Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Is My Sex Life "Normal"?

Lately I have gotten a few questions about sex--mostly about "what is normal" referring to frequency.

"Peggy" writes:

"We have sex about three times a month. I am fine with this but my husband is not. I have to admit that I do turn him down quite a bit and this has frustrated him to the point where he will stop asking. We do have a good relationship--but just not in this one area."

Statistics show that in about one of three marriages one spouse has a considerably larger sexual appetite than the other and this often is a problem. As each couple is unique and what works for one would certainly not work for another, there is no requirement for the number of times a couple has sex per week. However, studies have indicated that most couples who consider their sex life and their marriage in general happy and healthy have sex about 2-3 times per week. Michele Weiner-Davis, a well known marriage therapist has found that a marriage can be considered "sexless" when the couple is having sex ten or fewer times per year. What is more common than the sexless marriage is the "sex starved" marriage in which one spouse is longing for more sex, touch and physical affection and the less interested spouse doesn't understand the significance of this for the high desire spouse which goes beyond just sex and is more about feeling desired, attractive and emotionally connected. In order for the high desire spouse to continue to work and perform as a motivated and interested husband or wife, he or she has to feel that his or her sexual needs are being met. When advances are rejected, intimacy on all levels (not just sexual) seem to drop off. This is when the risk of feeling like "we're just roommates" comes in and places the marriage at risk for affairs and/or divorce. A cycle is started--the high desire spouse needing to feel physically connected in order to give more emotional support to the low desire spouse who usually needs to feel emotionally connected to the high desire spouse in order to open up sexually.

So...who breaks the cycle?

Michele Weiner-Davis tells the low desire spouse to "just do it" even though you may not be in the mood at the time--most people enjoy it once they get started. How many things are we not in the mood to do everyday (exercise, cook, clean, tend to the children, go to work, etc...) but we "just do it" because we want the long term results and the satisfaction that we usually find afterward.

If we have the ability to do something for our spouse that will make him or her happy and feel more loving to us, why would we withhold it?

Another thing to consider is that the low desire spouse usually controls the frequency of sex and this isn't fair. There becomes an expectation that the high desire spouse must accept the "no sex verdict" and not complain about it and remain monogamous. The aforementioned marriage expert states, "After decades of working with couples, I can attest that this is an unfair and unworkable arrangement. This is not to say that infidelity is a viable solution to disparate sexual interests. It isn't. As with all relationship conflicts, being willing to find middle ground is the best way to insure love's longevity."

This is also not to say that if you a low desire spouse you should have sex everytime your high desire spouse wants to, but have a heart to heart talk and compromise so that each feels that that their needs are being met. You don't have to feel like you need to "perform" each and every time, yet you can still be a willing, loving participant.

Just because you may have conflicting needs in the sex department, does not mean that you are incompatible as a couple. How about a compromise and find ways for each to feel loved, respected and emotionally connected despite the differences in this one area?

Some excellent books to read about sex and marriage are written by the therapist I quoted--Michele Weiner-Davis.

Next time: What Can the High Desire Spouse Do?


  1. I think that something physically may be wrong with a person who is "a low desire spouse", and should go to a medical doctor for help.

  2. Yes, that may be the first step in determining if the problem could be medical, especially if this is a change in behavior. Sometimes childbirth and health problems, fatigue, stress, can be at the root of a low desire problem that was once "not a problem".