The Great Sex Negotiation: How Much Sex is Enough?

“Going for more than a week without sex is really, really tough.”

—Randy, married 8 years, 3 kids

“Three or four times a year would be about right.”

—Kendra, married 8 years, 3 kids

“After kids everything changes . . . we’re having sex about every three months. If I have sex, I know my quarterly estimated taxes must be due. And if its #*#* sex, I know it’s time to renew my driver’s license.”

—Ray Romano, comedian and father of 4

How much sex do the married parents of small kids have? What’s average? We asked our friends (you can do that sort of thing when you’re writing a book). The women said “about once a week” and the men said “about once a month.” Unless our friends are having sex with someone other than their husbands, they are unknowingly inflating the numbers. Our guess is that the men’s answers are more accurate. After all, most men can tell you to the hour the last time they had sex. Women, on the other hand, are notoriously unreliable on the subject.

A couple of data points: a study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago states that married couples say they have sex 68.5 times a year. That’s slightly more than once a week. But according to a June Newsweek article, psychologists estimate that fifteen to twenty percent of couples have sex no more than ten times a year. Twice a week? Twice a month? Who cares? All that matters, obviously, is whether or not the two of you are happy with the amount of sex you’re having. One man’s feast is another man’s famine. Are you happy? What about that person lying next to you in the bed?

Come to Terms

“I’m scoring like a third-rate British soccer team—once every fifth Sunday.”

—Peter, married 8 years, 3 kids

How do you reconcile one person’s desire for sex every other day with another’s desire for it every other month? Most couples who’d run the numbers together told us they’d had a little tête-à-tête about how often they would generally try to do it. They’d figured out a happy medium they could both live with.

“I still think about sex all the time, and I wish we could do it more than we do, but at least I no longer have that nagging sense of dread not knowing when the next time will be, or getting shot down three times in a row. And my wife likes it better than when I was pestering her all the time.”

—Greg, married 10 years, 3 kids

Based on our extensive conversations on the subject, we’ve concluded that sex about once a week is required for basic marriage maintenance. Experience has taught us that anything less than that leads to maintenance problems. Things are going to break down. One day you have a sweet, obliging husband, the next he storms out of the house when you ask him to take a look at the water heater. Some men get plain bitchy and would give any premenstrual woman a run for her money. If the “long dry spell” continues, a man who feels he’s been relegated to Bottom Head on the Family Totem Pole status will start to invest time and energy in other things: work, the golf course, the gym, beers with his buddies. And if the drought continues: the Internet, strip clubs . . . other women.

But guys, by the same token, cut your wife some slack if you can see she’s in a “state” or too tired to get undressed before she collapses into bed. Just let it be at that particular time, even if she promised you’d do it tonight after she said she was too tired last night. Don’t pressure her with the threat of the Must Do It Within 24 Hours “Hourglass Effect.” If, on the whole, she’s making an effort to meet your needs, try not to tap your foot and glance at your watch (or look elsewhere) the minute you get turned down.

What’s your opinion on the matter?

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