FAQ: The 3 Most Commonly Asked Questions, According to a Sexologist

By Dr. Jess Relationships

Every day, I receive questions about sex and relationships from curious folks. While I cannot answer all of them, I’ve selected the most common themes to give you a glimpse into the minds of your inquiring friends and neighbors.

How often should we be having sex?

Quality may matter more than frequency. People are curious about how often others do it versus how often they should do it. The first part is somewhat easier to answer (if you trust data from self-report studies). According to a recent data analysis, most Americans (53.3%) have sex less frequently than once per week, and frequency overall continues to trend downward while abstinence is on the rise.[1] The second part of the question is trickier to answer, as there is no universal baseline. Some people are happy with sex once every few months; others want it daily. Of course, no one is happy with the answer “it depends,” but ultimately, it’s a matter of what works for you. One study found that sex once per week constitutes the magic number to maintain a happy relationship.[2] Having said that, averages may be irrelevant to your situation. If you have two toddlers at home, sex once per week may sound like too much to handle, and if you’re newlyweds with little stress, once per week might sound like a dry spell. What matters more than averages is identifying what you want and why. If you can reflect on your why when it comes to sexual frequency, it might be easier to communicate your desires and find a middle ground with your partner. (Note: If you’re in a dry spell and want to increase frequency, you’re not alone. Read more about How To Deal With Sexless Marriages here.)

How do I convince my (long-term) partner to open up the relationship?

I receive many questions about shifting from monogamy to some form of ethical non-monogamy (e.g., polyamory, swinging), and many of these inquiries reflect partner incompatibility: one partner wants monogamy, and the other does not. Often, the question is framed around convincing a partner to adopt an arrangement that isn’t a fit for them. And if this is the case (whether you’re asking for monogamy or non-monogamy), you may find yourself at an impasse. My first thought is I don’t think you want to convince your partner to adopt any relationship arrangement. You likely want to present them with options, let them know how you feel, and engage in open discussions, but I imagine you want them to opt into any arrangement without pressure. So, it starts with a conversation (and then many more discussions). Their first reaction to your proposal may not be what you’re hoping for, but hopefully, it leads to conversations about values, desires, fears, and expectations. If you find yourselves in a loop repeating the same opposing perspectives, you may want to consider having a professional help to facilitate some of these conversations. With time and effort, you might find common ground and customize an arrangement that works for the two of you, knowing it may evolve. And if you can’t find common ground, you may have to accept that you’re no longer compatible. This is often the case when partners consider their discordant desire for monogamy or non-monogamy intrinsic to their identity, meaning it reflects their relationship orientation rather than a matter of preference. If you want to make a significant change to your relationship (and opening up is), you may have to accept that the relationship may no longer be viable. Do not assume that because you’ve discovered something new, whether it relates to preference or identity) that your current partner will be along for the ride. Adult relationships are not unconditional, so be mindful that sometimes “communication” isn’t enough to make things work.

How do I get my libido back?

I receive some permutation of this question every single day. Sometimes this comes from a new parent dealing with the massive transition after having kids. Other times this comes from folks who have been blindsided by menopause. Often, it comes from someone whose lack of desire is tied to relationship issues. Of course, there are many causes of libido loss, and identifying the key source can be helpful. Strategies to boost libido will vary depending on the reason why it seems to be lacking. First and foremost, it’s important to note that libido isn’t a drive like hunger and thirst. You won’t perish if you don’t have sex. I like to reframe libido as a matter of desire. And desire can be cultivated. You can create desire when it doesn’t occur spontaneously; this is the reality for most people. Over time, we cultivate, awaken, and draw out desire. Some strategies for boosting desire to consider:

Create a Fire & Ice list to identify everything in your life that lights your fire and all the things that cool your jets when it comes to desire. Consider what you can do to increase items in the Fire column and minimize items in the Ice column.

Get more comfortable with your body through self-pleasure so that you know more about what feels good. Set time aside to touch for pleasure. Grab your favorite lube and/or toys and take your time rather than rushing to the finish line.

Take care of your sexual health. If you have symptoms that hamper your desire (e.g., pain, discomfort, or tension), address those first with your healthcare provider; consider a pelvic floor physiotherapist who can help with exercises and essential changes to your daily routine.

Shed shame through therapeutic approaches ranging from art and dance to talking with friends or seeing a counselor.

Consider lifestyle changes like eating foods that support energy, sleep, and overall wellness (however you define it).

Invest in your relationship so that you feel a connection, safety, attraction, and any other experiences that underlie what desire is to you.

Prioritize yourself. If you expend all your energy caring for others, you’re unlikely to have much left for yourself at the end of the day (or week). Consider what (or whom) you might say no to this week. Start with one or two no’s and see where they lead.

Get familiar with your CEF (core erotic feeling). Once you understand the erotic-emotional connection, you’ll be better equipped to cultivate desire and involve your partner in the process, should you opt to do so. Read more about this important concept here.

Practice mindfulness from the kitchen to the living room to the bedroom. Mindful sex may be a “hot topic,” but being present throughout your day can significantly affect how you respond in the bedroom.

This list isn’t exhaustive, but chances are that at least one of these strategies will be helpful in your situation, and you can start with just one small change to see where it leads.


If you have sex & relationship Qs, feel free to send them our way and we’ll do our best to answer them on the blog.

[1] Ueda, Peter & Mercer, Catherine & Ghaznavi, Cyrus & Herbenick, Debby. (2020). Trends in Frequency of Sexual Activity and Number of Sexual Partners Among Adults Aged 18 to 44 Years in the US, 2000-2018. JAMA Network Open. 3. e203833. 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3833.

[2] Muise, Amy & Schimmack, Ulrich & Impett, Emily. (2015). Sexual Frequency Predicts Greater Well-Being, But More is Not Always Better. Social Psychological and Personality Science. 7. 10.1177/1948550615616462.