I’m 27 and I’ve been with my boyfriend for two years. Our sex life has started to drop off a bit. To fix this, he has started scheduling sex. He’s put it in our diaries for twice a week. It seems so clinical to me, and frankly it doesn’t work either. We don’t always do it on the appointed days.
For couples who have big jobs and young children, scheduling is often the only way to ensure that sex doesn’t get squeezed out of the relationship entirely, but when you are 27 and dating, turning sex into an obligation has the opposite effect.
In 2015 George Loewenstein, professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, conducted an experiment in which he asked couples to double their weekly sexual frequency for a 90-day period. Loewenstein found that there was no real increase in the wellbeing of the test couples compared with a control group who maintained their usual frequency. In fact, he found that directing couples to increase their sexual frequency had removed their intrinsic motivation to have sex — being told to have sex turned something that was meant to be pleasurable into a chore.
Loewenstein’s conclusion was that couples should concentrate on quality, not quantity, and I would suggest the same to you.
Rather than putting pressure on yourselves to perform to a schedule, give yourselves a break and agree to have sex when you both feel like it. A lazy Sunday morning when you feel relaxed and you can have a lie-in is ideal. You may not wake up feeling in the mood, but having the time to snuggle naked is an irresistible turn-on for most people and the rewards for your relationship are huge.
It is important not to let sex fall by the wayside because it is the glue that connects you to each other, but don’t get too hung up about frequency. If you can manage sex once a week, you are doing just fine.
In 2016 Amy Muise, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, measured whether the relationship between sex and happiness was linear — if sex makes you happy, does more sex make you happier? She looked at data on the sexual frequency patterns of more than 30,000 people and found that for couples in long-term relationships, having sex once a week was associated with enhanced wellbeing and greater relationship satisfaction, but sexual frequencies of more than once a week offered no additional boost to happiness.
Your letter is interesting because in the past year there has been a proliferation of articles portraying twentysomethings as having very little sex. Most seem to blame the millennial “sex recession” on the prevalence of porn and the ubiquity of dating apps, but this is clearly not the case for the two of you.
Although your boyfriend introduced the schedule to ensure that sex remains a priority, he may have inadvertently ensured the opposite. Throwing out the timetable and adopting a more organic approach will probably do the trick, but if you and your partner find it consistently difficult to muster up any enthusiasm for sex, the unavoidable truth may be that this may not be the right relationship for you.
Up until the age of about 60, sex tends to be a pretty accurate barometer of the health of a relationship, and in my experience couples who stop having sex eventually stop being couples. Ending a relationship is always hard, but it is much easier to do it when you are fighting over who gets custody of the cat, not your children.
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