Expert Reveals How Often Happy Couples Have Sex

"How often should couples have sex?" is a question Bat Sheva Marcus gets asked a lot by her patients.

Although every relationship is different, Marcus believes she knows the answer—at least, for the average heterosexual couple.

A sex therapist for over 25 years, Marcus—author of Satisfaction Guaranteed: How to Have Sex Like You've Always Wanted—says she has helped countless people reinvigorate their love life.

"A study came out a few years ago, a long-term, large study, which suggested that the happiness level goes up until it hits once a week," Marcus explained in a recent TikTok video, which received over 1 million views.

Sex Once a Week is Ideal Amount
A stock photo of a couple on a bed. Inset: Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus. According to sex therapist Bat Sheva Marcus, sex once a week is ideal for keeping most couples happy. iStock/Getty Images Plus/stefanamer

"After couples start having sex up to one time a week, it levels off. That's an average.

"If you want to know the data, the reality is that at least once a week seems to keep most couples happy."

The study, conducted by the University of Toronto Mississauga in 2015, surveyed over 25,000 Americans between 1989 and 2012. Participants were asked about sexual frequency and how it correlated to relationship contentment. The study found that up to once a week was the soft spot for most couples—regardless of age, gender or the length of the relationship.

So, are weekly romps the Holy Grail of sexual satisfaction? Newsweek asked Marcus to tell us more.

What Is A Healthy Amount Of Sex For Couples?

A 2017 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that Americans—whether partnered or not—have sex once a week on average. However, researchers noted a decline in sexual frequency, with people in their 20s having sex less often than people aged 75 and older—even those who are coupled up.

Marcus said that the "normal amount" of sex varies by couple, and there's no right or wrong answer. However, the 2015 University of Toronto Mississauga study did back up what she'd been seeing in her practice.

"There are some couples that like to have a lot of sex, and there are some couples who are ok with minimal amounts," she told Newsweek.

"But, my experience across the board for most long-term monogamous couples is around once a week."

Man carrying woman through bedroom doorway
A man carrying a woman through a bedroom doorway. According to a 2017 study, Americans have sex once a week on average. dragana991/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Is Having Sex Once A Week 'Normal'?

The study may have found that the sex-and-happiness correlation peaked at the once-a-week mark. However, it didn't claim that this was the right amount of sex for every couple.

Researchers also discovered that for most partnerships, happiness levels didn't increase past weekly sex, suggesting that quality is more important than quantity.

Marcus believes that many people have unrealistic expectations, which can make it harder to get their sex lives back on track.

"[It doesn't have to be] starry-eyed, staring into their soul, outrageous sex," she said.

"It's about allowing yourself to let your guard down and be vulnerable and to connect with somebody in a way you don't connect with anybody else.

"Once that's taken out of a relationship entirely, it has secondary impacts on the relationship."

It's common for couples to worry about a lack of sex, but is there such a thing as too much?

"Again, if both people are happy with the amount of sex they're having, and it's not getting in the way of other parts of their life, then there's no such thing as too much sex," Marcus said.

Why Do Couples Stop Having Sex?

There are several reasons why couples might stop having sex, from contrasting libidos, to lifestyle factors such as stress at work and childcare.

"Often, it's about things changing in life and not knowing how to handle it," Marcus said.

"Couples can almost get out of the habit, and sex stops being in your repertoire."

Marcus said that when many couples drop below the once-every-other-week point, cracks can start to show in their relationship.

Couple ignoring each other after argument
Marcus said that when many couples stop having sex, cracks start to show in the relationship. torwai/iStock/Getty Images Plus

"Not every couple of course," she reiterates. "But many start having issues such as showing less kindness and more irritation. They feel less like a team and more like roommates, and over time, they feel uncomfortable having sex with that person."

Marcus said the stress of everyday life is the main reason modern couples stop having sex, but most people need to retain that connection.

"We're pulled in so many directions that unless you consciously make an effort, sex just isn't going to happen," she said.

Should You Schedule Sex?

Marcus said once couples have found a sexual routine that works for them, it's easier to maintain. Likewise, a bad sexual routine can be tough to escape from.

Whether you've always been out of sync in the bedroom or it's a more recent issue, there are ways to have the sex life you want—if both partners are committed.

"People say 'scheduling sex isn't sexy,' but you know what really isn't sexy? Not having sex," said Marcus.

"A 'good sexual routine' can sound so dull and boring, but it's a great jumping-off point for couples wanting to keep the sex alive in their relationship."

Older couple lying in a duvet fort
A stock photo of an older couple lying in a duvet fort. Scheduling sex can help couples to make more time for each other. Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Nevertheless, the first step is admitting there's a problem. Marcus recommends sitting down with your partner and selecting a time once a week to schedule sex.

"Sometimes couples get into a bad routine because there are secondary problems going on, but the longer it stays that way, the harder it is to fix," she said.

If you're struggling to find the appeal in scheduled sex, Marcus said to think of these sessions as "date nights."

"People have this fairy tale notion that the desire for sex should be constantly present and think they should never have to plan for it," she said.

"Every time you went on a date where you knew you were going to have sex, you were scheduling sex—you weren't at the salon getting waxed for nothing."

Whether first thing on a Monday morning or setting time aside on a Saturday night, Marcus recommends choosing a time when you can both relax and get in the mood.

"Think about it as 'your time' together," she said. "You can take try new things if you want to, but carve that time out.

"You might not always feel like it in that moment, but it's like exercise. You'll get into it and your relationship will be better for it."

Legs poking out from under bed covers
A stock photo of a man and a woman's legs poking out from under the bed covers. The "right" amount of sex is different for every couple. Alessandro Biascioli/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Can A Long-Term Relationship Survive No Sex?

Concerned about the amount of sex you and your partner are having? Don't be—as long as you're both happy.

"[Studies like this] and benchmarks in general can make people feel bad about themselves, but many people want a guide," Marcus said.

"If you feel like you're off that benchmark by a mile, ask yourself 'Am I truly happy and is my partner truly happy?'

"If you're being honest with yourselves, then that's fine."