|Stay away from the trap of 'normal'. Every couple and every relationship is different. (Shutterstock)
Once a week is barely whetting their appetites. Twice a week is a tease and thrice is but a temptation. Four times a week, though, that seems to be the magic number.
"Couples who live together over five to ten years are usually having sex between 1-4 times a week," says David McKenzie, a certified sex therapist in Vancouver.
But stay away from the trap of 'normal'. Every couple and every relationship is different. Modern culture, argues sex therapist Teesha Morgan, is busy teaching us that we should be having far more sex than we are (or than we might even be capable of) and that's creating a lot of frustration when people look at their own sex lives.
A recent survey undertaken by lifestyle website YourTango.com found that while 70% of couples are having sex at least once a week, almost half of them are unhappy with that number.
"Only 22% of married respondents say they are 'very satisfied' with their sex lives," the site reported. That might have something to do with the fact that only 35% of women reported reaching orgasm during their last encounter.
About 41% of women and 63% of men reported wanting more sex than their partners. Meanwhile, nine percent of women and two percent of men said their frustration resulted from wanting less sex than their partners.
"All that really matters is that you and your partner are satisfied," Morgan says. "If that means you're having sex once a month, then that's fine. If it means seven times a week, that's fine as well."
The key, adds McKenzie, is realizing that both people in a relationship are ultimately after the same goal.
"Men want the same thing in a relationship that women do: intimacy, closeness, fidelity, love, etc."
So when a survey comes out that shows nearly half of respondents are upset about their sex lives, that indicates some deeper issues.
"Sex never stands alone," McKenzie explains. "It's always connected to other issues."
"The sexual connection is usually, especially for females, a barometer of what's going on in the relationship."
Anger and frustration about anything at all can have serious side effects in the bedroom, including erectile issues, low desire and low sex drive.
"The biggest issue that will resolve most problems and get them on the right track is listening non-defensively to the other and building empathy and connection," McKenzie says. "A lot of couples are no longer hearing each other. They're just two big egos battling."
And that's just not the environment to kindle that old romantic flame.
The good news - for everyone - is that as couples get older, their satisfaction with their sex lives tends to improve.
The key, especially when the equipment starts to break down, is realizing the benefit of what McKenzie calls 'outercourse,' or what everyone else might call extended foreplay.
"When it comes to discovering that, sex lives tend to be more enriched," he said.
After all, as Morgan points out with a quotation from Proust: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE DOES AGE MAKE?
A massive study about the sexual habits of more than 5,000 people aged 14 to 94 found that:
- Adolescents use condoms four times as much as adults. Up to 80% of teen boys reported using a condom the past ten times they had vaginal intercourse. But that number dropped to 21% for adults.
- Masturbation is most common among men and women under the age of 40. For women, the rate drops off after 30 - whether or not they're partnered. Men continue to masturbate until they're about 60, but drop off pretty quickly after that.
- At age 14, only 2% of boys had had sex, but up to 12% of girls had done the deed. By age 17, the numbers had gone up to 40% for boys and 31% for girls. Rates didn't pass 90% for men or women until after age 25.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Vancouver-based sex therapist and couples counselor Teesha Morgan can map sexual dissatisfaction as a society trend going back 50 years.
"From the women's liberation and sexual revolution, to the widespread availability of the birth control pill," she says, it has all "redefined our views of the modern relationship."
"Mix that transformation with the media's continual pushing of sexuality, conscious and unconsciously presented, in the majority of our mainstream outlets, and the drug companies' ability to convince us that we're all in need of pharmaceuticals - and the result is a heightened fear surrounding our sexual normality."
The result, she says, is that common, everyday couples without any problems at all are increasingly worrying that they don't "measure up" to the Joneses.