It boosts our health, helps us feel connected to the one we love, and triggers a cascade of feel-good, happy-making hormones. Despite all that good stuff, sex can sometimes feel like a chore—like something we have to do to keep away the relationship boogeyman.
"When it comes to sex, we are bombarded with information that can easily lead us to feel inadequate," said Patricia Johnson, co-author (with her longtime husband) of “Partners in Passion” and “Great Sex Made Simple.”
But despite what we hear and read about sex, there is no "right" amount, said Kristen Carpenter, PhD, director of women's behavioral health at The Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center.
Johnson agreed: "The issue is not what other people are doing or how you measure up compared to the national average; it's about whether or not you're enjoying what you're doing and whether you're making the most of it." (Is menopause throwing off your sex drive and how you feel about your body? Then check out The Hormone Reset Diet for simple, natural solutions.)
Don't Force The Issue
Think about the last time you felt really sexy. Chances are good stress, pressure, and resentment aren't part of your memory—for a reason.
Forcing sex when you're not in the mood creates all sorts of unsexy associations, which can lead to emotionally harmful and uncomfortable sex, said Elizabeth Shuler, LPCC, a sex therapist in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Furthermore, insisting on sex when you're not into it "can build resentment over time and create more physical and emotional disconnect between two people," said Judy Rosenberg, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of the forthcoming book “Be The Cause: Healing Human Disconnect.”
Instead of wondering when you last had sex—and when you'll have it next—try to stay in the moment, said Ryan Dawson, an individual and family therapist in Boulder, Colorado.
"If you're preoccupied with all the pressure you're putting on yourself about what your sex life should be like, it has a tendency to turn you toward your internal dialogue, which is often a harsh critic," he said.
Get Intimate Outisde the Bedroom
If you want the kind of passionate, connected sex that makes you feel closer as a couple, it's crucial to create more intimacy in your relationship when sex isn't even on your mind. (Check out these 10 little things connected couples do for ideas.)
Stan Tatkin, PsyD, an assistant clinical professor at UCLA and author of “Wired For Love,” recommends sneaking in at least 10 minutes of alone time every day.
"Spend this time in close physical contact without sex," he advised. "Cuddle, caress, or cradle each other—even if you feel uneasy with this."
Little bouts of contact go a long way toward helping couples feel connected and understood—two qualities associated with increased desire and motivation for sex, Carpenter said.
"Emotional connection is where sex begins," Rosenberg added. "When two people really focus on each other and genuinely express interest in each other, the pressure to have sex tends to fade away because the connection now creates the spark."
Now Try This
Once you've taken the focus off of frequency, there are a couple ways to improve the sex you have.
For starters, try to revisit the kind of sex you and your partner engaged in when you first started dating, suggested Jodi Ambrose, author of “Intimacy: How to Get More Of It.”
Whether that means sex in the kitchen or positions you haven't tried in years, "going back to what you liked to do when your relationship first began is a great way to start rebuilding your sex life without doing anything drastic," Ambrose said. (Take a look at the best sex positions for your 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s.)
Carpenter says she often tells her patients—particularly women—to schedule time for sex. Like, literally add it into your calendar.
"Setting aside time for intimacy puts it on a level playing field with a woman's other priorities," she says. "It also allows a woman time to get in the right headspace for sex, even on days that are otherwise stressful or draining."
Try all these things, and you can stop worrying about how much or how little you're doing it.