Sex & Relationships

What is ‘normal’ when it comes to your sex life?

Eight tips for gauging how much sex is enough from two of Canada's leading experts

young couple, man and woman, lying bed playful and smiling, romantic love Getty Images

Sex is an important part of a committed relationship. On the list of domestic priorities, sex is up there alongside an ensuite master bathroom with double vanities (just me?).

But how much amour is enough? Is there a magic number when it comes to keeping both the steak and the sizzle in a relationship? Get advice from two Canadian experts on how best to gauge the health of your sex life as well as tips for improving conjugal relations:

1. Lose the calculator
Stop counting the number of times you’re having sex (you’re not a teenager anymore) and don’t compare yourself to any so-called ‘national average’ either, “there isn’t a lot to be gained,” from that says Toronto based sex therapist Adrienne Bairstow. She emphasizes that if you’re happy with how often you’re having sex that’s all that matters.

2. Think compatibility not quantity
When it comes to sex, frequency isn’t as important as satisfaction. And yes, you can rate your satisfaction level out of 10, but the number you come up with may have more to do with harmony. “A healthy sex life happens when people are sexually compatible,” says London, Ontario-based sex and marriage therapist Dr. Guy Grenier.

He says there are six dimensions of compatibility among partners: signals (how you indicate desire), foreplay (likes and dislikes), activities (positions), frequency (how often) and safety (contraception, trust).

Use these dimensions as talking points for a conversation with your partner about sex. For example, if your partner winks and says he has a few hours before he has to go to work and you’re thinking ‘hmm, maybe he can cut the grass’ you may have a signals miscommunication. If you like to have sex in the morning and your partner likes it at night, then you should talk about timing.

3. Don’t wait for a problem
Sex may be everywhere you look, but for many couples it remains an uncharted subject. At least until there’s a problem. Don’t wait for an issue to talk about sex, says Grenier. Make it an ongoing topic that focuses on fulfillment, “We need couples to start talking about sexual satisfaction not problems…the same way you discuss career, finances, and home life,” he explains.

4. Talk to your partner about sex
If you’ve never really talked to your partner about what you like and don’t like in the bedroom take a baby step and throw the subject out there as something that should become part of your conversations. The first big step here is just to start talking about it, says Grenier.

5. Establish a vocabulary that feels right
Part of the difficulty surrounding a sex conversation is our limited language. Generally speaking, names for body parts and the act[s] itself are either clinical or obscene. “You’re either wearing a lab coat or a pimp hat,” jokes Grenier.

Throw both of those ill-fitting costumes in the trash and have a little fun. Give your private parts a name that suits him or her and establish a personal language for your most intimate moments — ‘lasagna’? Once you’ve established a language that feels authentic you can express yourself from the heart. You may still have to push your boundaries, says Grenier, but just like sex, being authentic and bold is all part of being an adult.

6. Honesty is the best policy
You’ve always hated that thing he does you-know-where but you’ve never told him for fear of hurting his feelings. Well it’s time to spill the beans, “Painful truths are more respectful than soothing lies,” says Grenier. “The best time to tell the truth was 10 years ago. The next best time is today.”

7. Talking isn’t the only way to improve sex
Actions can speak louder than words, especially in the heat of the moment. If you’re really sick of that thing he does and you’d rather not say it then give him a nudge in the right direction — literally. “Communicating what you want can be as simple as moving a hand,” explains Bairstow. We can’t expect our partners to know exactly what we want all the time.

8. Let sex mean more than just sex
Sex can have as many definitions as it does functions in a relationship. Let it be a flexible concept, “We need to think about sex the same way we think about food,” says Grenier. “Sometimes it’s an intimate thing — a five-course meal with candlelight and the quality of the food is important. Sometimes you’re just really hungry and you want to scarf down a burger. We wouldn’t say that in any of these circumstances the food is correct or incorrect.” It’s just what you need at that moment, and that’s OK.

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