“How often are we going to have sex?” is an important question for couples – but one that often causes disagreement. In fact, of all the sex-related arguments between men and women, the most common is about frequency. Stereotypically, he wants it a lot more, and she wants it less. However, in about 20% of the couples I see in my practice, the women want sex more than their guy. Often, one partner, or both, will try to use a statistic about “what is normal?” to bolster their individual argument – they think that having a choir of like-minded people behind them can sway their partner to their way of thinking. But, this approach does little to resolve the dispute – whatever is considered “normal” doesn’t really matter if it doesn’t work for you.
Here are a few other things to do – or not do – to navigate the tricky question of “how often?”:
1) Don’t make sex conditional. For instance, women will say, “I need you to talk to me so I feel like having sex.” He’ll respond, “Have sex with me so I can feel safe about talking to you.” Or a low-desire male might say, “I would want to have sex if only you weren’t angry all the time.” She replies, “I’m angry because we never have sex.” People believe that they cannot give their partner what is being asked for until their own needs are met. Hence, sexual struggles seem unresolvable because each partner is waiting for the other person to go first and offer what is needed. Give your partner what they need.
2) Don’t trade favors. Bartering for sexual favors by agreeing to accompany her to the ballet or take out the garbage, will eventually feel like payment instead of mutual desire. Or giving him oral sex in exchange for anything won’t be sexy. Instead, make sure that the workload of financial responsibility, child care, and household duties is fairly shared. Separate your intimate life from the list of duties and make it about seduction and couple time.
3) Do understand the sexual economics of supply and demand. If the higher-desire person increases their demand for sex, psychologically it can force their partner to feel their supply of sexual responsiveness dwindle. Ask for sex only when you feel desire, not because you think you need to keep asking to get to a yes. On the other hand, lower-desire partners should initiate occasionally in order to indicate interest and attraction as well as to relieve their partner’s anxious feelings over getting enough.
4) Don’t rely on averaging. If he wants it 5 days a week and she wants it once a month and they decide on once a week – more than likely he will feel starved and she will feel drowned in expectations. Resolving frequency issues cannot be done by taking an average. Open discussions about how each partner feels about sex, what it means and how they like it provides a deeper understanding and better agreement with both people feeling content. Vulnerability is the antidote to sexual power struggles.
5) Do work to keep your relationship sexual. Sex is what differentiates a marriage or couple partnership from a friendship. Without sex, our commitment grows colder. Sex eases the natural grind of daily living together and adds warmth that helps you forgive inevitable slights. Sex is an evolving aspect of the relationship and it can take considerable effort to keep it good – but it’s worth the effort.
If you and your partner repeatedly find yourselves at a dead end with this issue, seek out a sex therapist who can give you some strategies tailored specifically to your relationship.