A recent Reddit thread asked married people how frequently they had sex, and their answers ranged anywhere from every day for couples who had been together for 30 years, to once every two to three months for others.
Given the huge differences in answers, it’s impossible to tell what is normal and what is not.
Psychologist and founder of The Hart Centre Julie Hart says, that for couples with mismatched libidos, understanding what a ‘normal’ amount of sex is can be helpful.
“What’s considered in the normal range is often a question mark for people,” says Hart.
“I’ve certainly had people in my counselling practice who think that once every three months is normal, particularly when you’ve got children,” says Hart, “and their partner is just horrified at the thought of only being able to make love once every three months.”
Hart says research has shown couples with the healthiest – and happiest – sex lives have sex once or twice a week.
“If you leave it too long between having sex and making love, you tend to get out of the mode; you sort of forget,” says Hart.
She says it can be hard to remember what you used to like and also difficult to get back into the habit of having regular sex, so lovemaking becomes less and less frequent.
So what is it that prevents couples from having sex more regularly?
Children, says Hart, can unfortunately be a major factor.
“The research has shown that for about 70 per cent of all couples their sex life goes down at the birth of their first child, and it doesn’t really go up again until their last child leaves home,” says Hart.
Babies will keep you awake, while younger children are physically demanding – and the tiredness from having young children will impact your sex drive. While teens have more autonomy, says Hart, they are often quite stressful to raise, and in combination with younger kids they can also leave parents feeling exhausted.
However, Hart says that this shouldn’t be an excuse to neglect making time for intimacy with your partner.
“I think it is really crucial that you do [make time for sex] because the other research has shown in a good relationship your sex life or the sex part of it only makes up about 15 to 20 per cent of your satisfaction,” says Hart, “whereas if the sex is bad or non-existent, it creates something like 50 to 75 per cent of the problem.”
Luckily, Hart says there are a few things you can do to revitalise your sex life – even if you do have children, work and other commitments to attend to.
Yes, it can feel difficult or awkward, but Hart says you don’t even need to think about sex to start with.
“It is really important to keep your focus on having even just once a week love-making,” says Hart.
She suggests couples try giving each other massages to regain some regular intimacy.
“Where there’s no intercourse expected, it’s just nice to really become more in touch with each other physically that way,” says Hart.
“It’s more of a gentle reintroduction back into [sex].”
Start dating (each other) again
Hart says for many people their relationship becomes low priority, when their time is already spread thin by children and work.
However she says relationship maintenance is essential – and not just for your sex life - so having regular date nights are a good way to reconnect.
Even if you need to get a babysitter, Hart says date nights can really help your relationship and your sex life.
“You’ve got some time to say ‘our relationship is special’, giving it some time without kids, and that’s really important,” says Hart.
Talk about it
Once the initial whirlwind phase of experimentation is passed in their relationship most couples tend to stick to a routine, and Hart says the big problem with this is most people don’t talk about what they like.
“I’m always encouraging couples to ask more questions and try more things, and actually ask each other ‘what is it that turns you on?’” says Hart.
“Because often couples after that initial stage don’t keep exploring.”