In their new book, The Secrets Of Enduring Love: How To Make Relationships Last, therapist Meg John Barker and professor Jacqui Gabb make the case, based on their many years of experience working with and studying couples, that a rich sex life is not necessarily vital to relationship’s wellbeing.
For many of the couples they’ve worked with, people say they are happy having sex as infrequently 3 times a month. This is reflected in the British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, which has shown over the last two decades that Brits are having less sex, but are not necessarily less satisfied with their sex lives.
They suggest that sex is variable in its importance: some couples see it is the glue of their relationship, while others report it to be almost superfluous; however, most people report that the nature of sex changes over the course of their relationships, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Where the authors say couples ought to take care to get things right, when it comes to sex, is to be open and honest individual needs, because discrepancies in sexual needs can lead to unnecessary tension. They point out that, often, the person who desires sex less will try to force themselves to do it anyway, but that this isn’t a great solution because doing so can numb sex drive even more over time, making the problem worse in the long run.
Another area of caution: the authors warn against buying into any of the mainstream notions that happier couples have more sex and better relationships for it. It can be dangerous to make arbitrary comparisons, they say, to some ideal sex life, when in reality, we know that there is no best rhythm for everyone.
This might be why they point out, many new parents feel dissatisfied – not necessarily because less sex after having the baby makes them less happy, but because of radical change coupled with unrealistic comparisons to some idea of what a perfect marriage consists of.