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What does ‘enough’ sex look like in a Healthy Relationship

You may have heard from a therapist, know-it-all acquaintance, or your favorite advice columnist that couples should aim to have sex at least once a week to keep their relationship happy and thriving. But how legit is this yardstick—and should you worry if your own sex life isn’t measuring up?

It’s hard to trace the exact origins of this supposedly magic number, but some experts credit a popular 2016 study, which found that banging once a week was the sweet spot for relationship satisfaction. (Doing it more frequently didn’t increase participants’ reported happiness, and doing it less was associated with lower fulfillment.) The truth is, though, there’s no one-size-satisfies-all answer to how often you should be having sex—no matter what the research may say.

That’s because every relationship is different, and a single statistic shouldn’t be used as a prescription for all couples, says Lexx Brown-James, PhD, LMFT, AASECT-certified sex therapist and director of the Sexual Health Certificate Program at the University of Michigan. “There’s a whole host of external things [unrelated to attraction] that can affect how often you do or don’t have sex in a given week,” Dr. Brown-James says—like work stress, for instance, parental responsibilities, and simply not being in the mood. Not to mention, there are plenty of couples out there who aren’t sexual but are still perfectly happy and healthy, she adds.

You should also know that pressuring yourself to meet a certain quota may actually hurt, not help, the quality of your love life, Casey Tanner, MA, LCPC, AASECT-certified sex therapist and author of Feel it All: A Therapist’s Guide to Reimagining Your Relationship With Sex, tells SELF. “Setting these numerical goals might encourage people to approach sex with problematic ‘shoulds,’ like ‘we should have had sex by now, it’s been two weeks!’” Tanner says. Also, banging because you “have to” (and not because you want to) is a “great way to build resentment in relationships,” Dr. Brown-James adds—which “creates emotional and physical distance, leading to mistrust, miscommunication, and tension.”

Simply put, there is no golden rule for how often you and your partner need to bone in order to be “healthy.” “In my experience, I’ve met happy couples having sex once a year who are far more connected than those having it once a week,” Tanner says. So instead of fixating on the frequency, what really matters is that everyone involved feels safe, comfortable, and fulfilled.

If you’re unsure about whether your sex life is really doing it for you, here are a few helpful signs to look out for in your relationship.

1. You look forward to having sex.

In other words, you shouldn’t be annoyed, feel guilty, or approach it with a “let’s get this over with” attitude. According to Tanner, these reactions are inevitable when you’re having sex out of obligation, rather than genuine desire—which might be the case if you’re striving to meet that “perfect” once-a-week quota. (Unnecessary pressure might just kill your sexual chemistry in the long run, she warns.)

On the flip side, when you’re actually happy with how things are going in the bedroom, you’ll look forward to those moments of physical connection, no matter how often they happen, Tanner says. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll always be in the mood when your partner is, or that you’ll stay as horny as you were during the dirty honeymoon phase. But basically, you should still feel a sense of desire, happiness, and excitement when they’re kissing, fondling, and, well, fucking you.

2. The sex feels satisfying.

Quality is more important than quantity, Tanner says. So instead of getting hung up on the number of times you’re getting busy, it’s more helpful to tune into how you feel while it’s happening. Some questions she suggests asking yourself: “Are you feeling connected to your partner? Is the sex affirming, validating, and meaningful? Is it moving at a pace that’s right for you? Are the activities involved the ones that give you the most pleasure?”

Saying yes to all of the above is a pretty solid sign that your needs are, indeed, getting satisfied. If something is lacking, though, you may need to work together to get on the same (hot) page. Might we suggest browsing through our handy little guide on how to have more transformative and romantic sex? Or, these expert-approved tips to feel closer to your partner?

3. You’re comfortable telling your partner what you do (and don’t) want.

Maybe you’re curious about experimenting with sex toys for the first time. Or your go-to positions are getting kind of boring and you want to try new ones that get you hot and horny. Another good indicator of a thriving sex life is feeling safe enough to voice your needs, wants, and concerns (if something isn’t working), Dr. Brown-James says.

Open communication is the foundation of a healthy sex life since it builds trust and prevents relatively minor issues (like the fact that you’re the only one initiating, for example) from growing into full-blown resentment, which is much harder to fix.

Realistically, though, talking about your pent-up frustrations or dirtiest fantasies can sometimes get awkward. In that case, you might want to try bringing these things up casually—rather than making the conversation a super serious “we need to talk” moment. This approach can help you both recognize that keeping the lines of sexual communication open for business doesn’t have to be so intimidating—and can even be fun!

The original article can be found on SELF US.

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