Relationship Data

How Much Sex Should We Be Having Anyway?


Whether you’re enjoying the newness of a fresh relationship or comfortable after years together, you can count on your sex life changing. What is hot and heavy at first may calm to sporadic bedroom sessions. Or, maybe that initially awkward and mediocre sex (that perhaps you don’t want very often) can evolve to gratifying, explosive orgasms (that you’d enjoy twice daily). With such a wide spectrum, is there a baseline amount of sex we should be having?


According to the Kinsey Institute for research in Sex, Reproduction and Gender, the best predictor of sexual frequency is age—not marital status. Researchers found that, on average, people between 18-29 have 112 sex sessions a year; people between 30-39 have 86 sex sessions a year; and people between 40-49 have 69 sex sessions a year.


Wondering about the 50+ crowd? After surveying over 8000 participants over the age of 50, the The Normal Bar found that 31 percent enjoy sex multiple times a week; 28 percent enjoy sex a few times a month; and 8 percent have sex once a month. Nearly a third of respondents rarely have sex at all.


Worried about your sex life losing steam? There is an upside: Although the quantity of sex may decrease with age, the quality gets better. In one study, researchers attributed the higher levels of sexual satisfaction in menopausal and post menopausal women to their confidence, managed expectations, and ability to prioritize their sexual needs.


We’re below average! Is there a problem?


Not necessarily. In one study led by Amy Muise of The University of Toronto-Mississauga, researchers found that couples who have sex every night are just as happy as the couples who have sex once a week. In another study, researchers asked half of the 64 married couples participating to double the amount of sex they typically have. When comparing happiness levels from the cohort having more sex to the cohort sticking to their usual sex amounts, researchers found no increase in happiness. Instead, the couples with the doubled sex requirement reported lower energy levels and sexual dissatisfaction.


The findings show that real satisfaction doesn’t stem from the amount of sex, but rather from the quality of sexual experience. Sex is a vehicle for connectivity; some couples need to have sex to be connected and others can achieve connectivity other ways. In other words, as long as you and your partner feel connected, the amount of sex is secondary. “It’s important to maintain an intimate connection with your partner without putting too much pressure on engaging in sex as frequently as possible,” said Muise.


Is there a such thing as too little sex?


Technically, couples who have sex less than ten times a year are considered “sexless”. For older couples, the declining amount of sex is perfectly acceptable. But, for other couples, a mismatched libido can pose problems. If you haven’t been in the mood, take a closer look at your medications—especially antidepressants and antihistamines—and get your hormone levels checked. If you’ve ruled out physical causes, consider a fake-it-till-you-make-it approach; having sexual experiences can actually produce hormones that trigger higher levels of desire. If sex isn’t on the table, engaging in foreplay can also help fuel the flames of desire. Touching, holding, kissing, and other forms of physical contact stimulates oxytocin—a chemical that gives you feelings of closeness and connectedness with your partner.


What if we’re having too much sex?


Lucky you–literally! According to sex therapists and medical professionals, there is no such as too much sex; however, if your desire for sex is interfering with your job or relationships, you should consider chatting with a therapist.




How your monthly cycle can make you a man magnet


iStock-641434604 copy.jpgIn spite of the bloating, cramping, and PMS inherent with your monthly cycle, turns out there is a bonus: Men are more likely to find you attractive. According to a study in the journal “Hormones and Behavior,” men were more likely to rate women as being the most attractive when they were at the most fertile point in their menstrual cycle.

How does male behavior change during ovulation?

In one study, researchers asked 31 women to report their significant other’s behavior changes during all stages of the month. During ovulation, women reported more attentiveness and higher involvement from their partners. The behavior changes were even more evident in relationships that weren’t serious yet, demonstrating that men were extra cautious of competition during her time of peak attractiveness. The men also exhibited a higher level of protectiveness during ovulation. This phenomena, known as mate guarding, was especially prevalent among less attractive males.

So, what about ovulation makes you more attractive? According to Michael Kauth’s Handbook of the Evolution of Human Sexuality, you can expect to:

·      Smell better—In one study, men were given three sets of t-shirts: one set was worn by women during their most fertile phase, another set worn during their infertile time, and a third set of shirts that were unworn. After smelling the ovulation shirts, men exhibited higher levels of testosterone.

·      Become more creative—Researchers gave a group of women 4 tests, one for each week of the menstrual cycle. Creativity surged during ovulation, when estrogen and luteinizing hormone were highest.

·      Appear more attractive—After showing two pictures of the same woman—one while she was ovulating and one when she wasn’t—to a group of men and women, researchers learned that both the men and the women rated the pictures capturing ovulation more attractive.

·      Have a higher sex drive—After polling 115 women about their sex drive and monthly cycle, researchers noted a spike in libido and greater sexual satisfaction during ovulation.

·      Dress sexier—Because women feel sexier during ovulation, they are more likely to spend time on their appearance. As their libido surges, they tend to dress more strategically to attract a mate.

·      Have a higher pitched voice—As ovulation approaches, women will craft a more feminine, higher-pitched voice to be more attractive to men. The pitch gets higher as ovulation gets closer.

How much can ovulation up your sex appeal? Researchers at the University of New Mexico attempted to quantify it by asking strippers to report their earnings and their menstrual cycles for two months. During ovulation, the strippers made about $70 per hour, women in the luteal phase—the phase after ovulation but before the period—made about $50 per hour, and menstruating women made about $35 per hour.

Is your relationship cheat-proof? Research reveals the most common reasons partners stray


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After polling over 100,000 people, Chrisanna Northrup published extensive research on infidelity in her book The Normal Bar. Her findings explored not only the prevalence of cheating, but also perhaps more interestingly, she learned the situations that were most likely to encourage committed partners to stray.


  1. The Business Trip

For frequent travelers, life on the road comes with loneliness and stress—two circumstances that make meeting a beautiful stranger a welcome distraction.

36% of men and 13% of women admitted to cheating on a business trip. Respondents claimed that the sexual liaison was just too enticing to pass up, even if they had a robust sex life at home. Researchers concluded that the infidelity was related to sex, but also with the thrill of being wanted sexually and being able to engage and get away with it.

How long into a relationship is the business affair most likely to happen? 6-9 years.


  1. An ex

Even though the relationship maybe over, the feelings can still exist—especially for women. 32% of women admitted to having a fling with an ex or old interest, compared to 21% of men. Those who cheated with an ex reported a satisfying sex life at home; however, the forbidden nature of sleeping with someone who still holds emotional connectivity proved tempting.

How long into a relationship is an ex most likely to tempt? 2-5 years.


  1. Boredom in the bedroom

A mundane sex life is a big reason men and women entertain the idea of getting their needs meet elsewhere. 71% of men and 49% of women cheated after claiming boredom in the bedroom. Often times, people cheat because they are ashamed of their bedroom preferences. In an effort to avoid the conversation, people will suppress their desire and ultimately engage in an affair later to indulge it or, unfairly, project the shame onto their partner.


  1. Revenge infidelity

After a partner cheated, 9% of men and 14% of women admitted to cheating for revenge.


  1. An inability to be monogamous

Despite entering a committed relationship, many people just can’t dismiss the urge to cheat. 46% of men and 19% of women who strayed and were asked why said, “I just can’t help myself.”


But are there reasons people cheat that are beyond their control?


We are ultimately responsible for our decisions, but some factors can certainly cloud our better judgment. After meeting someone interesting and attractive, the brain produces a surge of dopamine. The dopamine rush triggers an intense, addictive euphoria—a euphoria that leaves us begging for more, even if it’s outside of the confines of our relationship.


There could also be a genetic propensity for cheating. In one study,  researchers surveyed 294 participants and discovered that those who had at least one parent cheat were twice as likely to cheat as the participants who had parents who maintained committed relationships.


Is there hope after infidelity?


Ironically, affairs don’t necessarily indicate a broken marriage. Although difficult, one of the biggest hurdles to getting the relationship back on track is working through the “victim/perpetrator” mentality. According to Dr. Joe Kurt, Ph.D., LMSW, the betrayed partner can start thinking that because he or she was cheated on, it’s up to the cheater to make everything right again. This blame-focused approach will ultimately sabotage any chance at reconciliation.


The best hope for a couple is to talk through the cheating—both the cheater’s experience and the injured partner’s response—in the presence of a counselor or therapist. Together, they can figure out the best ways to rebuild trust and demonstrate transparency.

Are we too old for games? Research sheds some light on playing hard to get

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No one likes to admit that he or she plays games; why would anyone cop to something so juvenile or immature? But, what if there were some real data that supported game play? One of the most frequently played games—playing hard to get—describes the act of feigning disinterest in a potential mate to increase the mate’s interest. Honing this type of game was the basis of New York Times’ controversial bestseller for women, The Rules. It’s also described in The Game, a how-to guide for any budding pick up artist. Despite the manipulative undertone, could these old school tactics and strategies help us find love? Researchers Peter Jonason and Norman Li spearheaded the study on college campuses to find the answer.


To determine effects of availability on desire, 270 heterosexual students were shown three dating profiles all similar save for the profiled person’s availability. When asked which profile would be the best choice for casual sex, both women and men preferred a partner with high availability. Without having to determine emotional or mental compatibility, singles need only to notice physical attraction—a determination that can be made without more than a glance. Without having to account for a future, singles can skip the process of determining sustainability.


On the other hand, singles seeking dating or a serious relationship, preferred moderate to scarce availability. Those with minimal availability are displaying greater independence and are less inclined to commit to a single partner without due diligence—all positive attributes of a future partner.


Availability didn’t just affect the type of relationship, it also influenced how likely the students were to invest actual resources in the profile. When participants were asked which restaurant they would take the low, medium, and highly available profiles to—fast food, casual, or luxe—the low availability candidates were most likely to get the luxe meal.


Those who play hard to get have two motives: firstly, to drive desirability of their potential mate but also to test just how committed the potential mate is to a longer term relationship. For anyone seeking a relationship, this sounds like the perfect recipe. But, is it?


In another study by Jayson Jia, Xianchi Dai, and Ping Dong, results revealed that playing hard to get only works if there is already some semblance of romantic interest. If someone is not interested in you to begin with, it is highly unlikely that they invest more effort in “acquiring” the person. If, however, someone shows interest in something more than a fling, playing hard to get is a way to demonstrate that you have other options, a characteristic of singles in high demand. If you start playing hard to get right off the bat, your plans to drive interest could backfire. Instead, approach potential mates with a friendly, social demeanor. As these researchers concluded, “Playing easy to get always yields more positive affective evaluations of liking, regardless of the degree of prior psychological commitment.”


So, how can you play hard to get in a way that isn’t manipulative? Here’s the answer: You don’t need to. If you cultivate a life with people you enjoy and activities that hold your interest, you will need to schedule time for a date instead of being available at a moment’s notice. If you find yourself coming on too strong, switch the mentality. Instead of playing hard to get, be more discerning. Give your potential partner a chance to show you who he or she is before revealing your interest.


Here’s How Women Flirt, According to Science


P19673882.jpgDemonstrating attraction oscillates between direct romantic overtures and subtle, almost subconscious, behaviors. Women—through cultural norms and socialization—are more prone to the latter. Flirting, mostly comprised of “nonverbal solicitation signals”, is the most common way women indicate preliminary interest, and it encompasses everything from a simple nod to physical contact.


Webster University Professor, Monica Moore, studied flirting behaviors in over 200 women. She along with two researchers, wanted to understand the most common flirting behaviors and then quantify the effects of flirting; they wanted to know just how much flirting influenced a potential male partner.


Moore and her team noted 52 flirtatious signals, but some of the most common signals included: hair flipping, giggling, sustained eye contact, smiling, dancing in place, moving closer, and showing off the neck.


After the man approached, the flirting escalated. Interested women would start touching his arms, legs, or back. Many would sit with their knee, foot or thigh touching his stool or his legs.


Ironically, the women who were approached the most were not the most attractive; they did not have as much facial symmetry or traditionally desirable hip-to-waist proportions. Instead, these women flirted the most—roughly 35 flirtatious signals per hour.


Which flirt techniques work best?


If flirting feels unnatural, you can still attract male attention with a simple smile. Researcher Nicolas Guegen, PhD, sent a single woman into a bar and asked her to make eye contact for 2 seconds at single men. He then asked her to maintain the 2 second eye contact but add a smile. The additional smile nearly quadrupuled the approach rate. The stronger the “invite”, the more likely a man will approach.


Heartbroken? Cardiologists explain why your heart might *actually* be broken


Signs_He_Doesn't_Love_You.jpgIn the wake of a breakup, you might say that you’re “heartbroken”, a phase characterized by deep sadness and loss. The feelings are sharp and intense, but are they just feelings?


Research shows that the gut wrenching, kick-to-the-stomach feeling that comes after losing someone you love is not just an emotional experience; the effects of a broken heart are grounded in real physiological changes.


To understand how the pain is processed, neuroscientists at Columbia University looked at brain activity in unmarried people who had experienced an unwanted breakup in the previous six months. Participants were asked to look at pictures of friends and exes while being touched with a hot probe. Interestingly, the pictures of the exes and the hot probe caused the same parts of the brain to light up. The pictures of friends had no effect. This study revealed that the part of the brain that processes physical pain also processes the pain associated with emotional loss, and your body will respond in many unfortunate ways in the wake of pain.




After a breakup, a heart may temporarily enlarge while the rest of the heart functions normally or with even more force. This condition is called stress-induced cardiomyopathy also known as broken heart syndrome. Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center noted an especially precarious window for developing a heart problem: During the first 24 hours after experiencing loss, a person’s risk of suffering from a heart attack increases 20X.


According to the American Heart Association, broken heart syndrome is similar to experiencing a heart attack. Symptoms include shortness of breath and chest pain, but no clogged arteries, a characteristic of a traditional heart attack.


Unfortunately, your heart isn’t the only place that will experience stress in the wake of a break up.



Breakouts can be attributed to many things—diet, hormones, cosmetics—but the stresses associated with a breakup can also send your skin to a bad place. Researchers at Wake Forest University studied 94 students in Singapore to isolate the causes of breakouts. They found that breakouts were 23 percent more likely to occur during periods of high emotional strain.



 Some people experience hair loss after losing a partner. The emotional stress can trigger an auto-immune condition which attacks your hair follicles or increases the production of androgen, the chief cause of female pattern baldness. Luckily, this issue is only temporary, and as you recover from your break up, your hair should grow back.



After a break up, the body will produce an influx of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. These stress hormones can help you react quickly in dangerous, short-term situations, but in longer term traumatic situations, these hormones can exhaust your muscles. The extra cortisol will tell your body to send more blood to you muscles, but with no physical outlet, the muscles will swell and feel sore.


The Stomach

The cortisol produced in the wake of a break up will also wreak havoc on your digestive track. The extra cortisol will divert blood away from your GI, causing irregularity. If your stomach is already sensitive, you might experience additional cramping or diarrhea.


Best ways to counteract the nasty effects of a break up?

Endorphins. Curb those wild stress hormones by pulling yourself off the couch and breaking a sweat. “Exercise also leads to the release of brain chemicals like endogenous opioids that can create feelings of contentment,” says Dr. Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. “It may even get your dopamine flowing.” The stress stemming from a painful break up is real, and physical activity is the best way to help your body release and process the pain.



Pheromones and Attraction

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Have you ever found someone completely irresistible, but you’re not sure why? Some scientists argue that we might be picking up on someone’s genetic compatibility with our sense of smell.

When we smell something, tiny odor molecules bind to receptor cells that travel directly to the brain for processing. Smell—unlike the other senses—is analyzed almost instantly. This rapid analysis is the reason why smelling something familiar can trigger an emotional response instantly, and sometimes these responses can be quite powerful. Think of the last time you smelled chocolate chip cookies. Did you feel a cozy, comfortable feeling? What about popcorn? Did you find yourself in an upbeat, casual mood?

If smells can solicit hefty emotional responses, can they trigger us to have romantic feelings?

Scientists still debate the answer, but they all can agree that the discussion starts with pheromones.

Pheromones describe the special cocktail of chemicals that our body releases that may influence the way people behave towards us. These chemicals—when smelled—are known to stimulate the hypothalamus, a part of the brain known to regulate sexual behavior, mood, and hormones.

To figure out how sensitive we are to pheromones, Swiss zoologist Claus Wedekind conducted “The Sweaty T-shirt Experiment.” He instructed 44 different men to wear the same t-shirt two consecutive nights. After collecting the t-shirts, he asked 49 different women to sniff each t-shirt and rate the odor for intensity, pleasantness, and sexiness.

Results showed that the women preferred the odors from men whose DNA was most different from their own. Because choosing a mate with a similar genetic makeup can cause a host of genetic complications for an offspring, the women’s choices show that they have an ability to analyze and gravitate towards men who guarantee greater reproductive success. In other words, women preferred sexual experiences with men who smelled a certain way.

Pheromones also solicit responses based on sexual preferences, not biological sex. In another study conducted by Dr. Ivanka Savic and colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, a group of men—some straight, some gay—and women were asked to rate attractiveness to two different pheromones. Both the gay men and women responded strongly to the male pheromone, whereas the heterosexual males preferred the female pheromone almost exclusively.

Despite the science, there is no real way to determine the true effect of pheromones; There are simply too many mitigating factors. For example, it’s impossible to confirm the real reason we gravitate towards certain people we find attractive. It could be the scent they carry, but it also could be related to personality, confidence, appearance, or status.

If pheromones can influence sexual responses, is it possible to recreate certain smells to make yourself more sexually desirable?

Unfortunately, pheromones are an elusive mix of natural chemicals, impossible to replicate in a lab. To date, scientists (and fragrance companies) have not been able to get to the heart of what exactly makes up pheromones, how they are created, or how to emulate them. Some companies tout “love potions”, but these are most likely gentle, pleasant fragrances.

Pheromones could be influencing attraction, but it’s more likely a combination of factors with pheromones playing some small role. Visual cues, body language, and the quintessential “chemistry” of how your personalities mesh all play into your perception of a potential romantic encounter.