Dear Shaunti, You’re the researcher, so please tell me the real answer: How often do men need to have sex? I just don’t think about sex much; I guess it isn’t a need for me. But my husband says he thinks about it all the time, and he gets crabby that I’m often too tired. Even though I can go weeks or months and not miss it, since he can’t, I try to do the right thing. But oddly, even though he says he’s “deprived”, when I tell him “okay” that just makes him mad. He says he wants me to want it like he does. I feel like I can’t win. But if I knew how often a man needs sex I could plan on that, and hopefully that would help.
– Not Feeling Frisky
Dear Not Feeling Frisky,
How would you feel if you told your husband, “I need to hear you say ‘I love you’,” and he heaved a big sigh and said, “Okay, I’ll try to say it. But how often do you need to hear it? Is once a week okay? Whatever it is, tell me, and I’ll plan on that.”
My guess is, you’d be really hurt. You’d be thinking, He supposedly loves me, but he has to force himself to dredge up the willpower to show me love? Maybe he doesn’t really love me like he says he does.
You wouldn’t be hurt because he didn’t say “I love you” enough times.
You’d be hurt because of what it implied.
Maybe it means he doesn’t care about you.
Maybe, you might think, it means you really aren’t even all that lovable.
Sex works the exact same way for most men. In the research, there seems to be no one standard amount of sex that men “need” to have; it is what sex signals to them that is important. Your sexual actions signal: I desire you; You are desirable; I want to be with you in that way; You make me feel amazing; I want to show you how much I care about you; and on and on.
We women think of sex as being primarily a physical need for a man: but it isn’t. One of a man’s deepest emotional needs is to feel that his wife desires him. And if he sees that his wife desires him, it gives him a sense of well-being in all the other areas of his life. But if she shows <big sigh> “Okay, fine, let’s get this over with,” then it is clear to him that she doesn’t desire him, he’s no good at trying to make her feel amazing, he must be completely undesirable… and that she doesn’t really care about him the way she says she does.
In the research with men and women, it was very clear that most women (although certainly not all) simply have a different type of desire than men. We need to be approached differently. Most women simply don’t think about sex as often as men do.
But let’s look at that “I love you” parallel for a moment. The research was just as clear that men love their wives but simply don’t think about saying words of love as often as a woman might want, either. Yet we rightly expect that men be purposeful about developing new habits of showing love. We rightly expect them to learn how to do that, and do it enthusiastically (rather than under compulsion), because it is so emotionally important to us as women.
The same thing can be said of sex. Now, yes, there are sometimes physical or emotional things that get in the way, and if that is true of you, please seek out professional help to address those issues. But for many women, we just don’t realize how important it is to be purposeful about developing new habits of showing our husbands love in this way; of learning how to do it, and doing it enthusiastically because it is so emotionally important to our men.
Some women who just don’t think about sex and risk being too tired for it, have learned that one great solution is to schedule sex dates. One woman I interviewed said that no matter what else was going on in their lives, and no matter what other times they might have sex, she and her husband always made time for intimacy on Sunday nights. Although it didn’t fit the Hollywood ideal of tumbling into bed spontaneously, she discovered that in the real world, this was something that “got her thinking about it,” and she came to truly love that time together. And so did her husband!
Although the average appears to be a few times a week, there is no one “right amount” of sex that men need. Instead, the one constant is his emotional need to feel that you desire him. Find ways to show that, and you’ll probably see more love coming from him to you, too!
Want to learn more about how men think, feel, and process the world around them? Check out the Through A Man's Eyes video series and workshop for expert advice and insight on how to understand and communicate with the men in your life.