On my way to work recently, I heard a story on the radio about two long-term couples who chose to have sex every night for a year to see if it would strengthen their marriages.
The “sexperiment,” as one couple called it, took place back in 2006. Books about this experiment were released a few years later. One is called “Just do it: How one couple turned off the TV and turned on their sex lives for 101 days (No Excuses)” by Doug Brown. The other one is called “365 nights: A Memoir of Intimacy” by Charla Muller with Betsey Thorpe.
This radio story caught my attention because I have many patients at our Methodist Women's Clinic who ask about “use it or lose it” and if it's true. The myth is that women who do not engage in sexual intimacy regularly won't be able to later.
Well, I have to be honest and say there is some truth to this myth.
Brier Jirka is a sex therapist with the Methodist Physicians Clinic Women's Center. She blogs every other Tuesday. Read more from Brier.
Our brains and relationships get a jump start when we are sexually intimate. We get a surge of dopamine and oxytocin with regular sexual activity.
According to WebMD and the National Opinion Research Center, the average American couple has sex 66 times a year.
In contrast, Newsweek reported that 15 to 20 percent of couples have sex less than 10 times a year. In my profession, that's the definition of a “sexless” marriage.
Why so little sex?
What I hear from couples is that between full-time jobs, two or more kids, stress, household chores, and aging, time is the issue.
I normally tell these couples time is not the issue. Prioritizing time is the issue. We get into ruts and that can have an impact on how close we feel to our spouse.
For example, in the story I referenced, the Browns had two full-time jobs and two kids. Doug Brown was also dealing with some performance anxiety.
“I felt I had to be a porn star or an Olympic gold medalist,” he said. This is a common misconception with couples.
Once the Browns were able to get over these myths the Browns were able to talk more openly and lost their inhibitions and embarrassment about sex.
The second couple, the Mullers, had a similar experience.
“I did not realize how much not being (regularly) intimate stressed our relationship,” Charla Muller said.
At first, she also felt that they would be overly nice to each other shortly before being sexual. However, she later revealed that they ended up being nicer to each other during the days they engaged in sexual intimacy. This also showed in their daily tasks together as well.
Dr. Andrea M. Macari, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sex therapy, believes regular sex actually increases sexual desire in couples.
I totally agree.
This doesn't mean it has to be mind-blowing sex. I talk with couples about “good enough sex,” which allows the couple to set realistic expectations and often lowers anxiety.
In my profession, I'm helping couples have better sex. During the course of those conversations, I have yet to meet a couple that would be able to have sex every day.
Now, I'm sure there are couples out there like the Browns and Mullers, but this takes work and dedication to each other.
I do encourage sexual activity on a regular basis.
Having sex daily may be unrealistic for most couples, but if you want to jump start your sex life, here are some ideas:
1. Start by doubling your frequency, then again double in six months.
2. Re-examine your sex life - keep talking about it, your wants, needs and desires.
3. Act on your desires - learn to be comfortable with initiation so you do not miss a moment.
In the end, your sex life is your responsibility. If you are not happy, then make a change.
You can start today! Good luck!