How much sex should I be having?

It’s easy to worry that there’s an ‘average’ we don’t meet, especially with the myth that people who are ‘good’ at sex automatically know what a partner wants. But couples must discuss what feels right in terms of quantity and quality together

Ammanda Major
Monday 01 June 2015 16:29 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


This is a question that many people spend a great deal of time thinking about. We want sex for lots of different reasons: lust, love, relief, ego and consolation, to name but a few. The upside to sex is that it can make us feel wonderful, fulfilled, needed and desired. But, like many things, where there’s an ‘up’, there’s usually a ‘down’ and feeling pressured, obliged, used or just plain not interested are all things likely to make us question what we want from sex and how often we should be having it.

All of this points to the perennial question of ‘what’s normal’? Therapists will tell you that what’s normal is usually whatever you want that to mean. But when we are bombarded with so much information and so many images of sex in the media, it’s easy to find ourselves worrying that there’s an ‘average’ that we don’t meet.

Somehow, many of us have convinced ourselves that not only should we be having lots of sex, but that it should be ‘mind-blowing’ every time. Relate therapists often see clients who have felt pressured by old stereotypes such as the notion that men are always on the look-out for sex and ‘up for it’ at any time, or the idea of that women are unable to ask for their sexual needs to be met.

Rather than ‘how much should I be having?, perhaps a better question to ask ourselves is ‘how much would I like?’ The moment we put ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ into the equation, we start to apply the pressure that so many people ultimately find is responsible for disappointing and unfulfilling sexual experiences. It’s not only important to ask yourself this question, but also to be ready to work with your partner’s ideas about their own needs too. But that in itself can prove difficult and angst-inducing for some people.

Talking about sex with a partner can be tricky, no matter what stage your relationship has reached. Unfortunately there’s a common myth that people who are ‘good’ at sex automatically know what a partner needs and wants sexually. But everyone’s different, so taking the time to explore together what feels right in terms of quantity and quality is usually a very good basis for developing a sex life that meets both sets of needs most of the time.

Having a different sex drive to your partner doesn’t have to cause an issue between you. Many of us find it easy to compromise without feeling rejected by our other half, or indeed feeling pressurised by them when we might not feel like getting down to it. When you’ve had a fulfilling sex life up until now, it can be very difficult to accept that for whatever reason, a partner no longer wants as much sex, or maybe wants more than previously. Repeated rejections or demands for sex can soon create resentment and bitterness. If you find yourself in this situation, talk about it. The sooner you do, the less chance there is for the normal ebbs and flows of a sexual relationship to become habitual and more difficult to broach.

Many people find what they get from sex changes over time. The need for thrilling (and sometimes fumbling) exploration, ‘conquests’, loving commitment, comfort and connection - and not necessarily in that order- will often influence how much sex we would like at different stages in our lives. But perhaps the most important thing is to make sure our sexual experiences are not defined by external pressures, which can quietly eat away at our confidence. By keeping those negative thoughts about what you ‘should’ be doing at bay and focusing on what feels OK for you at the moment, sex is likely to be more enjoyable and carefree. Whether it’s once in a blue moon or three times a day and anywhere in between, it’s really about feeling that you and a partner are on the same page sexually or at least can talk openly about it when you aren’t.

Ammanda Major is a Relate Counsellor and Sex Therapist

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