When It Comes To Sexual Frequency, More Isn't Always Better

Photographed By Lauren Perlstein.
We're often led to believe that the more sex we have, the better we'll feel, and the healthier our relationships will be. Too much of a good thing is wonderful, right? There's a limit to that logic, according to new research just published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. A team led by Amy Muise, PhD, a sexuality and relationships researcher at the University of Toronto-Mississauga, observed that the pressure on couples to have as much sex as possible can be stressful, and thus counterproductive. And the sweet spot for sex frequency is probably way lower than you'd expect.

The researchers proposed that the relationship between sexual frequency and well-being might be curvilinear — meaning that more sex does make couples more satisfied, but only up to a certain point. (This prediction drew from sex therapy's "good enough sex" model, which recognizes that both sex and realistic expectations about sex are important). Their findings, drawn from analysis of some 30,000 (heterosexual) Americans conducted over 40 years, confirmed these suspicions.

"Although more frequent sex is associated with greater happiness, this link was no longer significant at a frequency of more than once a week," Dr. Muise said. "Our findings suggest that it's important to maintain an intimate connection with your partner, but you don't need to have sex every day, as long as you're maintaining that connection."

Dr. Muise's team focused on people in established romantic relationships; they didn't find any correlation between sexual frequency and well-being among single people. They also didn't find any differences depending on study participants' age, gender, or length of relationship.

Of course, these findings don't indicate for sure that sex (up to the point of once a week) leads to happy relationships, or that happy relationships lead to more sex. Dr. Muise emphasizes that communication around intimacy is more important than frequency of sex; she points out that "it's important to maintain an intimate connection with your partner without putting too much pressure on engaging in sex as frequently as possible."

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