More sex = greater happiness? Not according to a recent Carnegie Mellon report. It showed that when couples doubled their sexual frequency, they reported less happiness, decreased sexual satisfaction, and reduced well-being.
Previous research shows that sex boosts happiness and that more sex increases it:
So why does the recent report differ from previous studies? Simple: Instead of asking general questions about sexual frequency and happiness, the Carnegie Mellon researchers actually instructed couples to boost their sexual frequency.
“Go Home and Have Twice As Much Sex”
The subjects were 64 volunteer, married, heterosexual couples who already made love at least once a month. University of Pittsburgh researchers surveyed their happiness in general, their sexual frequency, and how they felt about their lovemaking. The researchers then told half the group to live their lives as usual, but asked the other half to double their sexual frequency. If they made love twice a month, they were asked to do it four times, etc. Participants also completed a short daily online survey about their sex and happiness.
The group that lived their lives as always remained as happy as they had been, but the more-frequent-sex group surprised the researchers by reporting less happiness and erotic satisfaction.
Quantity Vs. Quality
Alas, the Carnegie Mellon researchers were surprisingly naïve: They equated sexual frequency with erotic quality. The trouble began immediately. Only a few of the couples asked to double their frequency actually did so. On average, the more-sex group bumped it up only 40 percent. Turns out that people have clear ideas about how much sex they’d like to have—and participants rebelled against researchers’ instructions to double their frequency.
The reality is that, for most couples, sexual frequency is the result of extended—and often challenging—negotiations. New lovers can’t keep their hands off each other. But after six months to two years, the hot-and-heavy period ends, and the vast majority of long-term couples must contend with desire differences. One partner almost always wants sex more than the other, which may cause considerable strife. Differing desire is a leading reason couples consult sex therapists (and it drives a good deal of traffic to my site).
Our culture is very interested in sexual frequency—some would say we're obsessed with it. People wonder how their own frequency compares with other couples’. Many studies have investigated frequency, with results varying based on how researchers collected the information—daily diaries, recall shortly after the fact, or recall over extended periods. Couples’ sexual frequency varies wildly, from never to more than once a day, but during the average month, couples under 40 generally have sex three or four times while couples over 40 do it two or three times. If you’re making love three times a month, arbitrarily doubling it to six is likely to upset your relationship’s erotic equilibrium, causing stress and compromising happiness and erotic satisfaction.
The Carnegie Mellon results suggest that erotic quality is more important than erotic quantity. No matter how often you have sex, here’s how therapists recommend increasing its quality:
Sexual pleasure is more about quality than quantity. Whatever your frequency, focus on mutual pleasure.