Here's How Much Sex Couples Are Really Having


Dr. Amy Muise

People have a lot of questions when they learn that I study sex and relationships. One of the most common questions people ask is how often couples typically have sex. This question generally comes from the person's desire to learn if they are on par with other couples' sexual frequency.

A few large-scale studies in the U.S. provide some sense of how much sex couples are having in their relationships. Married couples report having sex, on average, seven times a month (slightly less than twice a week).
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But, not surprisingly, sexual frequency differs with age and relationship duration. And, it should also be noted that due to the self-reporting nature of these studies, it's possible that people aren't being totally honest about how much sex they are — or aren't — having.

In one study of 16,000 American adults, the typical participant reported having sex two to three times per month, but those under the age of 40 reported having sex slightly more often (once a week). Regardless of age, couples also tend to have sex more frequently in the early stages of their relationships. Among couples in the first two years of their relationships, 67% of gay couples, 45% of heterosexual couples, and 33% of lesbian couples had sex three times a week or more. The numbers drop off somewhat with time: For couples who had been together 10 years or longer, 11% of the gay couples, 18% of the heterosexual couples, and 1% of the lesbian couples were having sex that often. 
People may have good reason to worry about the amount of sex they are having in their relationships — having more sex is linked to positive outcomes. In a previous post we discussed how more frequent sex buffers against the negative consequences of neuroticism. In addition, both men and women report greater sexual satisfaction and higher levels of overall relationship happiness when they have more sex. But, this goes both ways: Satisfied couples have sex more often and frequent sex leads to increases in sexual satisfaction.

One problem with estimates of sexual frequency is that they often only consider the frequency of sexual intercourse. As we discussed previously, many different activities are considered sex (e.g., oral sex, genital touching) and expanding definitions of sex can be beneficial. In a recent study of long-term couples, the frequency of affectionate behaviors such as kissing, cuddling and caressing were also associated with increased sexual satisfaction for both men and women.
Also, if a person's desire to compare themselves to others motivates inquiries about the average sexual frequency, this could lead to negative consequences. People who frequently compare their relationship to others' feel less secure and less satisfied in their relationships.

So, the answer to the question of how often couples typically engage in sex is that it varies, and comparing your own sexual frequency to that of others may not be beneficial. Put another way, if you're happy with how often you're getting some, then it doesn't really matter what others do.
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