WHETHER you're married or in a long-term relationship you may often wonder – just how much sex should I be having?
It's the age old question that often crops up time and time again, but can you have a happy relationship without any sex at all?
According to YouGov figures, only 27 per cent of the UK population have sex in any given week.
Most shockingly, over a quarter (29 per cent) of those asked in a Relate survey said that their relationship was "sexless."
People in their late 20s are more likely than any other age group to have regular sex, with 43 per cent of 25- to 29-year-olds having sex in a typical week.
It raises the question – is sex the be all and end all if a marriage is to survive, let alone thrive?
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Does lack of sex automatically = ex?
Some experts say no – sex always doesn't equal "success", and a lack of it doesn't sound the death knell for a relationship either – but you do need to be on the same page.
Courtney Boyer, relationship and sexuality expert and author of Not Tonight, Honey: Why women actually don't want sex and what we can do about it, says sex isn't essential:
"The importance of sex depends on the purpose of a relationship," she explains.
"Unfortunately, most modern marriages put a lot of pressure on each partner to meet all the needs of each other, and that’s just not realistic.
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"Most romantic relationships place a large emphasis on sex, especially in the beginning, but what I’ve realised is that marriages don’t need sex to be 'successful.'
"If one or both partners are genuinely not desiring sex, that relationship can still work, but only the individual can decide how important sex is to them and to the relationship.
"Marriage, for most of history, was not based on love or sex, and sex within marriage was really only for procreation.
"The point is a relationship absolutely can work without sex, and it can be successful even – as long as both parties agree to the terms."
Kate Moyle, sex and relationships expert for sexual wellness brand LELO, adds: "For some people sex might be their way of feeling loved, connected intimate or desired and other's sex can feel much less of a priority.
"The most important factor is how you negotiate these differences – and critically this isn't just about the amount or regularity of sex, but is also about the type of sex that you both like or enjoy, the type of touch and how it makes you feel.
"You are much more motivated to be open towards your partner sexually if what you are doing is satisfying and often routine can have the opposite effect."
How to make it work
So what is needed to make a relationship work without sex?
Courtney says: "Most people get married because they’re in love -which usually involves an element of sexual attraction.
"But many modern relationships are bucking the expectations and rigid roles of what a traditional relationship should look like.
"Some people are choosing to have children together because they have the same values and interests, but they have no sexual attraction to one another.
"Some couples love being romantic, but don’t enjoy the physical expression of love.
"The most important component any couple needs to have for a successful relationship is clear expectations.
"Do both individuals desire a sexless relationship? What are the needs they do have and how can this relationship meet those needs?
"If someone has a need their partner can’t meet, is it ok for them to have those needs met elsewhere?
"Consistent and open communication prevents resentment from building.
"It’s imperative that both partners agree that sex isn’t a priority or it’s not something that needs to be present in the relationship."
The real recipe for succ-sex
Sex or no sex, there are, of course, other crucial elements that are required in a relationship.
Courtney says: "Honesty, openness, trust, vulnerability and love are key elements to making a relationship work.
"It’s a great time to be living if you are looking for a non-traditional relationship.
"I’m so encouraged to see people creating families and communities that reflect their desires and dreams, and not feeling pressured to conform to romantic monogamy.
"What I see in those relationships is each person being brave enough to decide and declare what they need in order to feel safe, valued, and loved.
"For some, that includes being in a sexual relationship.
"And for others, it doesn’t. Know that you have the choice to explore and decide what works best for you."
How to re-introduce passion in the bedroom
What if you are content, but actually would like to explore each other a bit more sexually?
Courtney says: "If you find that your needs have changed, tell your partner, and then identify what you are missing and what you are desiring.
"If it’s closeness with your partner, can you brainstorm ways together that you can increase that closeness in non-sexual ways?
"If it’s actual sex that you miss, discuss that with your partner.
"Maybe they feel the same way too. Maybe they don’t.
"But never bring this up from a place of anger and never weaponise sex – i.e. if you don’t give me sex then I’m leaving."
Kate adds: "Set aside time to make it happen.
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"Agree and schedule time to be together distraction free, so without phones or devices – even if it's making it a rule e.g. no phones at the table during mealtimes.
"Reach out to your partner in little ways and build more sexual currency between you which will help you to feel closer and if you want to try and improve sex too then this will put you in the best place to do so."
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