How often should couples be intimate to stay happy?
One simple answer is: as often as satisfies you and your partner(s). Another is, as frequently as possible, especially if we take “be intimate” to mean all the ways you can be intimate and not just sexy times.
The longer answer is, of course, a bit more complex.
More sex is not always better sex
If you just read Cosmo and the like (but you don’t because you’re a badass and here!), you’d think more sex equals better relationship. Mainstream media encourages us to have as much sex as possible, both overtly and subtly with stories that imply everyone is having more sex than you are.
The truth is more nuanced.
On average, couples in committed relationships have sex once a week. That has been tested and confirmed in numerous studies over several decades.
Beyond that, a series of recent studies with over 30,000 participants looked at the relationship among how often you have sex, your overall well-being, and your relationship satisfaction.
Here are the top takeaways. These are all correlations—they tell us that these factors are connected, not that one necessarily causes another.
- Your life satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and naturally occurring sexual frequency impact one another. Context matters.
- How often you have sex impacts your overall happiness if you’re in a relationship. If not, there’s no connection (i.e. it doesn’t make you more or less happy).
- If you’re satisfied in your relationship, how often you have sex impacts your overall well-being. If you aren’t satisfied in your relationship, there’s no impact—aka you can have all the sex you want or none and it won’t make you happier or sadder.
- There aren’t any relationship or happiness boosts from having sex more than once a week.
As the article says:
“The current set of studies help dispel the notion that sex has limitless benefits for well-being and, instead, indicate that at least for people in romantic relationships, sexual frequency is no longer significantly associated with well-being at a frequency greater than once a week […] one reason why greater sexual frequency is associated with greater well-being for people in relationships is that having more frequent sex (up to about once a week) is associated with greater relationship satisfaction.”
To maximize your well-being, have sex just enough to maintain an intimate connection
The exact number will vary person to person, relationship to relationship, and season to season. Ask yourself if once a week feels right for your sex life, relationship and, let’s be real, schedule.
If you want to have more sex, whether that’s bringing it up to once per week or more, give yourself permission to expand what sex and intimacy means. So often people only “count” penis-in-vagina sex (PIV) but there are so many more ways to be connect and gain the benefits of that intimacy.
Never let research negate your experience, and also stay open to it’s lessons. Science guides us but you’re the expert on your sexy times and body.
*Names have been changed.
Loewenstein, G., Krishnamurti, T., Kopsic, J., McDonald, D. (2015). Does increased sexual frequency enhance happiness? Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 116, 206–218. Google Scholar, Crossref, ISI
Muise, A., Schimmack, U., Impett, E. A. (2016). Sexual frequency predicts greater well-being, but more is not always better. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7 (4), 295-302. Google Scholar, CrossRef.