation endangers salvation. The Church has, for the most part, rejected, or at best only partially accepted human sexual dynamics.(3)
Further regarding sex advice for married couples, when studying marriages that remain unconsummated, researchers have found that the major reason is performance anxiety, particularly in conservative cultures where premarital sex is not the norm. Other causes of a lack of sexual intimacy in marriage include physical problems such as premature ejaculation or vaginismus (a condition where the muscles of the vagina clamp down, preventing penetration by the penis).(4)
Finally, another piece of sex advice for married couples that I normally give is that there is no such thing as “normal”. As this website () points out, even if both partners in a couple agree on the number of times per week they are having sex, they are likely to disagree on whether that is enough or too much. A Relationship Specialist may be able to help you and your partner agree on the frequency of intimacy that satisfies both of you.
(1)Schneidewind-Skibbe, Anja; Hayes, Richard D.; Koochaki, Patricia E.; Meyer, Joan; and Dennerstein, Lorraine. The Frequency of Sexual Intercourse Reported by Women: A Review of Community-Based Studies and Factors Limiting Their Conclusions. Journal of Sexual Medicine 5(2): 301-335. December 14, 2007.
(2)Eloniemi-Sulkava U, Notkola IL, Hämäläinen K, Rahkonen T, Viramo P, Hentinen M, Kivelä SL, Sulkava R. Spouse Caregivers’ Perceptions of Influence of Dementia on Marriage. International Psychogeriatrics 14(1): 47-58, 2002.
(3)Obach, Robert E. The Catholic Church on Marital Intercourse: From St. Paul to Pope John Paul II. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009.
(4)Badran, W.; Moamen, N.; Fahmy, I.; El-Karaksy, A.; Abdel-Nasser, T.M.; and Ghanem, H. Etiological Factors of Unconsummated Marriage. International Journal of Impotence Research 18, 458–463, 2006.
Steven M. Cohn, PhD is honored to have been featured on CNBC.com.
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