If you’ve ever been told that lots of sex will lead to happiness, you might be right. Many factors that go into that statement, however. Frequency is just one factor to be considered. Couple compatibility, quality, and type of sex also need to be looked at. So the link between sex and happiness seems to be there, but also to be more complex.
After reading an article on the frequency of sex and whether couples are having enough on Greater Good, I began thinking a great deal about this and whether or not it’s the sex itself or something that goes along with the sex that leads to happier people. This led me to some core concepts that I’ll discuss below.
While the article on Greater Good points out that for many folks, having a lot of sex makes them happier, they also say that this isn’t the case for everyone. Frequency without certain factors may do the reverse.
I was with a partner that wanted sex daily. I didn’t. For one, it wasn’t satisfying for me. He rarely put the time in to make it enjoyable, and he usually focused on his release over mine. This made me severely depressed.
Brian Joseph Gillespie of the Department of Sociology at Sonoma State University did a study in April of 2016 where he found that couples taking part in frequent sex were only more satisfied if the sex was also quality sex. So frequency is only a part of the equation.
This brings me to compatibility. That ex and I simply weren’t compatible. He wanted quick sex and often and I wanted less sex with more build up.
When I met my husband, he loved foreplay. He enjoyed putting the energy into turning me on and getting me squirming. This incident shows that we were far more compatible because this energy was what I needed. I went from rarely reaching orgasm to sometimes having more than one in a sexual escapade.
According to the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, reaching orgasm releases oxytocin, which is also known as the happy hormone. Their article on The Orgasmic History of Oxytocin covers several areas of sexuality and the release of the happy hormone. So all the extra energy my husband put into me and all the additional orgasms led to more of the happy hormone releasing into my body.
The connection I have with my partner leads to far more happiness if it is a positive one. Desiring the same things as a couple leads to positivity. Putting the kids to bed together and reading them a story five nights a week, while only have sex twice a week, may make for more satisfying sex. Other couples may prefer sex seven days a week. Finding that partner we’re most compatible with is essential for improving our sex life even if the actual frequency of sex is less than before.
Healthy connections and finding a compatible partner means we must be mindful of our needs and desires.
Quality of Sex
As mentioned above, sex two nights a week may be perfect for some partners. The biggest thing I’ve found for myself is the quality of sex rather than frequency.
Is it sex I like? I don’t care for missionary style, so for me, that wouldn’t be satisfying. I can have sex for an hour, but ten-minute—super intense—sex is far more powerful for me. Because I enjoy the latter more, it means a deeper level and quality of sex. Longer, softer sex is still good, but not as strong for me.
As Brian Joseph Gillespie also mentions in his April 2016 study, couples that had far less sex but felt they had quality sex were more satisfied with their sex lives. Satisfaction contributes to happiness as well.
This isn’t so clear though when it comes to some studies. The Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization also did a study. They found that when they asked participants to have more sex, their happiness decreased! What I found interesting about this study is that it didn’t do crossovers as Brian’s did. So the folks taking part may or may not have desired that frequency, and that can lead to poor and ‘rushed’ quality.
Type of Sex
I’m convinced that the more we are self-aware and mindful of our needs around sex and happiness, the happier we will be. It can be related to oxytocin release or happiness with our partner(s). Or it might be that when we honour our needs, we will be more satisfied because we’ll be seeking out the relationships and sexual encounters that make us feel good inside.
One of the things that drive me batty as a sexuality educator is that so many people feel they need to have intercourse for it to be ‘sex’.
I believe that this is untrue.
There is oral sex, anal sex, masturbatory sex, and even tantric sex. Some may get just as much satisfaction from cuddling as others do a three-hour long missionary sex session. Cuddling releases oxytocin too. So for asexual folks, this might be far more satisfying than intercourse.
Conclusion – Frequency Doesn’t Equal Happiness
What all of this research and my personal experience has taught me is that this is a complex topic. This is a subject we can’t just look at one or two factors with. Even the article on Greater Good (that inspired this post) noted that there is a lot of conflicting research and study results on this topic.
What I find this all boils down to is that we have to be mindful of our desires and needs. Then we need to honour those desires and needs.
There is no doubt in my mind that when I’ve walked away from a very satisfying sexual encounter, I’m giggly and flying high. The elevated mood can last me days. And some of these encounters have been quite short. Sometimes they vary in frequency as well. But they are still—by far—the most satisfying and happy-making for me.
Other times I’ve had a lots of sex and often, but I didn’t get that same high from it. I didn’t giggle or walk away with a feeling of euphoria.
Quality Instead Of Quantity
The fundamental difference in these two circumstances included some of the topics listed above. Couple compatibility is vital for me. If we don’t like the same things, we aren’t going to be happy sexually. Or maybe even in other ways.
If we enjoy the same sorts of sex and sexual encounters, then I find much more satisfaction. I don’t know anyone that likes taking part in sex and happiness when it feels like a chore. Doing chores might be necessary, but sex should never be a chore.
All of this connects because all of this involves being tuned into who we are. It’s the self-awareness and mindfulness that leads to us finding compatible partners with similar sexual desires, with the ability to turn mediocre into outstandingly—quality-filled—sexual encounters.
If you’re interested in upping your happiness through increased sexual encounters, I’d suggest keeping these things in mind:
- Find a partner compatible with your life goals
- Talk about sex and sexuality, compare your desires
- Remember that quantity is not the same as quality
- Honour both people’s needs with compassion
In essence, this is simple. Pay attention and honour one another. If you find your partner isn’t ready to meet your needs or if you find you’re not willing to meet theirs and you are both profoundly unable to compromise maybe letting go of that connection and being open to someone more compatible with your needs is the healthier way to go.
I was often taught that couples that love each other stay together until death. But I don’t now nor have I ever bought into this belief. If I can’t make my partner happy, then I love him enough to let him go so he can find happiness elsewhere. I’m sure the ex that hated foreplay and loved frequent sex has found his special someone that desires those same things. If we’d stayed together, we’d not have been happy. And that wouldn’t have been due to lack of sex. We were having tonnes of sex!
Honour your needs, talk about your desires, and listen to your partner when they share about their needs and desires. Then act. For me, this has been the fastest way to increase sex and happiness.
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