Can It Strengthen a Marriage? When their marriages fell into the doldrums, two long-married couples decided to find out if having sex every day could boost their relationships. Two long-married couples decided to find out. When lovemaking fell off their respective "to-do" lists, they ditched the sweats, bought sex toys and books, stepped up exercise , lit candles, and took trips.
Then they chronicled their "sexperiment" in two recently released books, Just Do It: But will daily sex really help a relationship that's hit a rough patch?
Some experts say yes; others aren't so sure. As for the two couples who tried it, the Browns and the Mullers, both say the experiment strengthened their marriages in -- and out -- of the bedroom. Charla Muller had been married for eight years to her husband, Brad, when she embarked on what she calls "the year of the gift" as a way to celebrate her husband's 40th birthday Rather than fixing anything wrong in her marriage , she writes that frequent sex made her happier, less angry, and less stressed.
Doug Brown's wife, Annie Brown, initiated the offer of daily sex after hearing about sexless marriages on Oprah. He had a similar revelation after they started having daily sex. A feature writer for The Denver Post, Brown writes of releasing "an avalanche of flesh pleasures upon our relationship. Why or why not? Talk with others on WebMD's Sexuality: Friends Talking message board. Familiarity, advancing age, work pressures, the challenges of raising a family, and household responsibilities all conspire against regular sex among many otherwise loving couples who feel too harried to get physical.
Continued When Doug Brown and his wife began their experiment in , they were juggling two kids and two jobs. Married for 14 years, they averaged sex three times a month.
And he admits he had performance anxiety. That melted away with [daily] sex. We learned so much about each other. Sex became much more playful and that translated into a more playful union. We regained an electricity that wasn't always there before. Now I'm not willing to give it up again. I thought we would only have to be really nice after hours. But we both had to bring our best game to the marriage every day. That was an important part of what went on behind closed doors.
Fisher is an advocate of frequent sex. She says that in some hunting and gathering societies, such as the Kung bushmen in the southern Kalahari, couples often make love every day for relaxation. Unlike our time-pressed culture, there is more leisure time. It's good for your health and good for your relationship. It's good for respiration, muscles, and bladder control. It's a fine antidepressant , and it can renew your energy. You develop a desire that wasn't normally there.
The act itself is reinforcing. This sets realistic expectations and often lowers anxiety. Sex is like pizza: On a scale from one to 10, good-enough sex is between 5 and 7. But, he says, "Once we started, we got in the mood. We were never sorry we did it. Good for Your Relationship? Cadell's six-week course called "Passion Power" includes a commitment form, a questionnaire, and daily sensual exercises to help couples deepen their bond.
They can stay in lust forever. Pepper Schwartz, PhD, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle, says, "Whether or not it works, most couples can't do it. Those who do maintain that kind of schedule have either a sexual appetite of Olympian proportions or have at least one partner who finds that as their most important way of staying connected and the other partner has tremendous grace and goodwill.
There are no couples I have ever met that are in that good a mood, or have that kind of energy every day. So this is a model that will appeal to few and be practiced by even fewer. Even if the lovemaking session started out with only a modest amount of interest, once arousal starts, these hormones create attachment, pleasure, and intimacy.
So while everyday sex isn't necessary, frequent sex is a great bonus and even an essential part of most couple's commitment and happiness with one another. You don't have to abstain for a long period of time -- a few days off creates anticipation and eagerness. You might love steak, but having it every night diminishes the gustatory pleasure. Habituate yourself to regular sex, but don't ever let love become a routine, a robotic obligatory habit.
He says setting up a period of time -- be it a long weekend, a week, or a month -- is a way to jump-start a sagging sexual relationship. It's free and it's fun. Why not plan it and take advantage of it? Anticipation is a big part of sex. Muller recommends couples start by doubling their frequency. Then doubling it again in six months. Re-examine your sex life -- often. Though they now average sex three times a week, Doug Brown says his wife recently told him they need a "tune-up," or a mini-marathon of sex.
Act on your desires. The more time [that elapses] between having the idea and following up and you'll lose motivation. Even if you aren't in the mood, once you begin, you'll enjoy sex.
Doug Brown, author, Just Do It: Charla Muller, author, Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy. Helen Fisher, PhD, research professor, member of the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies, department of anthropology, Rutgers University; chief scientific advisor, chemistry. Pepper Schwartz, PhD, professor of sociology, University of Washington, Seattle; chief relationship expert, perfectmatch.