How Much Sex Is Normal?

sex normal - Dollar Photo unhappy woman lying in bed stressedSo, you haven’t had much sex with your spouse lately, huh? How much sex is normal? Well, one in five couples are living in “sexless” marriages, sex experts say, meaning having sex fewer than 10 times a year. And one-third of married couples struggle with the problem of mismatched sexual desire. It’s the main reason couples seek counseling. And in Silicon Valley, [California] where couples are working long hours to pay high mortgages or are desperately searching for jobs during a recession, fatigue and stress only make matters worse.

“I’ve been married 10 years. There were times when once in three months was a good thing,” said a 33-year-old Santa Clara County employee who didn’t want her name used. “It’s feeding the kids, getting them to bed, all after putting in a full day and commuting. I have a ‘no-sex-after-8 o’clock’ rule. When I crawl into bed, I want to go to sleep.”

Low Sex Drive

Low sex drive is such a problem,” said Al Cooper of the San Jose Marital and Sexuality Centre. It’s considered the “common cold of sexual issues of the new millennium.”

Whether sex drives are lower in general now than in years past is uncertain. But one thing is sure, Cooper said: “Women are complaining more.” When it comes to seeking counseling, it’s the women who are dragging the men into sex therapy offices. And in these instances, contrary to popular belief, it’s the husbands with low desire. “In our society, it’s more culturally acceptable for the woman to have no sex drive,” Cooper said. “When the man has no sex drive, it’s more upsetting to both of them.”

Sexless marriages seem to be the constant talk these days. You hear it from Oprah and Dr. Phil (who calls it an “undeniable epidemic”) to numerous books climbing the bestseller charts, including “The Sex-Starved Marriage” by Michele Weiner Davis. New York Magazine wrote a recent story about “Generation Sexless.” Young New Yorkers are so busy with their careers and demanding toddlers they have little time or desire for sex.

How Much is Normal?

So, how much sex is “normal?” Sex experts are reluctant to quantify how much sex is enough sex. (It could make some couples feel wholly inadequate, and some couples get along just fine without much sex.) But while fewer than 10 times a year is considered sexless, having sex once or twice a week is considered average.

“Unlike vitamins, there are no daily minimum requirements,” said Weiner Davis, who wrote The Sex-Starved Marriage. “If both spouses are satisfied with having a sex-lite marriage, that’s great. However, it’s much more often the case that couples are polarized. It’s normal that one person is unhappy with the quality and quantity of their sex life and the other is saying, ‘What’s the big deal? Get a life.'”

Only 40% of married couples say they’re very satisfied with their sex lives, Weiner Davis said. While medical problems and some medications can cause loss of desire —including some antidepressants and some birth control pills —most problems revolve around differing and unfulfilled expectations.

Heather and Jarad, who have been married for 5 years and have a 6-month-old daughter, say it’s hard to squeeze in time for sex, or to even work up the desire, in their hectic lives. The couple, who commute to San Jose from Hollister each day, say they’re lucky to have sex twice, maybe three times, a month. “It’s the game of trying to slip it in when the baby’s sleeping,” Jarad said. “It’s a fight for time.” “There are times when I may want to. Perhaps he may not want to,” Heather added. “It’s important for me to have that time to remember I’m not just a mother, I’m his wife.”

Changes in What is Normal

Dramatic changes in men’s and women’s roles over the past decades also have altered expectations of marriage —and corresponding feelings about sex.

“I look back to my parents’ generation. They had it a little easier. Their roles were carved out,” Weiner Davis said. “Now in relationships, although we have a lot more freedom, it’s hard, because everything is up for grabs. Who takes the garbage out? Who gets up with the baby? In a sense we have to invent our marriages. And with that freedom comes conflict.”

In addition to stress and exhaustion, experts say, anger and resentment can build to the point where sex stops. Other factors in sexless marriages include subverting one’s sex drive to, say, pornographic Internet sites or affairs with other people. “I saw a doctor last week who wasn’t having sex with his wife but was looking at pictures of big-breasted women on the Internet,” Cooper said. “We see this a lot in the valley.”

Negotiate the Times

In general, however, a couple’s problems are often less about sex, per se, than getting to the sex, Cooper said. No couple’s willingness for sex at any given time lines up perfectly, he said. The key is how well a couple negotiates the times when one initiates and the other refuses.

“If it becomes a major battle every time, the person with the lower sex drive feels constantly barraged and harassed about sex. The one with the high sex drive feels constantly deprived, and the fights get more intense each time,” Cooper said. “We see there that the sex just drops away.” And when the sex stops, often the casual affection stops. The hand-holding, the laughing at each other’s jokes, the sitting next to each other on the couch all stop. When relationships become that icy, they risk infidelity and, ultimately, divorce.

About half the population needs to make a real effort to feel desire, Weiner Davis said. A reluctant spouse must make a “decision for desire,” she said. “If you wait for the feeling to sort of wash over you, when the dogs are out of the house, the phones are not ringing, the kids are in bed, you’re never going to have sex.”

Couples need to put as much energy into their sex lives as their job and children, she said. Set the mood early in the day with simple flirtations around the house, a patting on the rear end, complimenting the spouse’s appearance. And of course, avoid bickering before bedtime. Couples with more deep-seated problems should seek counseling.

Is it Normal for you Not to Be in the Mood?

“I wish I had a dollar for everyone who said ‘I wasn’t in the mood when I started, but I really got into it,'” she said. “One of the best ways to make it happen is to be receptive to your spouse’s advances.”

It’s advice that the 33-year-old woman with the “no-sex-after-8” rule didn’t take. She and her husband are separating. “The world is just very busy,” she said. “You need to have a two-income household. You pay a price for it.”

This article came from The Mercury News— Feb. 14, 2003. It was titled, Is it the New Epidemic? written by Julia Prodis Sulek. It’s not written from a Christ-follower’s view point but we think it’s very sound advice.

We, at Marriage Missions, don’t feel that God would have us “pay the price” of sacrificing our marriages because we’re too “busy” to have sex. Scripturally we feel that God wants us to work with each other. That is as long as it doesn’t go against scriptural grounds, to accommodate each other’s sexual needs.

Scriptures Concerning Sex

The scriptural basis we see for this can be found in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 where it says,

“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone, but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Below is an additional article on what is normal in how often you and your spouse make love. It also addresses some of the issues mentioned above, and gives suggestions to help you in the ways you may need it:

Sexual Frequency in Marriage: 3 Common Questions

You can also read about other specifics on this matter in the SEXUAL ISSUES topic. Just take your pick of what you want to read.

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Filed under: Sexual Issues

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668 responses to “How Much Sex Is Normal?

  1. Me and my spouse also have major problems when it come to our sex life. My decreased sex drive started when I had this great fantasy that my husband would learn how to show affection and romance. The problem started right after our marriage. I learned 2 months into our marriage my husband was having an affair and to top it all off, he expected sex literally everyday while this affair was going on! I was completely turned off because that wasn’t the only indiscretion during our early years of marriage.

    As time went by my anger turned to bitterness that affected me on a level I believe he will never understand. As a result our marriage has suffered a serious blow in the sex department. Sometimes I feel like an 80 year old lady and I’m only 33. All my dreams of love making and baby making I longed to do with my husband has turned into a nightmare! I desire romance and affection.

    1. I know this is an old post, but if your husband was cheating on you two months after you got married, and you let him get away with it, you really shouldn’t expect much from him as far as romance. He doesn’t respect you enough to romance you… and, apparently he doesn’t really have to, as you will stay with him pretty much no matter what. Not sure how long you have been married, or what culture you are in, but you need to realize your situation will never get any better just from waiting for it to change. Your husband is not going to change on his own. You need to decide if you are able to seek help together for fixing your marriage, or if you’re able to live with him the way he is in case he never changes his ways.

      Our personal happiness should not be a Christian’s focal objective in life; however, unnecessary suffering and misery adds nothing to our Christian identity. An unhealthy marriage between two “Christians” that lacks mutual respect and honor can speak a more damaging witness to culture than a person’s out of wedlock sin can. (Staying in a miserable marriage of disrespect out of Christian duty may not always be the godly thing to do.) Your situation sounds very lonely. I hope you find some resolution to it, whichever path you choose.

  2. I am Indian. I believe my situation is typical of an Indian marriage. My wife is very, very, very rarely interested in sex, while I am a bit more amorous. She is quite the nag, and is constantly badgering me to take care of this, and buy that, and fix this, blah, blah blah. She only cooks what she likes to eat. She seems to be more interested in talking to her parents and siblings than with her own family. She is very kind and caring in the way she behaves with them, but extremely harsh and angry when she deals with us. Everything is nice and quiet and peaceful at home, and then she walks in from work and just starts barking like a rabid dog at all of us. When she is not barking, she is napping, or yakking with her parents or other naggy cohorts in the local Indian community. I know it’s pathetic, but for me, a little bit of sex would make up for all this. I put up with it because the kids are still small. Not sure what I will do when they fly the coop.

  3. I’ve been married 4 years and have a 3 year old child. Ever since we got married, sex diminished and almost disappeared from my life. My husband is just not interested (we didn’t have this problem when we were dating).

    When we first got married, we had sex on average once a week, then it moved to once a month (if I initiated, sometimes I got turned down or he wouldnt participate. He would just lay there like a doll) so I stopped initiating cause I couldn’t handle the rejection. Many times I tried to talk to him about it, but he doesn’t want to discuss it and sometimes gives me the silent treatment for days for bringing it up. With time it became once every 4 months… in the last 2 years we had sex once.

    He never gets dressed in front of me… locks the bathroom door when he is in there. If I get dressed in the room where he is, he turns the other way so not to see me. I find this so strange and depressing! Is this really how it is supposed to be? Other than little pecks on the lips to say hello and goodnight, he hasn’t kissed me in the past 3 years, doesn’t hug, and doesn’t show any signs of affection. The last time he told me he loved me was 3 years ago when I gave birth. If I tell him, he doesn’t respond so I stopped telling him also. Once, when I asked him if he loves me, he answered: ‘I could love you more or I could love you less, it depends on you’…

    At the drop of a pin, he closes himself up and gives me the silent treatment (not 1 word) for days, weeks… so I’m constantly making sure not to upset him.

    I’m really lost, don’t know what to do… I don’t believe that this is God’s intentions on marriage, but at the same time I know that God hates divorce so what is one to do in this situation? Please help.

    1. Hi Linda, You have a real problem here. I’m no expert on this… all I can tell you is the thoughts I have on this, after consulting with my husband (so I could get a man’s perspective), and as I’m praying about it. The thoughts that came to mind as I read your comment were the same ones my husband suggested. They aren’t easy ones for you to consider (although I’m thinking you’ve probably already imagined them). Your husband is either getting it somewhere else (female or male), or he’s into some type pornographic behavior (which is changing his biochemical needs from the real to the unreal), and/or he’s using all of this to gain some type of control. It COULD also be a physical thing with him –low testosterone levels, or he’s being plagued by psychological issues (because of past abuse). I’m not sure. Those seem to be the most logical reasons we can imagine.

      I HIGHLY suggest you pray about this asking for added wisdom and insight (that you hadn’t received previously), and also find a “pro-marriage” counselor to help you process and work through all of this, and possibly giving you suggestions. Please go into the “Marriage Counseling” topic on this web site, which will better explain why a pro-marriage counselor is important. If you don’t find a marriage-friendly counselor, it could be the end of your marriage. We’ve seen this time and again. Please read up on it so you know what you should be looking for in finding someone to help you.

      Even if this will be tough for you financially and otherwise, I believe it is vital. The reason is that too many people look for a counselor when they have all but given up and they don’t have a shred of love and care left for their spouse. At that point it’s very difficult to resurrect that which is dead. It’s not impossible (especially when God is in it), but it’s not very likely because of the freedom of choice we have as humans. Not only do I recommend it because of the sanctity of your marriage, but also because you have a little 3 year old who will be VERY negatively affected if this type of behavior is allowed to drag on, not to mention how vulnerable this leaves your heart because you aren’t receiving the affirmation and the tenderness of making love to your husband. All of this adds to confusion and causes all kinds of problems (which you know) and possible future problems. There needs to be some type of action, some type of stop to this dysfunctional marital behavior. This isn’t “normal” and it needs to be dealt with in healthy ways sooner, rather than later, because the longer it draws on the more damage this will do to your marriage. I hope and pray for you that you are able to find the help you need and that your husband will, as well. This is not good for either of you or for your child who depends upon his or her parents to take care of their needs in healthy ways so he or she can grow up in a good and loving environment.

      1. Hello Cindy, Thank you for your response. The first thing that I thought of a few years back when the intimacy diminished was that he was getting it somewhere else… I asked him if he was but he got angry with me and said that trust was the basis of marriage and if I didn’t trust him, we didnt have anything to do together. But he didn’t give any explanation as to why he has no sexual desires for me. If there is a medical reason for it (which I doubt) or past history of abuse (which he has never talked about) I am open and willing to get help with him so we can fix this problem together but he seems to think that he has no problem and if only I changed, our marriage would be better (but doesn’t tell me what it is he doesn’t like about me so I can have an idea on what I need to improve).

        I suggested many times that we go to counselling but he’s not interested, says that I can go if I want to fix my issues but he doesn’t have any. Also, he doesn’t believe in God so it makes it even harder.

        I have prayed about it, fasted about it, cried to God to show me what it is I need to do but things are not changing… He doesn’t recognize the wrong he is doing. Right now he’s been giving me the silent treatment for the past 24 days. Last year he gave me the silent treatment for 6 weeks for something really silly and at that point I wanted to leave but stayed because I didn’t want and still don’t want my son to grow up with separated/divorced parents… but I’m dying inside… It’s horrible.

        1. Linda, This SEEMS like a control issue, but I’m not sure. Something’s up with this and it appears to be MUCH more about him than about you. You really need to talk to a marriage-friendly counselor for YOUR sanity and for help so you are NOT “dying inside.” That’s a terrible place to be –no spouse should put another in this place. My heart goes out to you. I pray God leads you to a wise counselor.

    2. Hi Linda, What a sad story I have read today. I so wish I could help you. You sound like a very reasonable person who is stuck in an awful situation. My thoughts (and like Cindy I’m no expert) are that he has some kind of psychological issue he is not dealing with. This behaviour is not normal and requires help from a professional. The other thing that comes to mind is that perhaps he is a closet homosexual and only married for ‘show’. I know this isn’t nice to say but this is not normal. Your son will absolutely forgive you if you choose to leave this man. You feel sad for your son with divorced parents but having a mother who is dying inside is much worse… I assure you. I too will pray for you.

      1. Hello Bridg, thank you for your post and prayers. It is hard to be a Christian and be in this situation because I believe that nothing is ipossible to GOD and that with enough prayers and fasting, He could change my husband’s heart. That nothing is hard enough for GOD. He has the perfect plan for my life and that He knows why I’m going through this… Am I being foolish?

        1. Hi Linda. I read your post few days ago and had to really think about it for few days. I am no expert but I have a feeling that your husband might be an asexual. The symptoms and signs are there. Many asexuals do and can have sex but in their minds don’t want it, need it, desire it and only have sex to belong or to fit in.

    3. I would love for my wife to initiate it. We have 4 kids but my 3 come to me on the weekend while her son lives with us. She us very inconsistent and it just drives me insane.

  4. Isn’t it interesting that, although our culture is literally dripping with sex (internet pornography, movies, tv, magazines books, etc.), more marriages are suffering from a lack of sexual intimacy than ever before? This is happening both within the Christian community and in the secular realm. Although stress and busy schedules are much to blame, I can’t help but think that marriages in general (whether Christian or not) are under attack as a direct result of our so-called “sexual liberation.” Sometimes I think of how nice it’d be to go back in time and live in simpler days.

  5. My wife brought this issue up to me today, before she left to go out for a few hours. It has given me plenty of time to think about it. I do feel that my wife takes her emotions to the extreme at times (we all do) and so she felt hurt just by the idea that this could be happening to us. I assured her that nothing was wrong. I feel like marriage is a constant battle sometimes, which is probably why people say “successful marriages take work.” I feel very confused by my wife at times. Today it is… “I don’t feel like we are having enough sex.” Other days I get…”I feel like that is all you want to do”

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that both the above statements have their warrant within their context. So, context is very important. There are times when I want sex a lot, but I am not as affectionate or romantic in other areas, which is important for her. There are other times when I am, for some reason, just not feeling in the mood (this particular situation hardly ever lasts longer than a month). I am thankful for this ministry, because I at least know that I am not alone in this struggle and that maybe some of you have some advice that would be helpful. Thanks

  6. After fifteen years of married life, I am still wondering what happened, as it just struck me out of the blue! Before our marriage, my husband and I made wonderful love, almost daily, never less than four times a week for a whole year and a half. Then, eight weeks after our wedding, the man became cold and distant.

    It is now fifteen years later. If we have a ten minute session once every two months, then it is a lot! I have asked, cried, fought, ignored and even suggested marriage counseling, as I have been looking for the fault at my door! I am a healthy, warm-blooded women with a wonderful, soft-natured husband, whom I adore. He is an excellent father for our two children (mine from a previous marriage). He helps around the house when I am very busy, and he treats me with utmost respect. He says that he loves me and that he has never been disloyal, which I do not doubt for a second. My question is just this: why would a nice man change so suddenly, shortly after our marriage? What could have happened for him to become so cold towards me in bed??

  7. I’ve just gotten past a teary eyed argument with my husband this evening. I tried to show him attention and he accused me of being insincere. I was making an effort to try and make our evening light and joyful. He has just returned from a business trip and we do have very opposite sex drives. It seems that over the years it was similar to others here, I was so busy with the kids and housework that it seemed I had little left to give.

    Furthermore, the lack of attention towards me at times, for other than for sex, didn’t help to soften my desire. I felt more obligated, less respected and at times out right used. No talking, little interaction, a great deal of sports television all while I took care of our kids and home. Little acknowledgement and lack of kindness and affection over the years seemed to drain my desire.

    As the years have gone by, 25 now, I have struggled to maintain any sense of intimacy due to a lack security and trust. It seems the lack of security, intimacy and trust were greatly important to me, more so than even I understood. When I learned that my husband was not truthful about having lost his job or how he spent money it began to wane even more so. I wouldn’t leave him though, because I believe in my vows.

    He hasn’t physically cheated but he has not been honest about other issues and it ended up costing us a lifetime of accumulation, including our home. My will is so, so drained… I do not like it, but I cannot seem to get over the trust issue. Oh, and his anger towards me for not being ‘on’ when he is ready really does not help at all either. It seems to add fuel to my trust issues.

  8. I married my wife around five years ago; when we met I had recently divorced, from a sexless marriage. My current wife was so physically into me we had sex constantly, even multiple times a night. She loved to perform oral sex and became so visibly aroused by it, I was astonished. We now have two children together, and from the time we married to present our sex life has decreased. It has been over 3 months since the birth of our son, and she now self-admittedly has no interest in sex. I have tried to express my feelings, and it seems she doesn’t care; she only cares about how she feels. I need some relief and I fear I will get it elsewhere. I don’t want sex outside of the marriage, but I do want to feel like a man, and physically attractive again. I need some help…..

    1. Has she been checked for post partum depression? That is what it sounds like to me. Please don’t do anything regretful for a moment of relief, obviously she is in to you and likes to satisfy you. Most women with PPD don’t even realize that’s what’s going on! They’re going crazy on the inside and can’t put their finger on it. This could very well be what y’all are experiencing. Y’all are a team, be strong and get to the bottom of it. Clear and direct communication can get you miles further when done so gently and with love.

  9. My wife and my sex life isn’t super strong but we are very compatible with each other. I guess as a man, it’s strange but my life does not revolve around sex. It’s of course amazing at times but in all the years I’ve been with my wife, 16 years, I don’t think ever once have I gotten upset because we didn’t have sex. In fact, lately our sex life has even gotten better because we’ve learned how to connect with each other emotionally. Once this happens, the physical act of sex is just that much better and more frequent.

  10. My husband believes in sex once in 46 years. Thats been my life only once and then he moved to the basement and works the midnight shift. We haven’t spoke or interacted for years.

    1. You don’t really have a husband. You have a grumpy roommate. I feel so much empathy for you. I hope and pray your situation changes, find out what ever you and your husband can do together and do that.

  11. I appreciate the overall message of this article, especially that it’s done in a balanced manner to acknowledge both sides. I find it difficult to accept that on a Christian website where judgements should not be made (as highlighted in the discussion guidelines of not telling someone to divorce), that the woman with the 8 o’clock stance was judged for her boundary, as well as her husband’s and her separation. Judgements like this are contrary to Christ’s message to not pass judgement. I’m not even a Christian, but I believe there is much danger in judging others, especially when on the outside of the relationship. If I were to listen to such judgements of my marriage, I’d no longer be in it.

  12. My wife and I have been together since we were 19. We’re both now 43 yrs old and we just had sex 20 times this past July. We have always been very attracted to each other. We did go 9 months without having sex when she was pregnant with our daughter and when she went back to college for nursing we would go maybe 2 weeks without sex. But normally 2-3 times a week has always been the norm for us. My advice to anyone is if you weren’t very attracted to each other while dating then you’re not likely going to have a long sex life. You also have to take care of yourself. No one wants to climb into bed with a slob.

  13. I don’t want to rock anyone’s world here, but marriage between a man and a woman is actually a three-way. Yes, it is a relationship between the man, the woman, and God. When one realizes this, the relationship changes for the better. For the first 22 years of our marriage, my wife and I had sex 2-3 times per week, but I always wanted more. Over time, as we were filled with the Holy Spirit, it increased. Recently, my wife revealed infidelities and even rapes that happened while we were dating (we were high school sweethearts, and I went off to college in a far away city). After she revealed this, and I forgave her (it was a really long time ago, and she has been a holy woman for nearly 20 years), our sexual frequency went way up.

    As a result of this, she seemed to release all her pent up problems, and now we have sex 1-2 times a day. We are both 46 years old. Finally, she’s reciprocating at my level! I’m so happy and filled with the Spirit. We’re hopeful that child number 6 is on the way. I do wish for everyone that reads this, that they consider daily sex for one month. It will change your relationship for the better.

  14. I’m just looking for information on healing after the husband has determined sexual infidelity coupled with depression is involved.

    1. I promise you this… In 5 months or so (after you and her have the screaming, crying match) if you two have committed to being overly affectionate (basically forcing yourself to do this because you’re probably dying inside as your delicate heart strings snap one by one… google heart strings and broken heart syndrome) and to having sex daily, your body/spirit will heal slowly. But it will be the hardest thing you do. I know at 4 months and 22 days I would still sob every other day and want to end this painful relationship. My therapist said, verbalize the tears and give them meaning. Because crying truly only means one thing… give me comfort.

      At the start of our back together phase I wanted to destroy the other female, now she’s a distant memory. But I too cheated, and to this day he still pops into my head. I silence those emotions with “I did not pick my husband, God lead me to him so therefore I’m doing God’s will and allowing the universe to reward me for sticking with my husband. Sounds Looney but when you reunite and forgive you will receive signs letting you know you did the right thing.

      Now, her straying heart has zip to do with sex. I’m betting because it’s rarely sexual attention we need. We want to feel special. Buy her roses once a week or monthly and verbally commit to it stating that if she gives you the next 50 years to prove she’s valued and needed that this will only be the start of her happiness.

      She’s already cheated, that can’t be undone but how you forgive her still remains open. Try saying it out loud and see if it feels genuine, Richard. Can you forgive her, or are you going to punish her for the next year for really her lack of self esteem? I cheated because I didn’t feel good about me as a person… this has nothing to do with you my dear. You should flip the script and go on weekend vacations if possible, if finances are strapped be creative and do a picnic. Go above and beyond, you love her.