Which do you think is normal?
Which did you choose? Well actually, it’s none of them. Because actually, it doesn’t matter. Ask any sex therapist worth their salt and they’ll tell you that there is not a recommended or ‘healthy’ amount of sex. And despite many studies and magazine headlines out there trying to, we’re not going to be telling you how many times a week, month or year is ‘average’. The average tells you nothing about the largest or smallest numbers in the findings, who may well have found joy with the sex they’re having despite straying far from the ‘average’.
It also tells you nothing about how honest people were when they reported that number; self-reported data on sex runs a risk of participants saying what they think sounds good. The number you get is not how often people are having sex, but how often people think they should be having sex. And that gets us right back to where we are now - focused on what we think we ‘should’ be doing.
We can never really know what’s going on in other people’s relationships. We all mask aspects of our lives from one another, then hear about the lives of others and assume everything they say is an accurate reflection of what’s happening on the ground. Think of all the instagram couples you see, that is a split second of their lives, it’s not the whole story.
Statements like ‘1000 couples report having sex an average of X times a week’ don’t tell us why they’re having sex or how they feel about it. They could be ecstatic, or miserably forcing themselves to do something that doesn’t feel right for them, or something else entirely.
There are a few studies that indicate that a certain amount of sex in a relationship (which helpfully varies from study to study!) is linked with individual happiness and relationship wellbeing. But does more sex make you happier or make a better relationship, or are happier people just having more sex? Again, this data tells you very little that helps you make sense of your own situation.
You’re not alone - we all feel tempted to compare ourselves to others, but why is this the case? Think back to how you felt when you were deciding the answer to the first question. Maybe you read it and panicked that you’re not having anywhere near the same amount of sex as everybody else, because you and your partner haven’t had sex for months. Perhaps you felt anxious that the current amount of sex you’re having is already too much for you, or that you’ll have to maintain the amount you have now to avoid slipping into the official ‘not enough sex’ territory.
Wondering how much sex other people are having is universal. What we want is reassurance. We want to know that we’re just like everyone else (or ideally - a little better), because there is nothing worse than feeling like we’re the only person in the world with our problem. This can make us feel:
This set of feelings can be profoundly disconnecting and isolating. They can create a lot of shame. It’s entirely understandable that when faced with a problem like this we would want to learn what’s going on for other people to know that this is something they struggle with too.
Well, we can reassure you that they do. Thousands of people have completed the Blueheart assessment and all of them report a variety of struggles and anxieties about their sex lives and the amount of sex they have with their partner. It’s never just you.
Knowing everyone else wrestles with sexual problems can help you feel less alone, share what’s going on with you and not be blocked by shame from being able to start working on it.
Normal doesn’t exist. That can be quite disorienting to confront. Throughout our lives, our TV’s, teachers, colleagues, friends and family will make us feel like there is an accepted or ‘ok’ way of doing things that we should be striving to achieve. So, it makes sense that we automatically apply this approach to sex. What’s different though is that learning what everyone else does is not the same thing as learning what we personally want from sex.
It’s a moving target. What is typical, healthy or ok for you will continually shift. Sex is both a psychological and physical activity, so as your mind and body change throughout your life, sex will too. That includes how much sex you want, how you feel about sex and how much sex you’re physically able to have. These can go up, down, and sideways differing over years, during the month, or even during times throughout the day. To add to the complexity, your partner’s mind and body will be changing too, and it’s unlikely your changes will be exactly sync’d.
Learning what you want and what feels good for you is a project that you have to constantly assess and rethink throughout your life. When something changes we all have to relearn how we feel about sex, whether that’s physically, emotionally or otherwise. Focusing on what other people are doing and whether that’s what you should be doing will only take you away from this important project of who YOU are and what you need, and will probably lead to you not being very nice to yourself in the process.
Blueheart will help you shift that focus back to yourself, your body and your connection with your partner, where the real work can then begin.
If you feel ready to get back in touch with sex again, check out how with the Blueheart app here.