We’ve all heard the advice from so-called relationship experts that the key to happiness in a marriage or long-term relationship is to have lots of sex. Like, as much as possible. Every single day even, according to some particular overachievers. But, for those of us who heard that, then looked at our kids, never-ending laundry piles, and the beds that we’d much rather sleep in and then thought, “Yeah right, Relationship Experts!,” good news has arrived: according to huge study out of the University of Toronto-Mississauga, the ideal frequency for married sex is actually once a week.
According to the study, which was published online by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, regular sex is absolutely important to the health of a relationship, but more isn’t always better. Researchers surveyed over 30,000 Americans for four decades, and found that couples who have less sex than once a week were reported to be less happy in their relationships, but couples who have sex more than once a week weren’t any happier than their once-a-week counterparts. According to lead researcher Amy Muise, “[the] findings suggest that it’s important to maintain an intimate connection with your partner, but you don’t need to have sex everyday as long as you’re maintaining that connection.”
University of Toronto-Mississauga researchers, tired co-parents everywhere thank you. Here are some other surprising facts about married sex that science just illuminated for us:
1The Need For Sex Actually Doesn’t Vary Among Age Ranges & Gender
Even though we tend to think there are differences in the amount of sex desired by women and men, or by younger couples and older couples, the results of the study showed that, actually, the once-a-week recommendation applied to all participants, regardless of gender or age.
“Our findings were consistent for men and women, younger and older people, and couples who had been married for a few years or decades,” said Muise.
2More Sex Is Better For Your Marriage Than A Raise
It turns out that frequency of sex can actually make a bigger difference than your annual income: there was a bigger difference in the levels of happiness between those having sex less than once a month versus once a week than the difference in happiness between people earning $15,000-$20,000 per year and people earning $50,000-$75,000.
3But Upping Sex Probably Won’t Help If Your Marriage Is Already In Trouble
U of T researchers stopped short of recommending sex as a relationship remedy, though, pointing out that the results didn’t necessarily show a causal relationship. For example, is it that couples who have more sex are happier than those who don’t? Or is it that happier couples naturally have more sex?
Perhaps option #2, say researchers at Carnegie Mellon. A study published earlier in the year showed that couples who were specifically instructed to increase the frequency with which they have sex actually reported lower happiness levels. The researchers believed that simply having more sex isn’t the same as wanting to have more sex — so if you’re already on the rocks, more sex alone isn’t likely to be a panacea.
4And, Well, None Of This Applies To You If You’re Single
Although the findings seem pretty clear that once-a-week is a magic number for committed couples, the study found zero association between sex frequency and happiness for single people. But since there are so many differences between sex when you’re single and sex when you’re married (availability, variety, relationship dynamics, life circumstances... need I continue?), it makes sense that it the optimal romp rate would be different for everyone.
Depending on you and your partner’s current sex situation, these scientific findings may or may not be good news (especially if you’ve struggled to get your groove back after having a baby!). But if you’ve been wondering if the times you’ve skipped date for Netflix and bed at 8:30 p.m. have been bad for your marriage, there’s no need to worry — as long as you’re not totally ignoring each other in the bedroom, you’re probably doing just fine.
Images: City of Seattle/Flickr; Giphy (4)