The Love Diaries: “Neither of Us Actually Wanted to Be Having Sex As Much As We Were” Are Unrealistic ‘Sex Statistics’ Harming Your Relationship?

For years Janine thought there was a ‘right’ number of times to have sex a week. But, that statistic she read as a teenager, instead set her down a difficult path…

Welcome to our series, The Love Diaries – a space for you to share your experiences, advice, fairy-tale endings, setbacks and heartbreaks. We’ll be hearing from industry experts giving practical advice alongside Capsule readers (You!) sharing your firsthand experiences with love – from the woman who cheated on her husband with a work colleague, one woman’s temptation now the love of her life is finally single (although she’s not), and the woman who forced her husband to choose between her and his girlfriend. 

Janine can’t remember where she first heard a little statistic, that shaped her behaviour for decades to come.

“I heard it more than once,” she says. “I reckon it was probably in a few different copies of Cosmo or something.”

The statistic?

“It was that ‘most’ couples have sex three times a week,” says Janine.

In her late teens, she thought the stat sounded perfectly reasonable. But as time passed and she found herself in serious relationships, the stat became more like a target she had to reach each week.

“Without really thinking about it too much, I found myself each week keeping a bit of a tally,” she says. “If it was Friday and I realised I hadn’t had sex with my boyfriend that week, I’d think, ‘I have some making up to do this weekend!’”

When she was 24 – and three years into a serious relationship – she discovered her boyfriend had cheated on her. “I was devastated,” she says. “I felt so embarrassed and ashamed that it happened – and a bit of me blamed myself, I guess because we weren’t having sex three times a week. I figured that could be the reason he cheated.”

Janine says that fear stayed with her for a long time – this belief that if she wasn’t having sex with her partner three times a week, that someone else would be having sex with them instead.

But, two years into her relationship with her now-husband, they both got Covid. Badly. Two weeks passed since they had last had sex and Janine felt some anxiety creep in.

“I felt like crap,” she says. “He felt like crap. Neither of us was really in a good place to have sex, but I tried to initiate it, because… well, the fear.”

What happened next, changed everything.

Her then-fiance said he loved her, wanted to have sex with her, but also, knew he also couldn’t right then, but it was ok and they’d have plenty of time in the future to make up for it.

“I was relieved, but still had the fear, so I told him about my fears,” she says. “He asked me if I actually wanted to have sex that many times a week – because to him, it sounded like way too much.”

Janine says it led to a very honest discussion – which has made her feel much more secure in the relationship, but also, has allowed her to actually enjoy sex and initiate it when she wants it, not just so that she can reach a target.

She says her now-husband was very honest too, and thought that Janine had a high sex drive, so wanted to keep up with that, when really, he would be happier having less sex.

“It honestly never occurred to me,” says Janine. “I thought every guy would just want more sex.”

It’s also made her more relaxed as they start thinking about having a baby. “I know that trying to conceive could get stressful, so I’m glad we sorted this now. Plus, I don’t know what would have happened postpartum if I thought I had to have sex three times a week!”

What The Stats Actually Say

The stat Janine read in her teens definitely led her quite astray.

Because what all the experts seem to agree on, is that there is no such thing as a perfect, or right number of times a week, month or year for couples to have sex to be happy.

And, the average person has a lot, lot less sex than those Cosmo stats would suggest.

A 2017 study (published in Archives of Sexual Behaviour) studied 26,000 people from 1989 to 2014 and found that the average American adult has sex 54 times a year – an average of once a week.

The study found that the frequency changed depending on age – with 20-somethings reporting having sex around 80 times a year, compared to 20 times for 60-somethings.

But while those numbers are the average, what is ‘right’ for each person very much depends on the individuals.

“While there can be ‘too little’ or ‘too much’ sex, it really is subjective and dependent on the couple,” says Christene Lozano, a licensed marriage family and sex addiction therapist. Christine says that focusing on a set number of times you think you should be having sex every week, month or year, can actually be harmful to relaipnships. Instead you should instead focus on your sexual relationship and what it means to both of you. Some couples will be at their happiest having sex multiple times a week, whereas others will still feel satisfied if they don’t have sex for months on end.

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