Q&A: Can Frequent Sex Harm Our Emotional Relationship?

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QUESTION: My girlfriend and I have sex generally between two and three times a day. Can this be harmful to our relationship and emotional attachment to each other? If so, are there ways to increase that such as bonding after sex, cuddling, etc.?

There is nothing wrong with having sex a certain amount of times per day, per month or ever in your life. Some couples hardly ever have sex and others are frequently finding reasons to hop back into bed.

Usually a couple’s frequency of sex changes with time and with life circumstances – you may find that you have more or less sex during times of stress (like exam week), when you’re tired or sick, or during vacations.

Focus On Quality Not Quantity

Rather than focusing on how often you have sex, it might be worth paying more attention to the quality of your sexual encounters – which is what it sounds like you are really asking about.

Although magazines tend to portray quality sex as being more about orgasms, excitement, erections and lubrication, most people tend to recognize that high quality sex usually encompasses a broader range of characteristics.

Sure, orgasms are usually quite enjoyable and exciting, and trying out new positions can be fun (and funny). But most men and women want some type of intimacy, connection or bond with their sexual partner(s).

Sometimes this bond is short-lived and is built largely on physical attraction and chemistry. However, in committed relationships and/or longer term relationships, couples often are interested in building emotional closeness and intimacy, and may see sex as one of several ways to feel closer to each other.

Building Emotional Intimacy

Post-sex cuddling can indeed help some couples feel more emotionally attached. Other couples may be less focused on physically cuddling after sex, but perhaps they like to lay in bed for a while and talk.

Others feel closer to each other when they have sex with the lights on or with their eyes open the entire time, occasionally or quite often looking at each other, to take in the full experience.

Sometimes it’s not the physical acts of sex that bring a couple closer, but talking about sexual preferences and fantasies and what you like or don’t like can bring you closer to each other, because it involves sharing what are often very private, personal pieces of information that may make you feel vulnerable to each other.

Take Your Time With Foreplay

It may even be that taking your time with foreplay – taking time to kiss, share your feelings with each other, rub each others’ backs after stressful days (which also shows that you are paying attention to your partner’s non-sexual needs) – can strengthen your bonds.

And certainly spending time with each other out of bed (grocery shopping, going on long walks, eating meals alone sometimes and other times with friends) can help you feel closer.

Since you are specifically interested in sexual sharing and intimacy, you might find the book For Each Other: Sharing Sexual Intimacy to be of interest.

Be Honest, Compassionate, Kind and Respectful

It is also worth mentioning that intimacy and emotional bonding depend not only on building closeness, but also on guarding or protecting that closeness. If either of you is dishonest, overly critical, or otherwise unkind then it might become very difficult to feel comfortable with – or make yourselves emotionally vulnerable to – each other.

By being honest, compassionate, kind and respectful to each other (at least most of the time; we all make mistakes) you can protect the relationship that you’re working to build.

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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