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How Much Sex Does a Happy Couple Have?

Photograph by Twenty20

If your marital goals include more regular sex, you're doing it right (pun intended). But if the thought of getting down more than once a week makes you already feel exhausted (marriage is hard, yo!), well, there's good news.

Forget about all the surveys in women's glossies, shaming you for not going at it nightly. Turns out, there's a sweet spot for sex frequency, and it might be less often than you think.

A study of 30,000 Americans to understand the connection between happiness and sexual frequency found once a week was enough. Plenty, even. More sex than that did not translate to happier couples.

The finding held for both women and men, the young and old, and couples who'd been together for years, as well as those just starting out. This once-per-week sex thing was more closely associated with satisfaction than even wealth.

In one study that looked at income and satisfaction, researchers found that the difference in happiness between people who had sex less than once a month versus those who had sex once per week was larger than the difference in satisfaction compared to couples earning $15,000 to $25,000 annually versus those with incomes between $50,000 and $75,000.

So what's going on? Helen Fisher, a senior researcher at the Kinsey Institute, explains that this regular sex boosts testosterone, which sustains our sex drives.

"Any stimulation of the genitals will drive the dopamine system, which will lead to feelings of romantic love," she says. "And orgasms stimulate the production of oxytocin, which creates feelings of deep attachment."

What's unclear from the study is whether unhappy couples who are not having weekly sex would become happier if they, well, just did it.

The study found that happiness declines among couple who had less than weekly sex. So, Fisher encourages couples to get it up to once a week, at least. "[P]ut it on your schedule, if you can't be spontaneous."

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