The truth about what really goes on with sex long-term

How do you stack up against the average?

It’s a question I think is utterly pointless to ask because there is no average. We are all absolutely individual in sex –  in our drives, behaviour, frequency and preferences.

Yet we continue to compare ourselves to this mythical measurement, labouring under the impression that every other couple but us are out there having stupendously spectacular, effortless sex at least twice a day (and four on weekends).

In the interest of helping to paint a more realistic picture of what a long-term sex life looks like, here’s some stats that do reflect reality.

The top five reasons for skipping sex are (with respondents allowed to choose more than one reason) too tired (53%), not feeling well (49%), not in the mood (40%), too busy taking care of the kids or pets (30%), work (29%).

A ‘no-sex’ marriage isn’t officially total abstinence.

Sex therapists brand couples ‘no-sex’ if you’re only having sexual encounters less than 10 times per year. Twenty percent of American marriages are classified as ‘no-sex’.  A ‘low-sex’ marriage is having sex less than every other week (under 25 times a year). Fifteen percent of American couples fall into this category and most Western countries rate about the same. I’d say the actual number is far higher than this.

The longer a couple avoids sexual contact, the harder it is to break the cycle. It’s also true that the longer you go without sex, the less you miss it.

How important is sex to relationship happiness?

The generally agreed on adage in sex therapy is that when sex is going well, it adds 15 to 20% to your happiness with the relationship. If sex is bad or non-existent, relationship dissatisfaction soars to 50 to 70%.

The longer you are with your partner, the less sex you have because of what’s called ‘habituation’: removal of the novelty factor.

How often you have sex in the first year you’re together dictates how often you will have sex from then on. Surveys show it sets the pattern – if you’re having an above average amount of sex, it continues even after two years when there’s a natural drop off point.

Taking turns to initiate sex and talking about sex are the two most important factors for a satisfying sex life long-term.

Nearly all men and 80% of women have fantasies about people who aren’t their partner. In another poll of 2000 people, half those who answered said it was ‘not OK’ for this to happen. Fact is though, it does. The longer you’ve been in a relationship and the more partners you’ve had, the more likely you are to fantasise about someone else.

The moral here: don’t share fantasies you know are likely to upset your partner.


Sharing fantasies often doesn’t work to turn each other on if you’re a straight couple. The reason why is men’s and women’s fantasies are often very different. Men focus more on the act of having sex and are more explicit.

One of the biggest predictors of male sexual satisfaction is receiving oral sex regularly.

Lack of time is one of the greatest frustrations of their sex life for 75% of people.

It’s normal for five to 15% of sexual experiences to be mediocre or unsatisfying.

The British are the most tight-lipped in Europe when it comes to talking about sex. Less than six out of ten people globally are comfortable with telling their lover what they like to do in bed.

The ‘seven year itch’ is a myth. It was the title of a movie starring Marilyn Monroe which had a fictional book in it, by a fictional author who claimed men have affairs after seven years of marriage. There never has been any evidence to support it. If anything, it’s more accurate to say there’s a four year itch with lots of couples experiencing difficulty at that point.

The two most important indicators of whether a couple will survive is how sensibly they chose each other at the start and how much they’ve thought about the commitment. The more you’ve thought about the commitment, the more chance you have of making it long-term.

Being unwilling to let go of the sex we experience during ‘limerance’ – the first stage of a relationship when you’re at it day and night – is a major reason why lots of people don’t have good sex in the long term. Recognise fresh-flesh-lust for what it is, rather than over-valuing it, romanticising it, or (the most deluded of all) thinking it’s normal, and you’ve got half a chance of still wanting to get your leg over in your 70s.

Married women with children under the age of five have the lowest libido of all groups, according to a study of 11,000 men and women aged 16-44.

Four months after the birth of children, couples usually return to however often they were having sex mid-pregnancy. Six months after the birth, most are clocking up three or five times a month. One year in, couples say sex is starting to feel good again, though few say it’s as good as it was pre-kids. Post one year, 95 per cent of couples say they’re still having less sex than before the pregnancy. It’s not all glum though: nearly all say it’s worth the trade-off of having children.