According to a study published last month, we should all be having sex once a week, for optimum mental wellbeing. The research, by scientists from the University of Toronto, says that the more sex we’re having, the greater out well-being, up until we’re having in once a week. At that point, the study says, out wellbeing levels out, and anything more than that is a bonus.
But is it really possible to distill happiness down to such a simple equation? “‘Wellbeing’ is a very difficult concept to define as it’s rather subjective,” says Alix Fox, a sex and relationships expert for Dures and resident erotic agony aunt on hit podcast The Modern Mann, as well as an advisor at Brook.
“This particular piece of research was very in-depth, surveying more than 30,000 Americans using information collected over a period spanning four decades, so it’s certainly worth paying attention to, but one should always bear in mind that because definitions and measurements of ‘wellbeing’ vary significantly between investigations, different studies can suggest rather different conclusions.”
So how much sex is enough for a happy relationship? We spoke to the experts to find out.
Quality Is As Important As Quantity
Fox says that sex certainly goes a long way to boosting happiness, but just hitting a target number isn’t going to satisfy you. “Sex certainly has the capacity to lift your mood,” she says. It can trigger the release of endorphins, and result in wonderful sensations of calmness, contentment, vitality and euphoria.
“However, in order to boost your bliss, sex doesn’t just have to be regular enough to suit the personal desires of you and your partner; it also has to be good! It’s about quality as well as quantity. Many people will attest to the fact that while exciting, relaxed and satisfying sex can leave you feeling swell, disappointing, uncomfortable or pressurised sex can make you feel like hell – which is almost certainly bad for your ‘wellbeing’, whatever parameters you use to measure that.”
It Is Possible To Have A Happy Relationship Without It?
“A relationship without sex is essentially a friendship,” says Hilda Burke, a psychotherapist specialising in couples’ counselling and relationship therapy. “If sex isn’t a huge priority for either partner (or no longer is) and they’re both on the same page, then there’s no reason to believe that the relationship is doomed.”
However, she warns, it’s common in these situations for one partner to go looking elsewhere, if they still desire a sexual relationship.
Lack Of sex Is most Likely The Effect, Not The Cause Of A Problem
“I would say that infrequent sex might indicate that all is not well within the relationship,” says Burke. “Perhaps once per week is a sort of maintenance level for couples, although this is pretty arbitrary; for some it might be less, for others more.
“Usually, when couples are in severe crisis, generally speaking, the sex stops. So the link the study makes between sex and wellbeing possibly isn’t down to the sex itself being responsible for the wellbeing of the couple, but that fact a couple is having fairly regular sex indicates that they’re probably not in severe crisis.
Talk About It Honestly And Try Something Different
It’s highly possible you could be out of step with your partner in your sex life. “Couples can be out of sync on any number of things – spending habits, alcohol consumption, socialising,” says Burke. “The crucial thing is how to they negotiate those differences. And sex is no different. Can each partner voice their feelings? Can the other hear them out without judgement? If so, that will go a long way towards finding a level of sexual expression that both are content with.”
If your partner wants it and you’re just not in the mood, Fox has a kinkier suggestion. “Consider telling them you’d like to watch them masturbate instead. If you choose your words and approach carefully, you can make this sound like a kinky, thrilling thing, rather than a consolation prize. It still requires a little mental effort, but it can be a very positive compromise – and you’ll learn a lot about how your lover likes to be touched, which is helpful next time you are feeling like getting your hands on them.”