I used to wonder if Darling Husband and I were having a “normal” amount of sex. I think it’s a common worry especially when you are over 50, but it’s not a topic you bring up with a stranger in the Starbuck’s line. Now that DH and I are in our 50s (specifically 58 and 55), we clock in at about once every two weeks, which is down from about eight months ago when it was once a week. Are we normal? 

If you want hard facts, there are several research studies about how often couples have sex. I hesitate to cite them because I’ve just picked them up off the internet, but I’ve tried to find the scholarly source, not just random article quotes. One problem with these studies is that when you ask people to self-report their data, the question may not be clear, the respondent’s memory may be inaccurate, or they may even be bragging! 

 Nevertheless, let’s run the numbers. [My comments are in brackets!]

“This falls in line with a 2017 study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior that surveyed 14,885 married people, aged 18 to 70+, and found that the average married adult, err, goes at it, 56 times a year, or roughly once a week, a decrease from 1989 when it was 67 times per year…. Age had a strong effect on sexual frequency: Americans in their 20s had sex an average of about 80 times per year, compared to about 20 times per year for those in their 60s.” [I have no problem with this study whatsoever. Go read it!] Find the paper here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-017-0953-1

“A 1991 survey in the Journal of Marriage and Family reveals married adults on average engage in sex twice a week.“ [But what age of married adults?] From: https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1993-02-19-1993050007-story.html

“According to a 2003 report from the General Social Survey, the average married couple has sex about 58 times per year, or a little more than once per week.” [The author of the paper admits this is probably an overstatement due to 1. forgetting things like illness or vacation; and 2. bragging.] Find the paper here: http://gss.norc.org/Documents/reports/topical-reports/TR36.pdf

And here’s one I’m adding just for a giggle.

“According to TODAY’s ‘This is 50’ survey [in 2014], just over a third of people [about 34%] in their 50s say they have sex a few times a week or month. That’s compared to 43 percent of 40-somethings who report having sex once a week. [Wait, isn’t a “few times a week or month” quite different? This could be comparing 2, 5, or 8 times a month! So you can ignore this one.] From: https://www.today.com/health/sex-after-50-less-frequent-satisfying-survey-finds-1D80027588

So, what does this mean to you and I? To be honest, not much. 

Maybe what we are really asking is this: 

  • Could sex be a problem in my relationship–not enough, not the right kind? 
  • Is my relationship in danger if we fall below what is “normal”?
  • Is my relationship healthy? 

Because, think about it, WHEN do you ask yourself if YOU are normal or healthy? The answer is: when you feel that maybe you are NOT.

Perhaps what we should ask instead is: 

  • Do I feel there is quality in my relationship?
  • For me, would I say there is quality in my sex life?
  • If my sex life has slowed somewhat, is that okay with me? 
  • If there has been a drop in quantity, has the quality of your sex life improved?

If you answered “yes” to the second set of questions, you don’t need to worry about the concept of normal. Each couple’s sex life has its own unique cadence. If you are both satisfied overall, and can communicate relatively easily, you are probably healthy and happy. That means you are fine, no matter what your frequency.

In our 50s, we start facing some challenges that we haven’t encountered before–family problems, health issues, aging parents, worries about grown children, finances, and much more. If you’ve been married for more than, oh, a few minutes, you know daily life with a partner 24/7 (even one you love!) is not easy. And in our 50s, our bodies are slowing down–in and out of bed. Okay, enough about that!

Let’s talk about solutions.

These are five ideas relate to sex in your long-term relationship. 

Change it up: Sex also changes as we age–we don’t have the urges we had at 18 anymore! But that’s not to say you can’t have fun and even grow sexually as a couple. Now is the time to experiment and start a new chapter. Over time, sex can grow repetitive and some amount of novelty is required, whether that translates to couple’s massages or whip cream in the bedroom or skinny dipping in a remote lake!

Emotional intimacy is key: If your relationship is not what it used to be, building your intimacy outside the bedroom can help reawakening the spark inside the bedroom. Emotional intimacy is the feeling of security and trust in a relationship that allows you to share deep emotions. It’s much easier to preserve than re-build.

A difference in desire levels: If you find, as we have, that one spouse has a higher sex drive than the other, that is not uncommon at all. If one spouse desires sex, and the other spouse does not, it may be an issue that can become chronic and is best treated by a counselor sooner rather than later. But a difference in desire levels does not necessarily doom your sex life and can be negotiated through communication and compromise. This is also one of our issues, high desire vs. low desire.

Look back in time: If you are not satisfied with the amount of sex you are having, see if you can pinpoint when a change happened in your relationship. Sometimes a little honest detective work can provide clues on what needs work.

Check with your doctor: I hope it goes without saying–if you have an issue with your sex life that concerns you, please also speak to your doctor. Many health concerns that affect sex and desire  are treatable but you have to work with your doctor closely.

Normal, schmormal.

I no longer worry about how often my friends and neighbors have sex. I know that DH and I have our own history, desire levels, some physical issues, and changes that have occurred. Right now, we are both fairly happy with how often we have sex. When I get a little frustrated that we are not having more, we talk about it. Talking does not always guarantee sex will occur immediately but it does clear the air until we need to talk the next time, and it preserves our emotional intimacy that we cherish.

If you worry about what normal is, start doing some homework on why you worry about that. Find your own answers and then involve your partner in the conversation. Your relationship will thank you.

 

I am not a medical or mental health professional. These are my own opinions. This article does not apply to chronic sexless marriage or abusive situations which need the help of professionals to improve.