You don’t know what’s going on in your neighbors’ bedrooms (and, quite frankly, don’t want to). But you’re probably a little curious to know how your sex life stacks up. For example, how often are other couples doing it? And is it weird that you and your partner always do the same things? What would a therapist say about your sex life?
Here, 10 ways to know if your bedroom behaviors are healthy—and what you can do to improve things if they’re not:
You Feel Good About Your Body
In a University of Texas study on women ages 18 to 49, those who scored highest on a body image scale were also the most sexually satisfied. One reason: Dwelling on the size of your thighs or belly distracts you from pleasurable sensations during sex. In turn, that can affect things like lubrication and the ability to have an orgasm. Exercise—regardless of weight loss—has been shown to boost self-esteem and body confidence. Another surprising thing you can do right now? Listen to your heart. Turning “inward” and listening to your body’s signals—like your heartbeat—can bolster your self-image, reveals research in PLOS One.
You’re Not Afraid to Ask for What You Want (and He Isn’t Either)
“Good sex is all about finding your perfect recipe,” says certified sex therapist Aline Zoldbrod, Ph.D., of SexSmart.com
. While you can’t expect your partner to read your mind, he or she should be open to learning about and responding to what you want. If you find it tough to state your sexual hopes, you may find texting your partner about your fantasies is easier than face-to-face or in-the-moment declarations of desire.
Sometimes You Schedule It
A lot of people feel like sex should arise from a spontaneous bout of lust. But that’s not always required. “Unless you’re living a life of leisure and your kids are grown and out of the house, I think scheduling sex is a good idea,” says Zoldbrod. She suggests planning your night around it. Get the kids dinner, and put them to bed. Order in a light meal that won’t leave you stuffed or left with a pile of dishes. Then do something to de-stress—like watching a funny TV show or movie together. You’ll find it easier to get in the mood after relaxing, says Zoldbrod.
You’re Not Counting
Whether you’re doing it a few times a week or once a month, focusing on a number isn’t a great way to assess your sex life, says Kristin Zeising, Psy.D., a certified sex therapist in San Diego. In a study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, researchers randomly assigned couples to double the number of times they had sex. Compared to a control group that went about their lives as normal, those who did the deed more weren’t any happier. Putting pressure on yourself to have more sex may turn it into another to-do item, which drives down satisfaction, the research indicates. On the other hand, the study authors say traveling to new locales or going on date nights—opening up natural opportunities to have sex more often—may make it more enjoyable.
You Like It
No matter how many times a week or month you get busy, whether you orgasm or not, and whether someone would characterize your sex life as crazy or vanilla, the most important sign is that you enjoy it. “Do you feel closer to your partner afterwards? Are you in a better mood? Those are the questions that really have meaning,” says Zoldbrod.
You Skip Pity Sex
Zoldbrod calls this “mercy sex.” It’s when you have sex because your partner wants to—even though it’s the last thing you want. Some experts say you shouldn’t turn down your partner. Zoldbrod says mercy sex is acceptable on occasion, but a steady diet of it can tank your libido by training your brain to think of sex as a chore. It’s completely fine to turn down your partner in a nice way if you’re not feeling it, says Zoldbrod. But if you do say no, try to be the one who initiates sex the next time to show your partner you desire him.
You Know When to Change Things Up
Forget When Harry Met Sally
. In the real world, it’s hard to fake your way through sex. If you’re not enjoying it, chances are your partner can tell, according to a 2014 study from the University of Waterloo in the U.K. What does this mean for you? “Most couples find they get stuck in a certain sexual routine, and they may feel less interested in sex if it feels like they’re in a rut,” says Zeising. Although it requires a little extra effort, switching rooms or outfits or positions are all simple ways to make sex feel fresh again. Give these 11 sex positions
You’re Happy Together
It sounds simple, but there’s a strong link between sexual satisfaction (factors like having interest in sex, feeling good about how often it happens, and infrequent arguments about sex) and happiness in your relationship, shows a study from Social Science Research. Relationship satisfaction fuels attraction, paving the way for better sex, the research suggests. So if you’re into your partner, your sex life is probably in good shape.
You’ve Got a Racy Vocabulary
Whether you’re sending a flirty text mid-day or whispering something into your partner’s ear, sexual banter is linked to greater sexual satisfaction for both men and women, per a 2011 study in the Journal of Integrated Social Sciences. “Sex therapists call this ‘simmering’—or little things you do to and for each other that keep you physically and romantically bonded,” says Zoldbrod.
You Don’t Freak Out About the Occasional Slow Stretch
“It’s important to have realistic ideas about what a healthy sex life is,” says Zeising. Namely, it won’t always be passionate and intense, and the frequency will ebb and flow throughout your relationship. “If you accept there’s no right or wrong way to be sexual, and you and your partner are open with each other about when you’re feeling it and when you aren’t, then you will have a healthy sex life,” she says.