When we first meet our partners, we're often so sexually attracted to them, both because of how hot we find them and the novelty of the relationship, that we're willing to slack off at work, leave the office early and shun other responsibilities just so we can clock in physical time with them under the sheets. As time passes and our lust develops into a strong connection and solid relationship — maybe even marriage — we still find our partners insanely attractive (I would hope), but we simply can't sustain that same constant sexual contact we once had. At some point someone has to go grocery shopping.
And that's when we get hit in the face left and right with nebulous information about how much sex we should actually be having, even though few of us are really having all that sex we think we should be having.
Because we have babies and toddlers and 8-year-olds who remember at 9 p.m. they have a science fair project due the next day.
Because the baby has a fever and we want nothing more than to dive headfirst into ugly, fuzzy pajamas at 6:30 p.m.
Oh, and it's not like there is scientific data out there that provides a minimum number of sexual encounters we should clock in per week in order to achieve optimum health and relationship security. Once a day keeps the divorce lawyers away — that sort of thing, backed by evidence, would be fantastic. Instead, a great many of us are feeling bad about ourselves over a number that doesn't exist.
Here's what the most comprehensive study performed in this field, published in 1994 by The University of Chicago and titled "The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States," tells us about others' bedroom behavior:
Almost 80 percent of American couples have sex a few times a month or more. (Of course, a "few" can be three, five or nine, depending on who you ask).
Thirty-two percent reported having sex two to three times a week.
Forty-seven percent reported having sex a few times per month.
More than a bit vague, right? And yet, this is a snippet of a conversation I recently had with Kelly R., a friend who has been married for eight years and has a 3-year-old son.
Her: "We're lucky if we have sex three times a week."
Me: "Does that bother you?"
Her: "Yeah. I don't think it's enough."
Me: "Because you want more?"
Her: "Not really. I'm OK with it. But I think it's supposed to be more."
The best thing to do in times of confusion and need? Rely on an expert.
Sex therapist Vanessa Marin says she doesn't like to come up with a set of "rules" when it comes to sex because every couple is different.
"Two times a week for one couple might be nowhere near enough, while it might be completely undoable for another couple," Marin said. "When I work with my clients, I try to help them discover what works best for their particular relationship. I ask questions like, 'What would be your ideal frequency, and what would be an acceptable frequency?' and 'What do you need to feel connected to each other?'"
Marin stresses that the important thing is that both people are prioritizing each other and their intimate relationship and that their partner feels like they are putting in the effort and making time for sex. The exact number of times you do it each week or month isn't as important as feeling desired and wanted by your partner.
So, if you're wondering whether your "number" is the right one, analyze why you're feeling that way. Are you just trying to keep up with the fictional Jones family — who are probably porn stars in your head? Or are your craving more intimacy and connection with your partner? Therein lies the answer.
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