This Is Actually How Often Couples Should Have Sex

For years, the joke has been that sex is harder to come by when you're married. It's the root of most premarital gag gifts and the plot of more than a few movies. But a 2017 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior has cut the legs out from under that joke. And, more importantly, it gives people a baseline to compare their own sex life to in case they're worried about the amount of sex they're having.

The study ran from 1989 to 2014 and tracked the sexual behavior of over 26,000 Americans. When researchers analyzed the results they found that unmarried adults averaged 54 sexual instances a year, about one a week. Married adults reported an average of 51. It's a small difference when factors like work, household responsibilities, and child care are taken into account.

Of course the married couples averaged 51 sexual instances a year. A closer look at the numbers reveal that married people in their 20s reported about 80 sexual instances a year — about three instances every two weeks — while couples in their 60s only reported 20 instances a year.

Sex is about quality over quantity

Of course age is known to affect libido. Mayo Clinic says that many men will still experience sexual desire into their 60s and 70s, but the intensity and frequency will decline. WebMD states that women may experience an increase in sexual interest around the age of 50 when their children are fully independent, but that lower estrogen levels close to menopause can also cause the opposite effect.

Sex is important to many relationships, but it's not all a numbers game. As Christine Lorenzo, a licensed therapist specializing in marriage, family, and sex addiction, told Insider in 2020, "While there can be 'too little' or 'too much' sex, it really is subjective and dependent on the couple."

Stefani Goerlich, a licensed sex therapist and master social worker also spoke with Insider. She told them that some couples will argue once a week is too often, while others say it's not nearly enough. Her point to all couples is that it's more important to listen to and connect with your partner than to meet some numerical benchmark.

If you feel that there isn't enough sex in your relationship, try talking to your partner about it. One or both you may be stressed, a known libido-killer — as highlighted in a 2013 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. It may also be a case of miscommunication or needing to spice things up. The only way to know for sure is to talk to your partner.