If you've ever been told that lots of sex will lead to happiness, you might have heard correctly! There are many factors that go into that statement, however. Frequency of sex is just one factor to be considered. Couple compatibility, quality, and type of sex are also important. So, the link between sex and being happy seems to be there, but it also appears to be more complex.
After reading an article on the frequency of sex and whether couples are having enough of it on Greater Good, I began thinking a great deal about the subject and whether or not it’s sex itself or something that goes along with the sex that leads to happier people. This led me to a few concepts to examine in detail when discussing the link between fulfillment, sex, and being happy.
While the article on Greater Good points out that for many folks having a lot of sex makes them happier, it also states that this isn't the case for everyone. In fact, frequency without other important factors incorporated may actually make people unhappy. I was once with a partner that wanted sex daily. I, however, didn't. For one, it wasn't satisfying for me. This partner rarely put the time in to make it enjoyable, and he usually focused on his release over mine. This caused a depression in me.
Brian Joseph Gillespie of the Department of Sociology at Sonoma State University carried out a study in 2016 where he found that couples taking part in frequent sex were only more satisfied if the sex was also of high quality. So, frequency is only a part of the equation when it comes to having a happy sex life.
Frequent sex doesn't equal great sex (or make you happy)
This brings me to sexual happiness and 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. This 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 one of the happiness hormones. The article on 'The Orgasmic History of Oxytocin' covers several areas of sexuality and the release of oxytocin. So, all the extra energy my husband put into me and all the additional orgasms led to more of this happiness hormone being released into my body.
“The sexual connection I have with my partner leads to far more happiness if it's a positive one. Desiring the same things as a couple leads to positivity.”
This sexual connection I have with my partner leads to far more happiness if it's 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, in fact, make for more satisfying sex.
However, other couples may prefer sex seven days a week. Finding that partner we’re most compatible with is essential for achieving a happy 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.
As mentioned above, having sex twice a week may be perfect for some partners. The biggest thing I've found out for myself, though, is that's it's the quality of sex rather than the frequency that matters.
Is it sex I like? 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.
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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. Sp, satisfaction contributes to a happy sex life too, as well as your overall happiness levels.
It's a match: couple compatibility is one factor of a happy sex life
This isn’t so clear, though, when it comes to other studies. The Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization also carried out research. It found that when they asked participants to have more sex, their fulfillment actually decreased! What I found interesting about this study is that it didn’t include 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.
I'm convinced that the more we're 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 drives 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 not true. That's because there's 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 is likely to be far more satisfying than full intercourse.
What all of this research and my personal experience has taught me is that the topic of sexual activity and happiness is complex. 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 to be happy.
There's no doubt in my mind that when I've walked away from a very satisfying sexual encounter, I'm giggly and flying high. This elevated mood can even last for days! Interestingly, some of the encounters that brought on this feeling have been quite short. And 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 lot 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.
Ride of your life: quality rules when it comes to happy sex
But the most important factor from the list for me is the quality of sex I'm having. 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 – and I guess you are as you are reading this article (!), I’d suggest keeping these things to the front of your mind:
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.
“There's 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.”
I was often taught that couples that love each other stay together until death. But I have never really bought into this belief. If I can’t make my partner happy, then I will 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 wouldn't have been happy. And that wouldn't have been due to lack of sex: we were having plenty of that, after all!
So, in conclusion, honour your needs, talk about your desires, and listen to your partner when they tell you about their needs and desires. Then, act. For me, this has been the fastest way to a happy and fulfilled sex life. ●
Main image: colourbox.com
Sienna Saint-Cyr is an author, advocate, and the founder of SinCyr Publishing. She speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on the importance of having a healthy body image, understanding enthusiastic consent, using sexuality to promote healing, navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships, having Complex PTSD, and more. Sienna loves sharing her journey of healing and finding happiness with her readers. Along with writing erotica and romance, Sienna speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on such sex-positive topics as a healthy body image, using sexuality to promote healing, and navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships. She writes for several websites. Find out more.
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