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Good Question: How Much Sex Is Enough?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It can be one of the biggest issues in a marriage: how much sex is enough to keep everyone happy?

A woman in France actually won a legal case, arguing that her husband of 21 years wasn’t giving her the sex she deserved as part of a marriage. In the end, they got divorced and he had to pay about $13,000.

“I think couples are concerned about this all the time,” said Eli Coleman, Ph.D., MED, who is the director of the human sexuality program at the University of Minnesota. “Are we having sex enough? If we’re not having sex enough, how often should we be having it?”

The gold standard for this kind of research is the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey. One of the questions is about frequency of sex.

On average, married people have sex with their spouse 58 times a year, that’s a little more than once a week.

“Some people have wild fantasies of what it’s supposed to be. They think it’s supposed to be every day,” said Coleman.

In fact, Coleman said that research indicates what most married couples already know.

“There’s a drop-off after the first child. There’s a drop-off after the second child — and some couples never recover,” he said.

Young couples under 30 are the most frisky, according to the GSS, having sex with their spouse 109 times a year, which is about two or three times a week.

“There’s wide variation of that norm, wide variation,” said Coleman, pointing out that each couple has their own idea as to what’s enough. “There is absolutely no magic number.”

In general, men have a stronger sex drive and want sex more frequently than women, according to Coleman.

“Most couples have a different level of desire,” he said, calling it “desire discrepancy.”

It’s often a factor in marriages falling apart, Coleman said, “most couples are not able to talk about it. And that’s absolutely essential.”

“While talking about sexual behavior is still quite taboo and uncomfortable for many couples, it is absolutely crucial that couples find a way, time and the motivation to articulate their specific perceptions of and experiences with sexuality in their marriage,” said Carol Bruess, director of the marriage and family program at the University of St. Thomas.

Bruess said the number doesn’t matter, “as long as both members are satisfied with the amount/frequency, the couple talks explicitly about it, they continue to talk about changing needs/aging/desires over time and at various life stages, and they seek outside assistance if they are struggling with this very important part of their relationship.”

According to the GSS, 15 percent of all marriages are essentially sex-less, with no sex over the past six months to a year.

“It does not mean they are doomed or destined for failure/divorce. It is more likely to mean they are either experiencing a set of challenges, which they will want and need to address or that both members of the couple are satisfied with other kinds of intimacy: conversation, spending time together, or non-sexual touching/closeness,” said Bruess.

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