The Truth about Married Sex: 4 Things Every Couple Should Know

Cosy mature couple lying in bed smilingPeople have it all wrong about married sex. Somehow many Americans have created a fantasy that sex in marriage should look like sex when you’re dating or sex in movies—the type of sex that is urgent, quick, spontaneous, lustful, and passionate. Sure, it can happen, and it’s wonderful when it does, but this is certainly not the norm. As a sex therapist, I see time and time again that expectations are part of the issue when it comes to low sex drive and sexless marriage. People come to my office all the time and say that when they have sex they enjoy it, but they rarely seem to desire it.

Successful couples have realistic expectations about what sex should look like. They set date nights or schedule sex so that they make time for one another. They set aside time to try to get in the mood. They make intimacy a regular part of their relationships by knowing what to expect and when to expect it.

Are you one of those people who think scheduled sex is boring or cannot be pleasurable? Allow me to persuade you that if you change your thinking, not only will you and your partner likely have more sex, but you will enjoy it more as well.

1. You Don’t Need Desire to Precede Intimacy

Do you always feel hungry for breakfast? No, but you eat it anyway because it’s an important meal.

Are you often dirty and “in need” of a shower? Probably not. But you likely shower daily, or every other day, anyway.

Do you feel utterly exhausted every night when you go to sleep? Maybe. But you might just go to bed around the same time because you know that rest is good for your body and so you won’t be tired the next day.

Do you always feel the urge to exercise? Many people would say no, definitely not! But people do it because it’s healthy.

Well, sex is the same way! You push yourself to start sexual intimacy because it’s good for your body, your mind, your marriage, and your family.

2. Dating Is Not Spontaneous

The idea that sex when you’re dating is spontaneous is simply not accurate. When people are dating and live apart, they make time to see each other. They often dress up, do their hair, apply perfume or cologne, or wear more flattering clothes. You planned sex when you were dating, but you didn’t realize you were planning for sex because you tricked yourself into feeling like it was spontaneous. It was anything but. All these steps you took helped your brain anticipate sex at the end of the night.

3. Planning Sex May Make You Happier

Why is spontaneous good and planned bad? Do you enjoy a vacation less because you planned it and looked forward to it? According to a recent study in the Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life, participating vacationers were happier before their trips, in anticipation. Other research shows, as well, that people derive happiness from anticipating a positive experience.

Anticipating a sexual encounter may make you more responsive in, and happy before, the actual act.

4. For Many Women, Desire Comes after Arousal

According to Rosemary Basson’s model of female sexual response, desire more commonly occurs in women after arousal. In contrast, the male model of sexual response dictates that desire generally comes before arousal. Women are not men!

If you, like many people, can enjoy sex and feel connected during intimacy but have a hard time initiating, try these steps:

  • Plan one night per week to try to get in the mood. This doesn’t mean you should have sex if you are not in the mood. This means you are open to the idea of trying to get in the mood. You are open to kissing, hugging, or caressing in order to attempt to get aroused. Intercourse should happen only if you have desire and arousal.
  • Welcome spontaneity on the other six nights. If being spontaneous is so important to you, then be open to that.
  • On the night you “planned” to get in the mood, do things that help you become aroused. Some women like to shower or bathe in order to feel relaxed and clean. Some women feel that lingerie helps them feel sexy. Some feel that setting the mood with candles or fragrance is helpful. Do what moves you.
  • Extend foreplay. Since desire comes after arousal for many women, foreplay may need to be extended. Try foreplay for 30 to 45 minutes before considering intercourse.
  • Initiate if you are interested in getting in the mood. Initiating does not need to mean you are in the mood. It means you would like to get in the mood.

If you enjoy sex with your partner but never seem to find the time or occasion to be intimate, it might be that you are waiting for the stars to align. Shift your perspective to a more functional and realistic point of view. You can have passion and desire and perhaps even orgasm, but initiation is the first step.


  1. Kumar, A., Killingsworth, M.A., and Gilovich, T. (2014). Waiting for Merlot: Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material Purchases. Psychological Science. Vol 25, No. 10. Pp: 1924-1931.
  2. Nawijn, J., Marchand, M.A., Veenhoven, R., and Vingerhoets, A.J. (2010). Vacationers Happier, but Most Not Happier After a Holiday. Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life. Vol 5, Issue 1, pp: 35-47.

© Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Mieke Rivka Sidorsky, LCSW-C

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Addie

    December 15th, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    No desire before intimacy?
    I guess that it took me a while of being married that I understood that sex was still an important piece of the puzzle whether I was necessarily in the mood to have it or not. I think that we went through quite a few dry spells before I read something to this effect and understood that to keep our marriage strong that there might be times when I have to give a little in order to receive a little of what I wanted from my husband.

  • jade

    December 15th, 2014 at 3:08 PM

    Since having kids we find it almost impossible to have spontaneous sex- so now we put it on our calendars! Does it take some of the fun out of it? Not at all- as a matter of fact it gives us something fun to look forward to!

  • Rosa

    December 16th, 2014 at 3:43 AM

    Truthfully I find that married sex is much more fulfilling than sex I had as a younger woman. This just means something entirely different to me, and while the time isn’t always there and quite frankly isn’t always right, if you put all of your love and trust into it, then it can be better than anything that you have ever experienced before.

  • jared

    December 16th, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Even though some of my friends disagree I don’t think that being married has to ruin the sex life. Sure it might be a little different and more sporadic than what it once was but you have to expect that with this big change in the relationship status that there will be all sorts of changes, you just have to be willing to roll with the punches. I don’t think that just because you are married you give up on having that exciting sex life, I think that it can actually be enhanced by the stability that being married has to offer.

  • Kimberly

    December 16th, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    It is important to not hold yourself to these standards that supposedly work for others. How do we know that they are telling the truth about how good their sex life is and how many times a week they are having it? I think that the best thing is to work out with your partner a plan that best fits for the both of you. It might mean doing some of these things and it may not, and no matter how you do it just continue to make time for each other even when you are tired and really don’t feel that much like it.

  • Hewitt

    December 16th, 2014 at 9:05 PM

    It’s so true when reading about dating and sex being planned. i guess most of us have this notion that sex needs to be spontaneous to be great and that’s just because you’re living apart when dating. it is spontaneous, each time and every time. maybe married sex is under rated and we should all take stock in this fact and see how we can improve it in our own lives. thank you for this article, it gives a very useful and practical peek into how things are performed and what they really are.

  • thom

    December 17th, 2014 at 3:55 AM

    married to the love of my life, but one who would never initiate sex even if her life depended on it! i would like for her to do that from time to time but i guess that i have gotten so accustomed to our roles that that really does not bother me all that much anymore

  • raechel

    December 17th, 2014 at 10:55 AM

    I have found that the longer I have been married I have let myself go alot. I don’t keep up the appearance that I used to and I don’t generally care too much about what I am wearing. I want my husband to desire me more, and I have been thinking for a while that this is all about him and a lack of desire on his part. But reading this lets me see that maybe I should also look to the things that I do or don’t do so much anymore, and how is he ever going to want me that much when I look like I don’t care all of the time? This is just what I needed to drive this point home for me. I better go shower lol

  • Liv

    December 19th, 2014 at 5:10 PM

    I didn’t like the idea of “scheduling” sex either but once you have children the whole game changes! If you want to have time together you better get that in writing!

  • Johnnie

    December 21st, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    my hubby and I meet back at home “for lunch” every Friday afternoon. Sometimes we have a whole lot of time together and there are other times when we just have to get business finished, and then back to work, but we like it because it is something planned, non negotiable and it is time just for the two of us.

  • lola

    January 17th, 2017 at 2:28 PM

    If you are living with man that does truth you what can you do.

  • Awesome

    January 30th, 2017 at 10:04 AM

    This article is very helpful as I am currently going through this issue. Been thinking something was wrong with me because after having kids, sex is not the same; my libido decreased and its only gotten worse :( but I am glad nothing is actually wrong with me, and that its normal! The whole false expectation is spot on for me. Lately it seems like we are having a harder time connecting with me thinking too much (does my hair look OK, am I too skinny, what if I take too long…etc) I hate it!

  • Micah

    April 2nd, 2018 at 5:31 AM

    The one way for a successful marriage is if Man and Wife worship Jesus Christ follow His teachings, and have His commandments written in their heart. For marriage is a covenant and Man and Woman should be virgins before marriage.
    The Love Of GOD defeats all! all of you should worship Jesus Christ for I testify He is the Christ.

  • Daniel

    October 2nd, 2023 at 5:52 PM

    Amen! I have a tough time reading these other comments that just assume sex is A-okay outside of marriage.

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