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Monday, December 22, 2014

It's not high drive vs. low drive.  It's the two of you, as one, battling for intimacy in your marriage.

We're exploring the ways you can give your spouse The Gift Of More as part of our Gift of Sex series. Let me set up this post by reminding you of an important principle from my last post.

When your spouse says they want more sex, chances are what they are actually wanting is more of you.

It is very helpful to remind yourself, when you are working on improving your sex life, that the real goal is increased intimacy between you and your spouse. The end goal is to enjoy more of each other.

Today's "more" is a common battleground for couples: frequency. How much sex is enough sex for you? How much is enough for your spouse? How do you negotiate the difference?

The Once Per Week Dividing Line

Of course frequency is not the only thing that matters when it comes to sexual satisfaction, but two things rang true in my recent poll. First, there was a strong correlation between frequency and satisfaction. Second, almost everyone wanted "more" sex than they were currently having.

Look at how the shape of the two lines in the chart below track together pretty closely through the various stages of marriage. The line of lips is the frequency of sexual encounters in an average month. The smiley face line shows the overall sexual satisfaction on a ten point scale.

Non-geeky-chart-person interpretation: more frequent sexual encounters corresponds to a higher level of sexual satisfaction (and conversely, fewer encounters meant a lower satisfaction). Certainly there are other factors that cause sexual satisfaction to ebb and flow through the years of marriage, but it appears to me that frequency is one key factor.
click to enlarge chart

The "average" number of sexual monthly encounters from the poll was around 8, or roughly twice per week. But averages can be deceiving. What was interesting was the sharp break in satisfaction level when a couple was having sex less than once per week compared to more than once per week. Have a look:
click to enlarge chart

For couples who were having sex more than once per week, 85% reported being satisfied or very satisfied in their sex life (97% of women and 74% of men). Maybe even more importantly, only five percent (1 in 20) were dissatisfied when having sex two or more times per week. Conversely, when sex dropped below once per week, 68% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied (68% of men and 69% of women). The contrast is startling.

Compromise or Cooperation

You hear a lot of marital advice around the notion of compromise.

Personally, I think compromise isn't necessarily the best solution. To me compromise means somebody (or both parties) gave in and probably neither person actually got what they wanted. Compromise is often simply managing each other's degree of unhappiness. 

Remember, you are talking about lovemaking, the deepest form of human intimacy, not negotiating a deal!

Better than just a mathematical medium point between how much sex you want and how much your spouse wants, why not have a conversation about what is best for your marriage and the intimacy you share.  Ask important questions like,  "what is keeping us from having sex more often?"  How long before lack of sex becomes difficult for the highest drive spouse? Are there things the higher drive spouse can do to contribute to the sexual interest of the lower drive spouse (including emotional intimacy outside the bedroom)?

The thing to remember is that you are both on the same team in the frequency debate.  It's not high drive vs. low drive.  It's the two of you,  as one,  battling for intimacy in your marriage. And I'm not using "intimacy" here as a euphemism for sex.  I mean intimacy in all forms, which will definitely be capped when there is sexual dissatisfaction in your marriage.

The Desire for More

The numbers above say that if you aren't having sex more than once per week, both of you are more than likely unhappy about it. And I do mean both. And both of you probably want it more.

The survey found that when sexual frequency dropped below once per week, 93% of husbands and 64% of wives said that they wanted more sex (or much more sex). Overall, only one in six wives (and almost no husbands) reported actually wanting less sex than they were currently having. It's probably safe to say that for these few people, there are non-sexual relationship issues that need to be resolved.

It's important to understand, however, that those who indicated that they want more sex, don't necessarily mean they want more sex in the current state of their marriage. Many may be saying they want a better marriage, and thus would want sex more. The thing to realize is that while a lack of sex may point to unhappiness in a marriage, it can also contribute to it. 

Now if frequency is not an issue in your marriage bed, I'm happy for you. But stick around. We'll look at another kind of "more" next time: more variety. You can subscribe here to make sure you don't miss out.

I challenge you to try upping your game to having sex at least twice a week and see what happens to the atmosphere of your marriage. If you are already doing that, step it up one more notch to three or four times a week.

How have you and your spouse settled the frequency question?  Do you have some thoughts you would share with my readers on this very important and often contentious topic? Leave a comment.

The Marriage Bed survey on Sexual Frequency

core image credit: lightwise /


Andrew said...

I am so glad you raised the point that compromise might not be the best way to go!

It's something my wife offered - even though she really didn't "want me", as they say, she would cooperate. She'd be present, but not really involved, if that was what I needed.

It took about three-tenths of a second to say, "Thanks, but no."

She's worth more than that, and if I can't love her in spite of that particular rejection - I'm absolute crap as a husband, and please pardon the expression.

This is a wonderful series, and even though I'm outside the bell curve for being able to use it - I think you will have helped many., many couples.

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed this post. As a higher drive wife I am not satisfied when our lovemaking happens less than twice weekly and would be more content with 3-4 times/weekly. My husband is content with once a week but tries to make it happen at least twice knowing how I feel about the frequency.
Due to age- and medicine-related ED and lower libido, my husband just is not interested in higher frequency and that has been hard for me to cope with since I feel most loved when we are sexually connecting.

I love the idea of cooperation compared to compromising. While I know there are many spouses who are sexually refused I think encouraging the other spouse to 'compromise' by just doing it or perhaps doing other things to relieve the sexual tension for their spouse does not set up the marriage to be a team. There is nothing wrong with selflessly giving to your spouse sexually once in a while if you are not up for making love but if it becomes the norm in a marriage then eventually the one doing the compromising eventually turns resentful and finds no fulfillment in the sexual intimacy.
And like Andrew, if my husband offers to compromise and meet my needs when he's truly not interested, I say 'no'. I would much rather wait until he's not too tired and truly is wanting to make love not just doing it for me.

And communicating our wants and desires is critical to marriage. I like the questions to ask one another. When we can sit down and talk about it, and truly hear each other, we are more likely to want to serve one another in this area so that compromising is not necessary.

Thanks for a great series...I look forward to reading the next post.

Scott said...

Amy - thanks for your comment and for sharing your perspective as a higher drive wife. It's a lot more common than people think.

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