Multiple studies report that sex about once a week is good for relationship satisfaction, but there can be such a thing as too much. See Sexual Frequency Predicts Greater Well-Being, But More is Not Always Better, in which researchers write:

Is it true that engaging in more frequent sex is associated with greater well-being? The media emphasizes—and research supports—the claim that the more sex you have, the happier you will feel. Across three studies (N = 30,645), we demonstrate that the association between sexual frequency and well-being is best described by a curvilinear (as opposed to a linear) association where sex is no longer associated with well-being at a frequency of more than once a week. In Study 1, the association between sexual frequency and well-being is only significant for people in relationships. In Studies 2 and 3, which included only people in relationships, sexual frequency had a curvilinear association with relationship satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction mediated the association between sexual frequency and well-being. For people in relationships, sexual frequency is no longer significantly associated with well-being at a frequency greater than once a week.

In short, greater frequency causes relationship satisfaction to decline, or, at best, remain static. As one team of researchers put it, there’s no appreciable benefit to relationships by having sex more than once a week, beyond the moment. (Of course, researchers aren’t investigating Synergy-style sex, which seems to leave lovers invigorated yet with reduced sexual frustration.)

Those researchers reported other interesting findings too. Although sexual activity apparently led to greater wellbeing, orgasm did not. And among new lovers, having sex led to greater negative emotions the next day. Hmmm… New lovers typically find sexual activity more intense.

Satiety switch

Everyone loves orgasm, so why doesn’t more of it always lead to greater relationship satisfaction? It could have something to do with our biological appetite mechanism. Research demonstrates that too much of a good thing tends to bring on unforeseen lack of enthusiasm. That is, instead of enjoying their treats more, consumers habituate. Put differently, less can be more when it comes to satisfaction.

Moreover, coitus is peculiarly associated with unpleasant symptoms in surprisingly large percentages of users. It’s possible that the more frequently we orgasm, the more some of us suffer from these symptoms:

Post coital symptoms were fairly frequent, with 91.9% of participants reporting any symptom over the past 4 weeks and 94.3% over life course. …

The most frequently reported symptoms were related to “depressive mood.”…

The most common symptoms in women were mood swings and sadness, whereas in men, it was unhappiness and low energy. [Women reported] more sadness, mood swings, frustration, and worthlessness.

Quality control

These biological realities raise an interesting question. What is it about sex that trips the satiety switch? Is it the intensity of the experience that drives the subsequent potential decrease in satisfaction, as is apparently the case for the new lovers mentioned above?

Is it the frequency of conventional (orgasmic intercourse)? For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic Turkish women’s sexual desire and frequency of intercourse increased. However, they reported that the quality of their sex life decreased.

Find out for yourselves. Go with gentler, less goal-driven Synergy-style sex for a few weeks. Are you able to make love more often without tripping the satiety switch or experiencing disgruntled feelings over the following days or weeks?

It’s worth experimenting. One advantage to more frequent, but more leisurely and less goal-driven, intercourse/sexual activity might be to encourage more intimacy-enhancing bonding behaviours. That’s quite apart from sidestepping habituation or post-coital distress.

Research needed

One thing is clear. The ramifications of partnered sex aren’t simply “all about more orgasm”. Researchers may need to tease apart intercourse with orgasm from non-orgasm driven intercourse. Then perhaps we’ll understand better what sustains harmony in intimate relationships. How else can we find out how much sex, of what type, would most benefit lovers?