Frequency of Sex in Marriage

The first thing you need to understand is that there's no such thing as "normal" here. Researchers don't agree on how often the average couple has sex. You should also know that individuals can differ radically in terms of their sexual desires and interests. You aren't the only couple clashing over the question of how often they "should" have sex. The issue usually comes up when spouses' expectations about the frequency of intercourse don't match - a very common complaint.

According to Understanding Human Sexuality by Janet Shibley Hyde and John D. DeLamater (McGraw-Hill, 1997), the largest percentage of married couples reporting in a study said they had intercourse three times a week. But as an article on the Web site points out, "Statistics on sexual behavior can be quite misleading. For example, a couple might read that the average married couple has intercourse three times a week. They may not be aware, however, that this average includes a wide range. The frequency of intercourse might range from zero for some to fifteen or twenty times a week for others. Therefore, even if their frequency of intercourse is more or less than three times a week, their behavior is within the range of normal human experience."

The problem with this kind of information is that oversimplified averages can create anxious reactions. If you have sex more than three times a week, does that make you abnormal? If you have sex twice a month, is your marriage less healthy than most?

Here are five things to remember when you and your spouse aren't sure whether the frequency of your sexual activity is "normal."

  1. Every couple is different. Frequency of sexual activity can be a measure of the general health of a marriage, but there's no numerical standard that applies to every couple. Factors like gender, individual expectations, developmental maturity as a couple, and cultural differences all affect the numbers. These variables are especially evident in early marriage when a couple is still in the process of finding out where their own "normal" will land on the scale.

  2. Quality precedes quantity. Happily, the parenting myth of "quality time" over "quantity time" is being debunked. When it comes to sex, however, quality really is more important than quantity. This doesn't mean that either spouse has an excuse to cop out of marital responsibilities in the bedroom. Instead, it's a call to excellence. Once intimate communication begins to grow and needs are satisfied, increased frequency usually isn't far behind.

  3. There's a time to serve. Sadly, many factors in our broken world can leave one or both spouses needing special consideration. It's important to be sensitive and considerate of your partner. Sexual trauma, abuse, addiction, abortion, and disease can affect our sexuality in profound ways. Recovery is often slow, requiring patience and understanding from both spouses. It's also important for a husband to understand his wife's reproductive cycle. Menopause, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and caring for infants and children can leave a wife drained physically and emotionally. At these times, a husband will do well to keep the "big picture" in mind.

  4. Be intentional. Impulsive, spontaneous sex can be great, but it tends to fall by the wayside as jobs, mortgages, and children enter the picture. If you give your spouse only the leftovers of your time and energy, neither of you will be sexually satisfied. Planning a time and place for intimacy seems anything but intimate, but the lack of negotiation can lead to lack of fulfillment - or worse, to looking elsewhere for it.

  5. Sex is a picture. Scripture paints a beautiful portrait of Christ's return for His beloved Bride, the Church. Our spiritual union with Him is echoed in every aspect of our earthly marriages, including sexuality. The implication should be obvious: it's about the relationship - not the numbers.

If you're having difficulty in this area of your marriage, don't hesitate to seek professional counseling. Our staff would be happy to provide you with referrals to qualified marriage and family therapists in your area who specialize in sexual issues. Contact our Counseling department for a free consultation.


Related Video
Frequency of Sex in Marriage: Gary and Barb Rosberg talk about the normal, healthy frequency of sex within marriage.

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Excerpted from The Complete Guide to the First Five Years of Marriage, a Focus on the Family Book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2006, Focus on the Family.