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The Magic Number: Is There an Ideal Amount of Sex for Relationship Bliss?

woman lying on a bed in her underwear with her hand on her thigh

I obsessed over how many times my partner and I should be doing it per week so you don’t have to.

What’s one of my biggest fears since I started dating? Will we get sick of each other?

It’s a question I asked my first college boyfriend (the answer was YES) and one I never feel the need to ask my current boyfriend of five years. We’re compatible in most every aspect of our lives, so the worry just isn’t in the forefront of my mind anymore. Unfortunately, what’s taken its place is worrying about the frequency of sex we’re having. (As a reminder, the providers at your nearest The Right Time health center can help you address any concerns or worries you may have about sex, as well as provide access to any method of birth control for free or at a low-cost.)

We bought a house together last year. Before that, we were each living in our parents’ basements, so any sex drought could easily be blamed on family upstairs. When we suddenly had some privacy, my brain started swirling. I worried that sharing EVERYTHING, including a bathroom with no fan for noise distraction, would lead us to fall into a routine of monotonous, dutiful sex.

The anxiety doubled when I took the bait and started clicking on articles like “The Best Number of Times Per Week to Have Sex with Your Partner” (once per week) and “The Truth About How Much a Happy Couple Should Have Sex” (two to three times per week). Of course, I only paid attention to the highest number. Some weeks, we would only have sex once or twice. WERE WE DOOMED TO FAIL?

During the peak of my sex-frequency anxiety, I would go to bed worrying about whether my partner would want to have sex. If he did, I would be so busy worrying about the volume of our sex that I wouldn’t even be in the mood. It was a losing battle.

Though having let this anxiety get to me felt embarrassing, I knew it was time to bring it up with my partner. I asked him if he thought we had sex enough. As I expected, he said he was happy with our sex frequency. He asked how I felt. I thought about it and realized I was happy too.

Nothing was wrong with our sex life—I had simply allowed myself to be sucked into a clickbait world where the magic number for happiness is the same for everyone.

It’s not just me

I know I’m not the only person who worries about this. A single Google search of “best number of times to have sex” yielded a whopping 268,000,000 results. In an informal survey I found, five of the eight respondents said a happy couple should have sex three to five times per week, but six of the eight said they personally only need to have sex zero to two times per week to be happy.

One respondent thought the pressure put on couples by media could be harmful.

“I think the media shows that people should be having sex all the time, and if they don’t it means that they’re not happy. In many shows today when a couple isn’t having sex, or when a partner refuses to have sex, it means that they are not happy and one of them is very likely to cheat. I think that this is very harmful.”

Another mentioned the effect of porn on expectations.

“I think music videos and porn pressure people to have sex. It made me feel at least that I should have sex and it should be perfect every time. I think it is harmful because I went in expecting my partner and I to climax right away.”

A third elaborated on the stress of expectations in general.

“As someone who is disabled and has to expend a lot of energy to have sex regularly, the pressure to have a particularly active sex life can be really difficult to deal with.”

So, I asked an expert about the magic number

When I asked Yvonne Piper, a nurse practitioner and sex educator, if there is a “magic number” of times a couple should have sex per week, she said we needed to rephrase the question entirely. “The notion that happy couples ‘should’ have sex a specific number of times per week is problematic,” she explains. “I’d recommend reframing this as ‘have sex as often as it makes you and your partner(s) happy.’ For some folks, that means once a month. For others, that means at least once per day. Find out your happy number and go for it!“ And according to research, that happy number can change over time.

Her advice? Don’t let the expectations of others get to you. She says, “…if you are perfectly happy having sex zero to two times per week, that’s great. Don’t let other people’s perception of the ‘right’ amount of sex influence what works for you.”

Now, when I see the headlines “Click here for the PERFECT number of times to do it in order to be happy and successful!” I just smile and keep on scrolling.

Updated December 2019

Kelsey Misbrener is the Associate Editor for Solar Power World. She’s a feminist and animal lover who lives in Northeast Ohio with her partner, two rabbits and a black cat named Wanda. She spends her free time volunteering for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio and advocating for women’s rights.

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