Ask an Expert: Is Sex Really Important in a Relationship?
With the everyday stresses in life, and the fact that there are many different components that make up a healthy and successful relationship, many people wonder: "How important is sex in a relationship, really?".
Turns out, it’s pretty important. There are actually tons of proven benefits to having regular sex with your partner. These benefits include better self-image for both partners, stronger bonds, stress relief and even better sleep. Even though there are a lot of benefits associated with regular sex, it is common for couples to fall out of the pattern of having regular sex especially in later stages of the relationship. After the honeymoon phase of the relationship (when hormones and sex drives are often at an all-time high), sex may become less common for you and your partner.
And while it’s totally natural for the amount of sex to decrease after the honeymoon phase, it’s important that sex doesn’t completely disappear from the relationship. But sometimes between stress, busy schedules, ruts in the relationship, changing sex drives and hormone levels, sex becomes deprioritized in the relationship. When this happens, you and your partner may feel less connected than before, which can lead to a variety of problems in the relationship. So, you may be wondering, what is the ideal frequency of having sex?
Research shows that couples that have more sex are happier, but there isn’t a ton of research on exactly how much sex is the ideal amount of sex. Some research suggests that the happiness associated with routine sex maxes out at having sex one time per week. This doesn’t mean that having sex more than once a week is a bad thing, just that the happiness associated with regular sex do not change if you have sex once a week - or four times a week. This suggests that having sex once per week, or at least 52 times per year, is the key to a happy, sexually satisfied relationship.
And while this may be the case for couples in this study, it may not be the case for your relationship. It is important to take into account your sexual libido and to discuss your sexual needs with your partner (more on this below) to make sure that you are both feeling satisfied in the relationship. In short, the ideal frequency for having sex is unique to every relationship, but if you are looking for a number, try starting at once a week and adjusting from there.
If you feel like you and your partner are in a sexual rut, or if you feel as if sex has fallen out of your relationship routine, follow these steps to increase the amount of sex in your relationship:
Talk about your needs in the bedroom
If you are not feeling satisfied by the amount of sex in your relationship, the first thing you should do is talk to your partner about it. Even couples with good communication can struggle when trying to talk about sex because of the intimate and vulnerable nature of these conversations. But, if you want to increase the amount of sex (and the quality of the sex) in your relationship, you have to get over the shyness associated with discussing sex! Talking to your partner about your sex life may be awkward at first, but the more you talk about it, the easier it will become and the better your sex will be!
If you really don’t know how to approach these types of conversations, there are worksheets available online that can help you and your partner navigate these conversations. It’s important to have these types of conversations on a regular basis so that you and your partner are in-tune with one another. As we age, our bodies and hormone levels change. This can result in different preferences, wants, and needs in the bedroom. Checking in with your partner periodically will ensure that the sex is comfortable and enjoyable for you both.
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As unsexy as it may seem to put sex on the calendar, sometimes scheduling sex is the best way to make sure that you are having regular sex with your partner. You and your partner can use a physical calendar or schedule sex using a calendar app on your phone or computer. It really doesn’t matter how you schedule it, as long as you have it scheduled. Putting sex on the calendar will also give you something to look forward to over the course of the week. Half of the pleasure of sex is thinking about sex and the excitement of having sex, so putting this on the calendar can build anticipation and make sex more enjoyable when you do finally check it off of your to-do list!
Plan romantic activities
If you don’t like the idea of flat-out scheduling sex (though it is worth trying out), you can try planning romantic activities with your partner that can eventually lead to sex... Scheduling a romantic date night at your favorite restaurant, surprising your partner with a home-cooked meal, scheduling a couples massage or planning something else that you know puts your partner in the mood can help increase the amount of sex in your life.
Sometimes couples fall out of the routine of regular sex simply because they aren’t spending as much time together as they used to. Even if you are very busy with work, taking care of children or parents, or any number of other things, making time to prioritize your partner and your relationship will help you maintain your connection and intimacy, which will generally keep your sex life more active. Even if these romantic activities don’t always lead to sex, they will help you and your partner maintain an emotional connection through thick and thin which will help your sex life in the long-term.
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Take a trip
Sometimes the best way to kick start your sex life is to take a romantic vacation. If you and your partner are stuck in a sex-less rut, freshen things up by going to a new environment. The location and duration of your vacation don’t really matter, it’s more about getting some time to yourselves as a couple and getting space from things that distract from your connection. Getting space from work, your family (as much as you love them), and the stresses of everyday life can take a huge weight off of your shoulders which will allow you to put more energy into your relationship.
Whether you book a room at a fancy hotel in town for a night, take a camping trip to a secluded spot or take the week off the explore a new city, getting out of your element can help you get out of a rut and kickstart your more active sex life! Once you return from the trip, it’s important to keep the momentum going and continue to have sex on a regular basis.
Focus on other forms of intimacy
If you and your partner are completely out of practice of being sexually intimate, it may seem intimidating to start having sex again. If this is the case for you, consider focusing on other forms of intimacy and working your way towards sexual intimacy. Focusing on recultivating your emotional intimacy with your partner is a great way to eventually increase the amount of sex you are having. To cultivate emotional intimacy, work on good communication, being vulnerable and connecting with your partner. Like we talked about earlier, planning romantic date nights is a great way to cultivate emotional intimacy in your relationship. Even if the romantic date nights don’t result in sex, they will help you feel more in-tune with your partner which is important for physical and sexual intimacy.
Focusing on physical intimacy (other than sex) is another great way to eventually increase sex in your relationship. Sitting closer to your partner on the couch, giving your partner a massage, snuggling when you are watching a movie or in bed together will help you feel more physically close with your partner which can also lead to more sex. Sex and intimacy are completely intertwined so it’s important to focus on all aspects of intimacy if you want to increase the amount of sex in your relationship as well as improve the quality of sex.
If you are feeling uninspired in the bedroom, look for inspiration outside of the bedroom. Consider watching porn as a couple, reading erotic stories, or buying a book about Kama Sutra. Every couple runs into a sexual rut from time to time, know that there is no shame in looking for inspiration on the internet or in books. It’s important to make sure that you and your partner are comfortable exploring these things so that you are on the same page about ways to get creative. If you find something that inspires you both, try it out in the bedroom! Even if it doesn’t go as planned, don’t despair - just try something else.
Keeping sex creative and fresh will ensure that you are having sex more regularly in your relationship. Remember that there is no need to try something new every time you’re in the bedroom (after all, that’s a lot of pressure), but creative sex can help you get out of a rut and keep things exciting!
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