Relationship expert on whether it's 'normal' to only have sex with your partner once a year
| Last updated
Featured Image Credit: Jacob Lund / Alamy Stock Photo Indiapicture / Alamy Stock Photo
People often think of their sex lives in terms of ‘should’ – but the reality is, there is no normal in terms of sexual frequency; the most important thing is finding the right partner who will fit with your sexuality.
Usually the biggest issue with couples comes when one partner wants to have sex five times a week because they have a high libido – and the other wants to have sex or once a month or even less.
This discrepancy is one of the main causes of distress and conflict in the bedroom. It happens when people don't talk about sex properly in the initial courting stage. When people date, they select a partner based on attraction and shared values; they might be talking about politics, travelling, money, but more often than not they don't really talk about sex.
In the beginning things are fine because there's lots of excitement and the novelty of having sex with somebody new. But then over time, they start to realise they have different ideas.
Quality over quantity
The key to a good sex life is not about the frequency. If you're only interested in sex once a year, it's not necessarily a dysfunction. If you want to have sex five times a day that’s also not necessarily a problem. The challenge is reaching a compromise with your partner.
The health of a relationship is not characterised by how many times you have sex. It's characterised by respect and touch. This doesn't have to mean sexual touch; it can simply be casual cuddling or holding hands, or expressing to each other appreciations and reducing or avoiding criticism. If you have those things in place in your relationship it is likely to be a good one and it doesn't matter about the frequency of sex.
You can be really happy in a relationship without sex. As long as the two people in the couple are content. Sex is not the first priority for everyone, instead companionship, shared hobbies and loving living with each other is most important. This is the case for a lot of couples, these shared interests and values are more important than sex.
But because of misinformation that sex is such an essential part of life when actually it doesn’t need to be, some couples actually break up and let go of amazing relationships because they feel they are not having ‘enough sex’. Equally, having sex can be very important for some people’s sense of wellbeing, and not having their sexual needs met can have a negative impact.
The secret to long-term success
Another thing that is important to remember is that sexuality fluctuates a lot throughout a lifetime. Some people might be together for 10, 20 years. At the beginning, they might both have high sexual desire but things can change over time.
When this happens, it's about noticing these changes and not sweeping things underneath the rug, which can increase resentment. Instead we need to be able to talk about it: ask each other, what are we going to do about this? What are your needs? What are my needs? – and then meeting somewhere in the middle.
Our lack of sex education in this country means that no one really talks about sex, so we don’t learn how to talk about sex. We don't have the tools for these conversations, so we choose not to talk about it because we're afraid and in complete darkness.
Having a healthy sex life is all about staying in touch with your sexuality, your sexual desires and your erotic mind, because it does change over time.
Then have conversations with your partner, and together work out the frequency of sex: there's no set number it is just about two people agreeing on something.
Silva Neves is an author, psychosexual and relationship psychotherapist. Silva’s new book, Sexology – described as ‘an odyssey into what is central to people’s lives: their sexuality, their intimate relationships, love, and living a fulfilled life’ – came out on 2 November 2022