Sex And Your Long-Term Relationship. Not Enough Or Too Much?

A study published this month by Australian researchers finds that both men and women are unhappy by the frequency of sex they’re having (or not having) in long-term relationships.

“The real issue here, I think, is that couples are not finding enough time for sex,’’ said Dr. Smith. “I don’t think you can keep forcing more and more activities in people’s lives and still expect them to take the time it takes to have sex, let alone good-quality sex.”

Read the New York Times article here. And please leave your comments below. Will you change anything about the way you currently talk to your partner about sex?

Join our conversation (81 Comments).
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  1. 1

    Women in long term relationships tend to be the “smart ladies” that married men for compatibility not chemistry. As the relationship continues the lack of attraction only increases. Thus wifey’s libido is barely stirred if not diminished by her mate. For me personally I want sex daily AT LEAST. (granted my longest relationship was three years.) I’m usually unhappy with the infrequently my partner wants sex or the limited duration of what was offered. If I’m trying to make it work  with someone who is nice but that appealing my libido doesn’t diminish. It’s just I’d rather take care of it myself. I realized there’s a difference between attraction and repulsion with men and women. Men have a lot more gray area in what is attractive enough to have sex with. THEN they are repulsed post coitally.  Sexual women are either skin crawling repulsion or hair the back of neck attraction. I have a couple friends that are more analytical but there also that ladies that have very low sex drives to begin with.
    Honestly who amongst would want to have sex with Woody Allen once a year let alone there times a week. YUCK!

    1. 1.1

      apparantly his wife and adopted daughter do.

  2. 2

    Yeah… “smart ladies” — that’s the problem exactly.  If I marry the guy I’m currently dating, I will NOT want to have sex with him much.  I would marry him for companionship, security, a family.  I’d marry him because he’s better than nothing and I can’t find someone else I get along with that I’m actually attracted to.
    I’d really love to find someone I get along well with AND am attracted to.  So far, no luck.  If I were attracted to my guy I’d want to have sex fairly often.  If I marry someone just for the sake of getting married and not continuing to hold out for something better that never comes along… sex would be a chore that I’d seek to minimize.
    Yup.  What’s a smart lady to do?

  3. 3

    I agree with you both. Even if it is against Evans basic philosophy here, I think strong sexual attraction IS important in a relationship. Without it, it is a friendship and then if there is no sex I may live with my brother for all I care.. 

    I have had enough of those “barely there” attractions and relationships, and they never just work. I like sex, and I am not willing to give good sex up, I just won’t settle. Settling is still a dirty word for me. =)
    But then again, I don’t want children, I can earn enough for my needs, and I have enough friends to support me emotionally when I need it..
    Why would I take a man whom I would find a sexual burden after a while?

    1. 3.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      I’ve tried to stay above the fray on this, but I must clarify again, for those who seem to make up words and attribute them to me.

      I have never said that sexual attraction isn’t important in a relationship. (and if I actually did, I’d very much like you to call it to my attention)

      What I’ve said, ad nauseum, over the past four years on this blog, is that when you let your loins make your decisions for you, quite often you learn that they’re not great judges of character. So instead of making instant sexual attraction on a first date dictate your future, consider that, in the long run, character is, at the very least, equally as important than lust. Lust generally wears off in relationships; character doesn’t.

      Nowhere did I say that you shouldn’t be attracted to your partner or that attraction doesn’t matter. So please, stop attributing that to me, okay?

      You do a great disservice to the advice I attempt to give when you misquote me and others take it as fact.

      Thanks a bunch.

      The Management.

  4. 4

    In response to the above posts, I think that marrying someone who you’re not really attracted to (for the security, convenience etc.) is not smart, but very selfish. I don’t mean this to be unkind in saying this, but it is.
    It’s unfair to get into a potentially life-long commitment with someone when you know in advance that engaging in one of the most pleasurable aspects of a relationship will become a chore. Especially when monogamy is (usually) a prerequisite, and so they have no real way to get their physical needs met elsewhere (except through porn etc.. which is hardly a substitute). Not to mention it’s dishonest to give the impression that you’re attracted to someone by offering lots of sex at the beginning, in order to “secure” their affection/commitment, only to knowingly taper it off as time goes on. And this is all aside from the emotional and psychological impact of sex, and the influence on someone’s emotional well-being when they are constantly rejected, sexually.
    I know some may disagree, but I do think that unless a person is mentally or physically ill /disabled or pregnant, there is no excuse for not making sex a priority – whatever that means to those in the relationship. We owe it to the person we’re with, if we care even slightly about their wellbeing and happiness. Surely everyone deserves to be with someone who wants them, in every way, and not to be a second-best convenience that someone else has settled for… I know I’d be devastated if I ever found out that a partner wasn’t really attracted and viewed sex with me as a chore… Anyway, sorry for going slightly off topic 😉 I was just perturbed by what I read above.
    I’m 33 and my longest relationship has only been 5 years, but I can’t imagine having sex less than 3 times a week. Back in my earlier twenties I used to find it embarrassing to talk about what I wanted, sexually, but I agree that it’s essential to have those conversations, as relationships are so much better for them.
    Anyway, sorry this is so long! 😉

    1. 4.1

      Men at a certain age say testerone is a problem but they do nothing about it. They become cranky old men and they blame their S/O. It’s sad that they don’t get help rather than ruin and destroy a relationship over very very very small things.

      They become nags not men. Be careful because they can be so grumpy about everything you do…very silly things that never bothered them when they are over 65 but most men are not like this..I don’t think.  Just really hard when a guy becomes a carmudgeon and changes… however it is difficult for a woman to deal with a grumpy old man who she once love. Little patience or sense of humor. A sad thing.


    2. 4.2

      Kate – your perspective it so absolutely SPOT ON.  I’m a guy who was on the receiving end of exactly what you describe – wife who, unbeknowst to me, was not attracted to me for most of our 26 year marriage, but thought it prudent to hang-on for the kids, without bothering to fill me in on her reality.  So, having sex once every month or two (despite my constant attempts to express my love for her as best as I could) for most of the marriage I chalked up to ‘low libido’ on her part, and did not want to make her feel bad by pressing the point (she resisted conversations about it). Finally after a period of 6 months of continuous rejection of any/every attempt to initiate intimacy (by me), she and I both strayed into infidelity, s** hit the fan, and she finally (thankfully) came clean about her not having been attracted to me for years. I wish she had been honest with me earlier, so we both could have gotten on with finding the right partner for each of us.

  5. 5

    If people value sex as an important part of their relationship, and almost everybody does, then they need to put sex higher up the priority list.’’

    Something to consider when evaluating “the tingle” along with other “practical” qualities. 😛

  6. 6

    Sometimes the infrequency is due to ED and not necessarily a lack of desire or attraction. My last two long-term relationships were with guys in their mid-fifties. The older a man gets, it seems the less likely he is to be able to perform sexually. In both cases the guys took either Viagra or Cialis, but they were still either too tired or simply lacked the stamina they had in their younger years.  I digress, but if I’m in my late 40s and these guys couldn’t keep up with me, how in the heck can a 50 year-old man satisfy a 30 something year old woman? 

  7. 7

    Amen, Regina!

  8. 8

    What a good read! I was married for 16 years and finding the time and energy for quality sex became increasingly hard as the child grew. In my younger years I would definitely have balked at the idea of scheduling sex but at this point in my life, I would much prefer that to missed opportunities. For me, it has taken quite a bit of growing to mature & feel confident to talk about sex in this very area. Ridiculous! but true.

    Thanks for posting this link Evan 🙂

  9. 9
    Katarina Phang

    Kate #5, I agree wholehartedly.  I’ve been in a marriage in which my husband thought sex was a chore.  And it killed the love and connection.

    However I agree with Evan also that chemistry shouldn’t blind you because without compatibility and communication, the sex will be gone too in no time just as in my case.  I knew from the get go compatibility -and communication- was an issue for me and my husband but I was so crazy attracted to him physically (apart from I felt special spiritual connection I couldn’t put into words).  And it was a hard journey as a couple.

  10. 10

    Hmm based on the numbers seems like both men and women want more sex just not with their mate!  LOL

  11. 11

    You ladies were not told that a man is either a good lover or high earner?   If you want both, you have to find two men.  

    1. 11.1

      So true! Too bad more people haven’t learned this!

  12. 12
    Katarina Phang

    Hunter, what if he’s neither? 🙂

  13. 13

    To Evan: Sorry I think I expressed myself poorly, as my long and rambling post above was just in response to the two posters before me, who stated that “smart” women married soley for compatibility, and thus in the long-term would view sex as a chore.
    I in no way disagree with anything you say on this fantastic blog. This is the first time I’ve posted here, but I’ve been an avid reader for years and agree entirely with all your advice. It has helped me immensely.
    My point before was simply that the level of attraction (not lust or chemistry) shouldn’t be so low as to make regular sex a chore…  I was objecting to the word “smart” being used to describe being with someone one isn’t that attracted to…  What I’ve taken away more than anything from this blog, (that opened my eyes completely) was the need for balance.

  14. 14

    Jake and I do not have sex as much as we’d like to in an ideal world, but because he is at work most days until 8 or 9 o’clock at night (at a job he hates), I understand why he’s not in the mood on weekdays.  He is considering opening up his own business, which would probably be at least as much work as what he’s doing now but such a lightening of his load in terms of happiness (he’s really, really mistreated where he works now) that I think that would make a big difference.

  15. 15

    I never said you said that.  I know you don’t say that.  But it’s not a terribly far leap from what you do say and post.  Didn’t you post something recently about the case for settling?  An article or something called “Marry Him….”  Don’t remember off the top of my head.  I know you don’t necessarily endorse all of that, but if you continue along that line of reasoning you can conclude that some women might feel they ought to give up attraction for companionship, stability, whatever.  As I said in my earlier post: something is better than nothing.
    Personally, I find it excruciatingly difficult to find someone I’m attracted to at all, let alone such a one who is attracted to me and treats me well.  This may well be my own character flaw (there are probably some Daddy issues involved), but nonetheless it exists and so I have to deal with it.  I have to consider whether I’d prefer to continue to hold out for what I really want (while I get older and my peak desirability gets farther away in my rear-view mirror), or settle for what I can get which has a lot of good qualities even if something desirable is missing.  When I was younger I chose to hold out for better.  What I ended up with was nothing.  I don’t want to continue making that mistake.  I’d rather have something than nothing.
    I understand your point but allow me to respond.  I have not been dishonest with him and I would not.  (And I never said that I was.)  I have never had sex with him.  I don’t even kiss him.  Would it be unfair to him if I married him knowing I’m not attracted to him?  Not if he knowingly agrees.  I remember something, I think from that “Marry Him” article Evan posted, where the guy didn’t mind at all that his dream woman was settling for him.  He got the woman of his dreams; SHE was the one who ended up disappointed.  That’s how it might be with me and my guy.  It’s not unfair to him if he’s willing; he might be delighted.  Moreover, I could be talked into some sort of open-marriage arrangement if I am unable or unwilling to meet his physical needs.
    So how would it be selfish to let him, if he so chooses, marry the woman of his dreams, meet his sexual needs on the side, and be fully aware of my honest position on the matter?

    1. 15.1
      Evan Marc Katz


      Thank you for your reasonable response, which is why I’m going to do my best to clarify once again:

      You said: “If you continue along that line of reasoning you can conclude that some women might feel they ought to give up attraction for companionship, stability, whatever.”

      You can play the “if you continue along that line of reasoning” trope but it’s not representative of what I ACTUALLY said. Similar lines of reasoning would say, “Obama has raised taxes on the top 2% of earners. It’s only a matter of time before we’re a socialist country,” or “Insisting on waiting periods for gun ownership means that the government is trying to destroy the 2nd Amendment and take away your right to hunt for deer.”

      What I have said – what I will continue to say – and what I don’t want to get misquoted on ever again – is that since attraction leads to lots of bad decision making (think: most of our respective exes), instead of holding out for the “10” attraction, be open to the 6.5-7 attraction because the compatibility might be a lot better in the long run. You will not find one place where I said to “give up” on attraction. And I can’t keep on taking the time to defend myself against something that I DIDN’T say – no more than Obama should have to defend himself against “death panels”.

      A relationship with NO attraction is a non-starter. A relationship that’s all attraction is similar. A relationship with a 7 attraction and a 10 compatibility is one that’s built to last. Scour the blog. This is all I’ve ever said.

      Stop being blinded by attraction does not mean “give up on” attraction.

      So let’s stop putting your host on the defensive, shall we? I run a well-meaning blog with over 115,000 visitors last month. If you’re going to quote me, at least listen to my actual intent instead of assigning false meaning to something you thought I said.

  16. 16


    Under your scenario, don’t you think it’s the slightest bit selfish to prevent your friend from finding a woman who would adore him, sexually included, by marrying you and your open marriage fantasies?

  17. 17

    Regina and Cheryl,
    I am also in a relationship w a man in his late 50s and there is not necessarily a problem w satisfying a woman at that age. This is good because I am only ten years younger and most guys who wanted to date me when I was on a dating site were older than me.
    If you’re just meeting a guy in that age category, his overall health and vigor can probably predict what will happen if you want to end up taking it further

  18. 18

    Sarah, though I don’t agree with your reasoning I do understand your point, and not trying attack your point of view. But I must agree with Selena #18 that what you propose sounds a little selfish.

    Obviously I don’t know your circumstances, but I’d guess that your guy could interpret your willingness to be with him as a sign of your eventually “coming around”. Even if he doesn’t admit it – possibly even to himself…. (Haven’t most of us who’ve adored someone that didn’t feel the same, hang around because we secretly hoped that in time we could change their minds. And how painful it would be to see someone trying and failing every time to win you over.)  I agree that it’s not anyone’s responsibility to make decisions for another person, but I do think that we have some unspoken obligation to take responsibility for the impact our actions may have on another’s well-being. It’d be a huge risk to take with someone’s heart, as the devastation to them when you reject them and openly desire others, would be awful. I saw it happen to my cousin and it was not pleasant. You’re only his dream women if you desire him. No emotionally health person wants to be unattractive to their partner…
    I think your kind of arrangement only really works when neither person has significant emotional attachment to the other. It sounds like you’ve given up, and feel that this is your last chance, and that’s such a shame… I wish you good luck!

  19. 19

    I think the inherent problem is how men a women view attraction. I don’t really thing about 1-10 rating systems it’s more of a pass fail scenario. I’ve never been kinda attracted to someone. So this going to 6.5 when you want an 8 thing is a little confusing. It’s not to say that all of the men I’ve been with are 8, some of the men have been traditionally more attractive than others. But I’ve desired all of them with a similar intensity. Maybe there is an elusive shade of gray in the spectrum of attraction and repulsion that I’ve somehow missed. So when you tell someone to consider men that are shorter for example, If she were attracted to shorter men I’m sure she would have been dating them already. It’s a no brainer if you’re attracted to someone are they’re attracted to you, it’s all gravy. So if you’re telling us to give bald, short, fat guys that you would never consider a shot. Men that we typically wouldn’t find attractive what does that mean? I could see where that would be valid advice for on-line dating but in day to day life I know if I’m attract to someone in less than 30 seconds. It’s either yes or no

  20. 20

    #21 Sharon you hit the nail on the head.   For so many people there is yes you are attracted and no you are not.  No in between.  No sliding scale.  

    But maybe give the no’s a little more time.   I suspect that 90% will remain a no and 10% may switch to a yes.    It’s like the guys you initially find attractive and then you learn more about them and get turned off. 

  21. 21

    @ Kate #20,

    You make some salient point.  If one is the woman of a man’s dreams, then he is going to want to have sex with HER.  He’s going to want the connection, the intimacy, etc.  That man is going to be so happy to have the arm candy that he’s going to accept just paying the bills and providing the security, and just being able to look at her with no touching?  I don’t think so.  If a man is in love, he will be respectful and not push for sex, but eventually he will want to have sex before or after marriage. 

  22. 22

    I wonder if couples who have been together a long time and are in the “he wants more/she wants less” dynamic are there in part because the relationship has other problems.  A woman will be much less turned on by someone she does not have a strong connection with than a man will be.  I also wonder if the man starts to take sex availability for granted and then gets into a pattern of not “winning” his partner.  Maybe for many the hunter/receptive dynamic still needs attention. 

    @sharon  Why does “lack of attraction only increase” over time? Once the initial chemistry fades, what is the reason for a continued decrease in attraction?

  23. 23

    There is this 20/80 rule. Which says that when you are in need, that thing has 80% importance, but when you have satisfied that need, that thing has max 20% of your attention.
    Or it is a man vs woman thing.
    I never ever have had a relationship that has strong sexual attraction and good sex, therefore I want it.

    21# sharon said it :”I know if I’m attract to someone in less than 30 seconds. It’s either yes or no”

    That is my point. If I want to have a relationship, the sexual attraction is there and I see it within 30 seconds, or it is NOT there…. and when the attraction is NOT there “advice try to make a relationship work by talking about sexual issues” is useless.

    So in that, the advice that is here often.. “try to give 6,5 a chance” is just something I consider settling, since it means I just see his physical and mental attributes and they are ok, but I don’t feel drawn to him. I know that if I have sex with a 6,5 man, the novelty wears off within a week, and then I am bored as passion has died .. when I get annoyed as sex becomes a chore, and I feel suffocated and things slide south from there.
    I have tried several times to make that kind of thing work, but if there is nothing more than novelty of new body with new tricks, I just lose interest totally and all attraction dies.

    I am a male in that way, sex just is one thing that has to work. Sex is a priority, and I think that all that talk of “different sexual drives” is just based on fact that woman have chosen initially a wrong man (barely there “6,5”), learned to care for him and attraction feels more for a while – but since the initial attraction has been that “barely there 6,5″…. it returns to back to 6,5 and sex is then also “barely there”.. and what is there to look for sexually?
    Which means then that woman’s interest to sex life just dies off, and then you hear woman say “sex is not important in a relationship, friendship is the important fact”, and the husband settles for having a “barely there” sex life.

    How fair is that?

  24. 24

    I’m sorry if I’ve made you defensive.  What I’ve written has to do with my issues and my struggles to make sense of what I should do in my life.  The truth is that for whatever reason I have a very hard time dealing with sex and attraction like a normal person.  As a result of that I’ve had to ask myself whether I should settle simply because I’ve concluded from my experience that I’ll never have anything better than “settling.”
    You are absolutely right that we shouldn’t be blinded by lust that is solely lust.  I’ve been there and lived to regret it more than anything else I’ve ever done.  But unfortunately for me the only alternatives I’ve had have been guys who weren’t attractive to me.  And I would rather be with them than either nobody or blinding-chemistry bad guys.  I would love to find something in between — a good guy with some amount of attraction.  So far, no luck.

  25. 25

    Selena 18,

    That is the question I struggle with. I go over it in my mind every day. Does he deserve someone who loves him more than I do? Probably yes. However:

    1.) I haven’t completely given up on the possibility that love will grow (on my part, too). That’s what dating is about, right? I’m giving him a chance to win me over and earn my love. The more time we spend together the more comfortable we become together and the more we bond. With a previous boyfriend it took me two years, but I did eventually get to the point where I loved him. Earlier on it was much like with my current guy: no attraction and a feeling of settling. But over time it became genuine love.

    2.) Even if I don’t ever grow to love him, is it selfish to give him the choice of being with me, knowing full well where I stand? He seems to be very much in love with me, is himself shy and bad at forming relationships, and might rather be with me even if I’m not crazy about him than try to find someone who is (which he might not find anyway). As I said before, he’d get to be with the woman of his dreams. If he chooses that, and I am honest about where I stand, how is that selfish of me?

  26. 26


    What happens to him if at some point you find someone you are attracted to?

    Sure he may have made a choice to be with a woman who he knew ‘settled’ for him, but what kind of salve do you think that would be when you dumped him? And depending how long it took you to do so…lot’s of wasted time he could have been spending with someone who really loved him.  You aren’t responsible for his choices, but why would you want to risk hurting someone that way? For what? Because you don’t like being single?

    Also, what about Starthrower’s comment #23? Men want their “dreamgirl” to have sex with them, not get their sexual needs met elsewhere because dreamgirl finds him sexually repugnant. What makes you think your friend would choose a marriage like this? Or stick to it?  What if while “getting his needs met” elsewhere, he falls in love with someone else? Where does that leave you and your ….marriage of convenience? I don’t even know what to call it.

  27. 28

    She didn’t say she wouldn’t have sex with him. Just not often. Hugh Hefner is a great example. Always has a few young beautiful girls so the burden of sex is spread out amongst them. If we look at men with money and power the trend seems to be to choose beautiful women that most likely won’t find them attractive but are willing to settle for them for a life of luxury. Do you pity the Donalds of the world?

  28. 29

    Well, my last relationship was with a man that was 52 to my 43. He had ED and didn’t reveal that to me unti we were in the midst of a sexual encounter and he lost his erection-Yeah, true scumbag, lol. Anyway, I’m SURE that fact was part of what made him so mean and nasty. He kept his true nature hidden for awhile, but when it came out I left. I believe I would have left anyway because of the ED. He couldn’t sustain an erection at certain times of the day, like in the afternoon. The reality is that eventually I would have gotten tired of it as I was already very close to that point already.

    Never again will I become involved with a man who has ED. This is one reason I’m leary of older men. However, if a man has no sexual problems to begin with, I would consider a man 10 to 12 years older if he met my other criteria. 

  29. 30
    Karl R

    Margo said: (#31)
    “Never again will I become involved with a man who has ED.”

    Are you aware that a man who doesn’t have erectile dysfunction could develop it (for example, after you’re married)? The possible causes include certain medications, certain surgeries, some injuries, diabetes, hardening of the arteries and depression.

    Goldie said: (#33)
    “From what I hear, with this rule, you will eliminate pretty much anyone over 45, maybe 40, even.”

    That’s incorrect.

    According to this source: at age 40, about 20% of men have ED. That increases by about 1% per year. 25% of men never have ED.

    But I agree that ED is a treatable condition, and therefore no big deal. Similarly, post-menopausal women suffer from vaginal dryness. There’s a cream for that, so it’s not an issue.

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