Q&A: Desire Discrepancies – How Often Do Older Couples Have Sex?

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QUESTION: My wife and I are in our late 50s. We were having a friendly discussion about the frequency of love making at our age. I am up for 3-4 times a week. My wife thinks this is well above the norm. I say, maybe a bit above average, but who cares. Where are we on the Bell Curve?

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Your wife is correct: having sex 3 to 4 times per week in one’s 50s is indeed above the average for your age group. In fact, the average frequency of intercourse for couples in their 20s and 30s is only 1 to 2 times per week.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with having sex more often – some couples certainly do.

Unless, of course, your wife doesn’t want to have sex that often. Perhaps she’s not really concerned about being “different” than other women her age; it may just be that she is happy having sex less often than you are.

Desire Discrepancy

When two people who are in a relationship want different frequencies of sex, we sometimes refer to this as “desire discrepancy”. It is actually incredibly common for two people to have different preferences for sex – after all, what are the odds that you will find someone who has all the qualities you want in a mate, and who you love, and who happens to love you back, and then you just happen to want exactly the same amount of sex and will always want the same amount of sex for the rest of your lives? Exactly – that’s not likely at all.

Desire Changes Over Time

Even when a couple starts out wanting the same frequency of sex, one or both people’s desire may change over time. In fact, desire typically declines with age. Your wife may have experienced a decrease in her desire as she transitioned into menopause. If that’s the case, and if that bothers her, she might find it helpful to speak with her healthcare provider or with a sex therapist.

Then again, you didn’t say that her desire was any less than yours; you just said that she thought 3 to 4 times was higher than the norm. If she is indeed interested in having sex as often as you are, and if this is just a question of what’s common for others, then try to enjoy yourselves without worrying too much about how often or how seldom other people have sex.

Averages are just averages, and it always takes some people to bring down the average and other people to bring up the average. Maybe you two happen to be one of the couples that brings up the average.

Learn More

To learn more about what’s common (and not) for other couples, you might find the book Sex in America to be of interest.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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