Real life can be busy. And with hyper-sexual images and storylines dominating shows and movies, couples often ask: Should we be having more sex?
Though people are quick to compare themselves against others, there is no magic number when it comes to how often you should have sex with your partner, according to Mary Andres, a professor at the University of Southern California, and co-coordinator of marriage and family therapy program.
Here are a few things sex therapists say to think about next time you're questioning your sex life:
How much sex should a couple have?
A 40-year study that surveyed more than 30,000 Americans, found in 2015 that couples who have sex once a week are the happiest. So, should couples put a number on how often they hop in the bed?
Andres said couples need to understand how often each person needs to have sex to be fulfilled in the relationship.
“Some people want to have sex every day, and they are,” she said. “Other people have other priorities, so sex isn’t on the top of their list, so they are having it less.”
The primary problem for many couples is not the frequency of sex, but how they talk about it, according to Heidi Crockett, a licensed psychotherapist in Florida and an (AASECT) American Association of Sexuality educators, counselors and therapists, certified sex therapist.
"If both people in the couple have a general desire to want to please their partner and participate in the relationship and talk about things openly, usually something can be negotiated that can satisfy both people," Crockett said.
Is your hyper-plugged-in life hurting your sex life?
Today couples have an onslaught of distractions keeping them from having sex, Andres said.
“A lot more people are connected to devices— if they are watching videos, TV in the bedroom, texting or updating Twitter feeds, it's detrimental to their sex lives,” Andres said.
She compares refreshing a Twitter or Facebook feed to gambling.
“That immediate gratification can be more compelling than let’s take the time to get in the bed and have sex,” she said. “Sex may have longer gratification and might have a bigger payoff, but people are going for fast and easy.”
She said people can reclaim their bedroom and use it not to update Twitter, but to spend time with their partner.
Too tired for sex? Join the club.
Particularly for couples with children or stressful jobs, sometimes the idea of having sex is too much to bear, but having sex can have positive effects on your life.
Andres said sex does several things for people:
1. Sex releases endorphins that make you feel good and increase the feeling of closeness with your partner.
2. Sex can clear the mind. Andes said if you have a “noisy brain,” sex reallocates your blood flow to your genitals and can help clear your thoughts.
But while sex intellectually makes sense, when you’re really tired it’s hard to follow through, she said. If one person is exhausted, couples should have a conversation about it.
“'Lets make this work, don’t want to put this on you when you are already depleted and think I am being selfish, but I also want to have the opportunity to connect with you – and remind ourselves why we are doing this,’” Andres said.
If a partner wants to discuss issues within the relationship or the frequency of sex, it's important to carefully plan how they address the subject, according to Crockett.
"You say, 'I am interested in talking more about our sex life but I would like to set up a time so make an appointment for it,'" she said. "There are introverts and extroverts, so some like to process out loud and some like to have information ahead of time and think about it before they come to the table."
Conversations about sex can be awkward, so it's important to be aware of your partners needs, she said.
You don’t have to have physical intercourse to satisfy your partner
Andres said couples can figure out what works for them when it comes to satisfying their partner’s needs.
If one partner wants to have sex three times a week, and the other doesn’t, other sex acts can act as a substitute for actual intercourse.
“You can expand what the idea of that definition is, so you find something that is mutually beneficial to both,” she said.
Schedule sex like you would any other activity, and show up
While the idea of romantic, spontaneous sex may be what many picture, it’s hard to find time for sex when people are consistently hard-pressed for time.
“We have to schedule sex like everything else,” Andres said. “If you are scheduling going to a class, you show up turn off your phone, leave it in your car… People have to prioritize their sex lives the way they prioritize other things.”
Andes said many people think a weekly date night will amp up romance, but many times couples end up in a “food coma” and don’t have sex afterward.
“Have the babysitter take the kids out, have sex and then go out to dinner,” Andres said. “It works.”
When is it time to see a counselor?
Andres said people should seek help if they feel rejected or like their partner is not listening to their needs sexually.
She said many couples might try to learn how to be more open with their partner about their needs by reading a book or watching a video on connecting.
Crockett said sex therapy or counseling can be beneficial for couples who want to rebuild their sex lives and those who are already satisfied.
"Even couples that are happy with their sex life could see a therapist, because they will ask questions the couple may not have discussed or ideas they might not have known," she said. Going to a therapist is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your sex life."