Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

How to Have a Better Relationship

Related to our earlier conversation about sex in committed relationships and keeping the spark alive, there’s an article in the New York Times this week all about how to have a better relationship, with a big emphasis on sex in committed relationships. It’s full of interesting statistics, tips, and tidbits. For example, there are six distinct types of love found in our closest relationships — Romantic, Best Friends, Logical, Playful, Possessive, and Unselfish — and “researchers have found that the love we feel in our most committed relationships is typically a combination of two or three different forms of love.” Maybe not so surprisingly to people whose relationships are often rocky: “two people in the same relationship can have very different versions of how they define love.” It’s important to know how your partner defines love to navigate conflict in your relationship.

There’s a whole section about sex — how much everyone’s doing it, who’s having more, etc. You might be surprised to learn:

Committed couples really do have more sex than everyone else! Also maybe surprising to some of you (it was to me): “a recent trend is that sexual frequency is declining among millennials, likely because they are less likely than earlier generations to have steady partners.” Also, it’s probably hard to have sex while you’re instagramming flatlays of your overnight oats and soy lattes. (Oh, I’m kidding, come on).

Here are some numbers, from data collected from a variety of sources:

The average adult has sex 54 times a year.
The average sexual encounter lasts about 30 minutes.
About 5 percent of people have sex at least three times a week.
People in their 20s have sex more than 80 times per year.
People in their 40s have sex about 60 times a year.
Sex drops to 20 times per year by age 65.
After the age of 25, sexual frequency declines 3.2 percent annually.
After controlling for age and time period, those born in the 1930s had sex the most often; people born in the 1990s (millennials) had sex the least often.
About 20 percent of people, most of them widows, have been celibate for at least a year.
The typical married person has sex an average of 51 times a year.
“Very Happy” couples have sex, on average, 74 times a year.
Married people under 30 have sex about 112 times a year; single people under 30 have sex about 69 times a year.
Married people in their 40s have sex 69 times a year; single people in their 40s have sex 50 times a year.
Active people have more sex.
People who drink alcohol have 20 percent more sex than teetotalers.
On average, extra education is associated with about a week’s worth of less sex each year.

As for sex in marriage, and why it can decline over years, there’s a combination of factors, including health issues, the presence of children, boredom or unhappiness in the relationship, and the major one: age. “One study found sexual frequency declines 3.2 percent a year after the age of 25. The good news is that what married couples lack in quantity they make up for in quality. Data from the National Health and Social Life Survey found that married couples have more fulfilling sex than single people.”

The article goes on to discuss why and how marriages can become sexless, what effect that has on a marriage, and how to get the spark back. There are tips for having a better sex life, how to predict infidelity, how to best remain faithful, why couples fight (money! children!), how to fight better, and what the big fat secret to surviving parenthood together is (Sex! Lots of it! And being faithful and generous to your partner). Whether you’re in a committed relationship or not, if your hope is to have a long-term, mutually satisfying one, I recommend you read the article, take notes, and if you have a partner, talk to him or her about your thoughts on what you read and how to apply it to your relationship.

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