Dear Kiki: What is the right amount of sex in a marriage?

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Questions about love and sex in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area can be sent to (queries can also be sent anonymously using this form). Questions may be edited for clarity and length, and may appear either in print or online.

Illustration by Jav Ducker

Dear Kiki,

I have a very personal question.

I love my husband more than anything else in the world, but over the past few years we have been having very little sex (perhaps once a month).

We still “get along” amazingly well and he’s still my best friend, but the fact that we don’t have sex very often is always in the back of my mind (and his, too). We’re not sure if it’s a problem, but the fact remains that it’s somewhat stressful.

Last week a friend of mine shared an interview with me which featured a couple offering a completely different (and somewhat scary) perspective [Interesting People You’ve Never Heard Of, S3E5: “Just Say No”]. They advocate for a sexless lifestyle between couples and claim that the pressure of sex takes a psychological toll on people.

I’m not sure if I agree with everything they said, but a lot of it rang true. Have you heard of these people before? What do you think of this perspective? … They seem like nice people, but a little off.

Thank you,
Stressed and Sexless

Dear Stressed and Sexless,

From a very basic and trivial perspective, here’s the thing: literally no approach to sex and marriage is going to be right for everyone. Not agreeing with “everything they said,” but having “a lot of it [ring] true” is exactly the way you should approach all sex advice, including mine. I’m glad that you’re exploring different perspectives and I encourage you, in all your exploration, to utilize the parts that ring true and simply ignore the rest, thoroughly and without regret.

Now, as for pressure. And sex. And marriage. Yikes, it can be a killer cocktail, can’t it? Are you having too little sex? Too much sex? The right kind of sex at the right time of day in the right position(s) using the right toys and fulfilling the right fantasies? If you’re on the verge of hyperventilating right now, I don’t blame you. Sex is a huge topic, and it’s not one that we’re socialized to talk about openly and frankly to anyone, not even our nearest and dearest.

Which leads me to the good news. There are some extremely positive threads to tease out of your letter. You speak to a knowledge of how your partner is feeling (“the back of my mind (and his, too)”) and you use language that indicates that you’ve talked about this (“We’re not sure if it’s a problem”). That’s awesome! Because the only people you have to please in this matter are each other.

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The best advice I can give you is talk, talk, talk! If you agree together to take a break from worrying about sex, that’s fine. There is certainly no law that marriage or intimacy or happiness requires sex. Many people who are ace enjoy extremely fulfilling marriages, often even with partners who are not asexual. Many marriages where one partner suffers a catastrophic accident that precludes sex for a long time or forever still thrive.

But the two of you need to be on the same page. What does damage relationships is an inability to honestly ask for what you need, whether it’s sexual or emotional or practical. Keep talking to each other and exploring your options. And remember, there need not be an ultimate solution. You can decide today to live without sex and then be tearing each other’s clothes off tomorrow. You can change your minds a dozen times. Just make sure that you’re both all-in, together.

xoxo, Kiki

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