Throughout the course of a long-term relationship, there are so many moments that will give you pause and have you wondering, “Are we doing this the way everyone else is doing it? Is what we’re doing… normal? Is it okay?” Whether you’re wondering if other people your age have money in the bank, or if they’ve moved up the career ladder the same way you have, or if you’re running behind on having kids or… whether or not your sex life is as active as it “should” be, there’s an awful lot of room for wondering, or imagining what other people’s reality is. And really, a lot of that can stress you out. After all, it’s not really fun to spend time you could be having sex wondering if you’re having enough sex in the first place, right?
So recently we asked y’all to share the details about your sex lives via an anonymous survey (and whoa, thank you! to the 1,800 or so of you that gave us your nitty-gritty details). The idea to poll APW readers and ask how often they’re having sex with their partners was borne out of wanting to normalize questions about sex in general. Since data analysis is one of my secret superpowers, I volunteered to dig into this one for the APW team.
What really jumped out to me is the part that 254 of you dove into—the short answer to “How has your sex life changed throughout your relationship?” Because really? Whenever I’ve wondered if our sex life is what it should be, that’s the question I’m really asking—how does sex change over the years of a relationship? Y’all… let’s start with the charts, shall we?
Question 1: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TOGETHER?
Question 2: do you have kids?
Question 3: if you have kids, how many do you have?
Question 4: how often do you have sex?
Question 5: are you satisfied with your sex life?
The “Are you satisfied with your sex life?” question is where things get… interesting. There were three options for responses: yes, no, or a blank text box. A lot of you decided that you needed to write in a response, which is awesome to learn more about you… but was hard to quantify. So I took a stab at bucketing the responses (which means that I read every single one), and I quickly picked up on some themes. A large number of the write in responses were caveats—either a “yes, but…” or “no, but…” response to explain why you felt the way you did. A smaller subset of responses were either in the middle or simply designated as “other” for ease of data analysis.
Question 6: how has your sex life changed throughout your relationship?
A lot of you recognize that we could be having more sex, but life gets in the way—opposing work schedules, new babies, etc. Lots of respondents also wondered if they should want to want more sex, which had us asking ourselves does that come from society pushing an idea that a happy relationship means constant sex? No matter the source, many of you feel satisfied with your sex life but you wonder if you should still want more from it. It sounds like many of us have a mismatched libido from our partner—no matter who has the higher or lower libido, it’s a challenge. Several responses noted being satisfied with the amount of sex, but knowing that your partner isn’t, and thus you aren’t satisfied either. Some of you are really happy with your sex life, and told us how you worked at your sex life with your partner, and have come to a place where you’re both satisfied and excited.
A common theme through the responses was simply saying, “I want more sex.” We’re happy with the quality of sex we’re having with our partners, but the frequency is lacking. Family planning is affecting your sex life—whether it’s birth control that has affected your libido, or trying to conceive sucking the fun out of lovemaking, it’s having a negative effect on your sex life.
Despite your challenges with sex, so many of the responses talked about dealing with your new normal when it comes to physical intimacy with your partner. Many of you talked about your strategies, whether it was scheduling a sex date, or at least taking time to cuddle and connect. Almost all of the parent responses noted how hard it is to have regular sex while pregnant or with an infant in the house. Even when discussing issues with libido or other health problems, the comments noted how you’re still making it work with your partners, in whatever capacity you can. And for those of you who have the lower libidos, it was clear that you really want to satisfy your partners as much as possible:
It’s slowed down a lot since about maybe a year before marriage (we were living together for about two years before the wedding, and had been dating long distance for two years before that). I made jokes about Lesbian Bed Death. We are in an open relationship and both had satisfactory sexual encounters with others during this time (about once a week for me when I was seeing a secondary partner for about a year and a half). I’m starting to reevaluate my bisexuality as maybe demisexuality… I’m not that interested in sex overall and need physical closeness and comfort much more than sex. Could be age; could be hormones—I remember being much more sexually motivated ten to fifteen years ago.
We used to make out really intensely and awkwardly and frequently in college (we didn’t have sex until we were married). It took a little bit of time to get the sex going while we were married, but now we have a decent routine going which I’m pretty happy with. I think my husband would probably like to have sex more—but if he wants that to happen, he also needs to be willing to have evening/going to bed sex, which seems like the most practical kind to me, especially to work in on a weekday, but which we never have because he falls asleep instantly. We also use condoms and natural family planning for birth control, so we don’t have (PIV) sex for a good week or so a month because we are extra cautious (although we do other things). Since we mostly have sex on weekends, combining that with no period sex means that depending on the month, we could only have (PIV) sex two times, if those sex-blackout times fall during a weekend.
We were very sexually active when we began dating, but my husband has an anxiety disorder and depression that became quite serious a year after we got together and require medication. Between the depression and the side effects of the various medications my husband has been on, we go through periods where we don’t have much sex at all because he isn’t interested or has trouble completing the act (which stresses him out and makes him less interested). Add pregnancy and now a new baby to that and we’re definitely not getting busy the way we once did, but we have sex when we can and cuddle and kiss a lot to keep some intimacy alive.
We lived in the same city, each of us living with our parents during college when we started dating, and had extremely chill parents that were cool with us sleeping over at each others’ houses; that probably allowed us one to two times a week of sexy times. Then we were long distance for three and a half years, so almost any time we saw each other or visited each other we had sex during that time (short week-long trips every four to six months). We’ve now lived together for eight months and it’s a mostly-on-the-weekends thing (lots of late work nights during the week). The quality continues to get better and better; we were extremely young and inexperienced when we first got together (less than ten total partners between the two of us) and really grew up and matured as adults together.
I am looking forward to developing a sex life after the wedding, so it will be changing very soon. I am thrilled to have found a partner who loves and respects me, but also shares my desire to wait to have sex until after the wedding. The self-control required to achieve this goal has only shown me more of his strength. It definitely hasn’t always been easy. And, even though we may be new at this after our wedding (and fumble and make mistakes at first), I know I have chosen a partner who will work to develop a great sex life through communication and a desire for self-improvement. Since the beginning of our dating relationship until now, with forty-two days to go, we have definitely become very open about talking about sex and our associated desires, fears, etc., to make the transition into married life a smooth one.
Very little! We felt magnetic and deeply attracted to each other from the get-go and that hasn’t changed at all over the past eight years. We love making each other feel good and being so connected through sex, and sex still makes us feel like those giggly lovers who first hooked up. It’s so special.
We’ve been married almost six years, and we’ve had less sex the longer we’ve been married. My husband and I read the book The Five Love Languages and found that he was more affected by our lack of sex than I was. We’re working on it, but it’s hard because we have different needs, plus my birth control affects my sex drive, plus both of us have fairly stressful jobs.
There’s been a huge decrease in frequency as both of our jobs have become more demanding. When we first got together, in graduate school, we’d work from home, writing in the mornings and evenings but usually spending the afternoons in bed together. That sometimes still happens on holidays (the desire hasn’t changed), but too often we just have a monstrously long list of chores and deadlines.
Early on we had sex all the time! Like, two to four times a day, but we were also in our very early twenties. We are way too tired for that level of enthusiasm now, but are also thirty with a six-month-old baby. We didn’t have sex much at all while I was pregnant but are back to having sex a bit more frequently than we had been the past few years, which is nice!
We’ve been married for almost six years but together for twelve, and it’s definitely changed. We used to have sex at least once a week. Now it’s only once a month sometimes. Mainly my doing—the more stress I’m under, the less I want to have sex or I lose my sex drive. Also, having two kids has taken a toll on my body, and I was having some pain during sex and my sex drive has been at zero lately. And I really can’t blame the physical children now that they sleep well; I think it’s hormones and stuff that make me just not want sex as much. Hoping this changes though, because I miss the physical intimacy that me and my husband had, and the frequency.
Early on: multiple times a day, pretty much every day. Lots of oral sex for him. I didn’t like receiving oral (from him specifically—the mechanics were just not working and I didn’t care to “train” him), so less for me. Some novelty locations (outside, cars, etc.).
After a year or so: no more novelty locations, and we have sex maybe four to six times a week (there’s less oral sex for him too).
For a few in-between years: sex two to four times a week. Learning about this “maintenance sex” thing. Quality sometimes not great.
Last couple of years: quality and frequency increasing again, and we had some real conversations about our preferences (mostly training partner in improved oral techniques, and educating him on the real importance of foreplay, etc., and… sex is better than ever). A little more spontaneous again, though not as much as it was when we started out, but maintenance sex is okay, too. It’s really nice to have a(n increasingly complete) sexual vocabulary and menu (from tender and intimate, to “I am a motherfucking goddess” spirituality, to whatever level of kink you’re comfortable with, to the occasional conflicted feelings “I will tolerate or do this (totally normal thing) for you now because sometimes we do things just for the other person and that sometimes the thing to do is sex,” to “We should just do this because we know our lives are better when we do, and if it goes too long we get cranky, whereas, if we just do it, it has it’s own virtuous cycle, which always leaves me wanting more, more often…”).
Also amazing: sex toys, and making your own videos at home, and then watching them together. Convincing your partner to try a tenga egg (fun!)… so many delights.
Also life changing: Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski.
Always peaks and valleys over the years, depending on what else is going on with our lives. But quality has been better since we’re done having kids; I think trying to get pregnant/having a newborn made my husband uncomfortable. Now we’re at peace with periodic dry spells (with two little kids, sometimes there’s just not time!), we know what each other likes, and we are more apt to just say “fuck it, it’s been a while, we need to Do It” (which is not spontaneous but still a lot of fun!).
My wife and I have been married for going on three years and together for just over eleven. We first got together when we were nineteen and had sex every day, sometimes more than once a day. Holy shit. I cannot even imagine where we got the energy. We’ve obviously mellowed out since then and how often we have sex varies, but we usually average out to one to two times a week. Recently it’s been less, maybe once every ten days or so? I don’t really keep track until I realize it’s been a while. But between the Trump presidency, trying to make a baby, a new job, and mental health stuff, it just hasn’t been a priority recently. Which sucks, but we always come back to each other and get back into the rhythm (ew, sorry) again.
did you take the survey? are you surprised by any of the results? are you happy with how your sex life has changed over the years, or do you wish it were different?