When friends new to marriage ask for advice, I often say this: “When in doubt, have sex.”
I believe it, too.
That’s not to say sex solves everything, or is easy every time, or feels fabulous regardless. Sex can be loaded and heavy, empty and uneventful, disingenuous, confusing, hurtful.
It can also be an astonishingly beautiful and sensually resplendent act of deeply connecting with another person. In this manifestation, sex may be the best way to keep your marriage healthy and, consequently, happy.
In 2004, Tom W. Smith conducted a study for the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. In a New York Times article on the topic, Smith said, “There’s a strong relationship between rating your marriage as happy and frequency of intercourse.” So, my hunch has some scientific backing.
“What we can’t tell you,” continued Smith, “is…whether people who are happy in their marriage have sex more, or whether people who have sex more become happy in their marriages, or a combination of those two.”
I vote a combination of the two. Happiness inspires sex. Sex inspires happiness. Okay now, hold that thought…
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a parent. And all parents know that sex has a way of becoming conspicuously absent from our lives for a whole host of reasons that you should feel free to outline for yourself later on if you like playing the masochist.
Point being, we all go without it – willingly or not – more than we’d care to admit, and sometimes for painfully long stints. In the above New York Times article, reporter Ralph Gardner, Jr. writes, “To many spouses, ‘married sex’ may sound like an oxymoron. And ‘married-with-children sex’ may sound like that elusive antimatter.”
That’s what I’m going to call it from now on: “Hey honey! How about some hot elusive antimatter tonight?”
Sadly, Ralph is not completely off base. I’ll be the first to admit that the exhaustion of parenthood has the power to invade every cell in my body. It seeps into the marrow of my middle-aged bones and tries to convince me I am no longer young, no longer beautiful, and far, far away from my formerly sexy – or at least sex-inclined – self.
(P.S. If you have given birth to actual children, are currently raising them, and you cannot relate to the paragraph above, please first confirm you are not a robot, and then email me immediately so I can beg you to FedEx me your immortal mojo elixir.)
Gardner’s article features two couples who pledged to have sex every night for as long as they could possibly stand it. Doug and Annie Brown made it 101 days before Doug started equating their scheduled trysts with a “long-forgotten appointment to hear some tax attorney talk about estate planning.” (Oof.) Brad and Charla Muller “hit a wall” around 40 weeks in, but nonetheless managed to copulate an average of 27 times a month for AN ENTIRE YEAR.
Considering Smith’s study found that married couples have sex 66 times per year on average, I’d say the Browns and the Mullers are worthy of a spot in the Sex Hall of Fame.
A 2014 Huffington Post article paints a more optimistic picture of our nation’s sexual health. It refers to a Reddit poll that asked couples of every vintage how often they get it on. My favorite responses come from the “Married Seven-15 Years” set:
Married seven years and now with one child. We went from one to three times a day, to one to three times a week. But we are both okay with this; because if you “save up for it,” the sex is AWESOME.
Oldish. Married 15 years. On average, we have sex three times a week, but sometimes it’s every day. What’s more important is we talk and cuddle every day.
Late 30s. Married 15. Five kids. Our quota is four times a week. Although “quota” sounds weird…it’s a way for us to remember that although we’re busy with life, we still need to have some romantic time with each other to stay sane.
The sex is AWESOME? Talk and cuddle every day? Need romantic time with each other to stay sane? Yes, yes, and yes. As Otis Redding knew so well, a little tenderness goes a long way. Maybe all the way to a more sexually charged marriage.
Annie Brown claims what started as “a way to banish suburban boredom” resulted in a newfound “intense closeness,” which was new to her marriage of many years. Likewise, the Muller’s 365-day sex marathon “required a daily kindness and forgiveness…that I don’t think either of us had experienced before.”
See that? Sex reconnects us, and regular sex keeps us connected. Therefore, despite all the requisite challenges of being married with children and jobs and mortgages and debilitating health issues (etc.), we need sex. Full stop.
We probably need sex even more now than we ever did. We may have wanted it more way back when, but now we actually need it. Why? Because it feels good! And we deserve to feel good, dammit!
Also, because sex gives you superpowers. I’m not joking. It literally transforms people.
Sex makes us look and feel younger. Sex can surprise and embolden us, energize and rejuvenate us. Sex has the power to soften and heal. It teaches us new things about ourselves and reveals the hidden loveliness within someone you thought you already knew. Sex is that magical language only understood by you and your partner. It keeps you alert, rapt, enthralled, alive.
In short, it keeps us well.
Somewhere along the way, I decided to believe this. Instead of an act of concession or indulgence or, at worst, violation, I decided to believe that sex could make me stronger. It could help me be more trusting, more patient and forgiving. It also ironically helped me come to terms with the weird, untenable shame that comes along with being a girl in the eyes of men.
What I didn’t expect is that sex would help me overcome fears, and confess flaws, and let go of a bundle of emotional hang-ups I’d been lugging around since adolescence.
Here’s something else I didn’t expect – or probably couldn’t even imagine before having children: A healthy sex life makes me a better parent. This has evolved into a sort of kinetic truth for me. My child-rearing gene simply functions better when I exercise the biological necessity that made those kids in the first place.
So there you have it. Sex: YAY! No sex: BOO!
Why not get after it today, folks? Get crazy with your bad, sexy selves! What have you got to lose? (And DON’T say pounds. I won’t stand for it because you’re a god-damned dreamboat and that’s final. Hell, if you’re doing it right, you’ll probably even lose a few.)
Maybe it’s been a little while. Maybe you’re feeling rusty. Don’t worry about that! Just remember as you rifle through your barely worn leatherette lingerie that Mr. Brad “28-times-a-month” Muller promises the sex will get better. And Delicious Doug, who yelled, “Uncle!” on day 101, nonetheless entitled his book about the experience “Just Do It.”
It’s time, people. It’s time to dig out that dusty box of dildos you purchased on a whim at your girlfriend’s Passion Party a few years back and call in a nooner. Ask the g-rents to have the kids overnight. Maybe take off to Montreal for the weekend. Because it’s high time we restore “that illusive antimatter” to its rightful, primal place in our lives.