How often a couple has sex won’t tell you whether or not there are issues in their sex life or in their relationship. As Francis points out, there are legitimate reasons couples might have less, little, or no sex, whether for a period of time or as an intentionally sustained part of their relationship. It’s not always a crisis, she adds, and it can, in fact, even be a good thing for the relationship.
“If both partners are in agreement to not have sex, then not having sex is not a problem and can bring people closer as they create the kind of relationship that honors their desires,” she says.
So, when is it a problem to be having less sex?
According to Francis, a lack of sex in a relationship is only a problem “when folks are not in agreement about the sex they do or do not have; this can make sex a source of conflict and contention.” And that’s exactly what you don’t want—for sex to feel bad or feel like a source of tension in the relationship.
If at least one person isn’t happy with the state of their shared sex life, Zimmerman says, that’s when there need to be some conversations about how to get to a place that feels good for both people.
But, she emphasizes, the way to assess the issue isn’t to start counting how often the couple is having sex or setting benchmarks for how often they ought to be having it. “I believe that talking about frequency, at least talking solely about frequency, is the wrong conversation,” she says.
One partner might want to have more sex, but making it simply about frequency ignores the very thing that’s most likely to make the other person genuinely interested in more sex—that is, how pleasurable it actually is to have it. “We need to be talking about the quality of pleasure and connection, and we need to understand any barriers someone may have to wanting and enjoying sex,” says Zimmerman.