Secret to a better love life? Sex just once a week
For decades, self-help books and therapists have advised couples that the key to a successful relationship is sex…and plenty of it.
But a new study suggests that actually, the happiest partners are making love just once a week.
According to the University of Toronto-Mississauga, more frequent attempts will not boost satisfaction or well-being.
The study was based on questionnaires filled in by 33,000 Americans over more than 30 years.
"I think the take-home message is that in general it is important to maintain a sexual connection with a romantic partner, but it is also important to have realistic expectations for one's sex life, given that many couples are busy with work and family responsibilities," said psychologist Dr Amy Muise, who led the research.
"Our research suggests that having more frequent sex in relationships is associated with greater happiness, but this is only true up to once a week; having sex more frequently is no longer associated with greater well-being.
"Therefore, it is not necessary, on average, for couples to aim to engage in sex as frequently as possible."
The study established that people in a relationship tend to have sex about once a week on average.
For couples, happiness tended to increase with more frequent sex, but this plateaued at weekly sex.
Despite common stereotypes that men want more sex and older people have less sex, there actually was no difference in the findings based on gender, age or length of relationship.
"Our findings were consistent for men and women, younger and older people, and couples who had been married for a few years or decades," added Dr Muise.
The study also showed that frequent sex makes people happier than a high income.
The researchers conducted a survey with 335 people in long-term relationships, who were asked about their annual income.
People who had higher incomes but less sex were more unhappy than those with lower incomes but who enjoyed sex more often.
Research earlier this year by Carneigie-Mellon suggested that injecting more sex into a flailing love life could actually make the problem worse.
Couples instructed to increase sexual frequency saw their happiness levels fall.
The chief problem seemed to be just the fact that they were asked to do it, rather than initiating it on their own.
Relationship expert Tracey Cox said: "I think most couples will breathe a sigh of relief when reading this report.
"Sex is important in relationships for bonding and feeling that your partner still fancies you, but sex once a week is a realistic and achievable goal for busy people.
"We still cling to this myth that we should be having sex all the time, but our bodies just aren't built that way and actually you are more likely to get bored of your partner if you have too much sex."
The research was published by the Society for Personality and Psychology.