Sex advice with Suzi Godson: Ebb and flow of sex in a steady relationship

Suzi Godson gives her advice on sexual dry spells.

My boyfriend and I have been together for two years and I’m worried because we rarely want sex at the same time. He’s always shattered at night after work, whereas I struggle to wake up in the morning. It means that we only have sex at the weekend, normally on Saturday nights.

A lot of the anxiety around sexual frequency comes from the misguided notion that everyone else is having more of it, but the pattern you describe is normal.

According to the 2013 UK National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (considered to be one of the most methodologically rigorous studies of sexual behaviour), the median number of occasions of sexual intercourse for men and women aged 25-35 in a four-week period is ... four.

You are also comparing your present frequency to the feverish passion that marked the beginning of your relationship. When you first get together, sex is the priority and you seem to be able to fit astonishing amounts of it into the time available. It is an important and all-consuming neurochemical experience that forms the bedrock of the relationship that you are building, but that level of intensity is unsustainable.

After about six months the real world comes knocking and you begin to emerge from your love cocoon. By then, the connection between you is relatively robust and instead of declining demands from work, friends, and family you begin to explore each other’s social circles. That is another, equally important, part of your expansion as a couple, but those additional demands naturally diminish your time alone together.

Working too much and playing too hard is a shortcut to exhaustion, so couples need to carve out space for themselves and their relationship. A few practical changes might make a difference. Saying no to less important social engagements would free up evenings, and a few early nights would mean more sleep and increased energy levels. If you can’t identify any windows of opportunity, try keeping a diary for a week or two. If, for example, you establish that Wednesday evenings tend to be quieter, mark them out for midweek sex.

Agreeing on a window that suits you both means that you avoid the awkwardness of failed attempts to initiate. No one likes being rejected, and if you are continually pushing each other away because you are tired, the risk is that sooner or later one or both of you is going to stop trying.

Sex is a fundamentally important part of your relationship and you are right to be conscious of the way it ebbs and flows, but if you stay together over the long term there may be times when sex stops altogether (illness, pregnancy, childbirth), and there may be times when it returns to the frenzied intensity that defined your early relationship.

When it comes to sex, quality is more important than quantity, as long as that quantity is equal to, or greater than, once a week. Studies by Blanchflower and Oswald (2004), Wadsworth (2013), and Muise, Schimmack and Impett (2015) have examined the relationship between happiness and sexual frequency and found that relational happiness increases until a frequency of once a week is achieved, but after that no additional benefit is derived from having more sex. So if you want more sex and can find the time, go for it, but don’t put each other under pressure because more sex is probably not going to make you any happier.

  • Send your queries to suzigodson@mac.com


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