Tag Archives: sex


Will you have sex tonight?

Mathematical predictors of your sex life.

I love this guy, John Gottman.  I mean he comes up with mathematical formulas to figure out how often you are going to have sex this year.  He measures his approach to your bedroom with game theory.  The basic idea of game theory is that the decisions people make relate to the the payoffs they will receive as a result of that decision.   I generally find his books really easy to read but when he goes into explanations of game theory, he enters serious geek land.  He actually has sentences like this in the chapter:

EP for Ianamy agrees = 5 σagree + (-1)(1- σagree)

So I am here to translate his formulas for your pleasure, or future pleasures.  He postulates that most bedrooms are pretty darn quiet according to research.   Just a quarter of adults over 45 are having sex weekly and another 40% are having sex at least monthly which means that about 35% of adults are having sex less than once a month (AARP, 2010).  Another recent study found a relationship between having sex about once a week and levels of happiness, regardless of age, gender or how long the relationship had been going on (Muise, 2016).  So many couples are probably having sex less than they want to and less often than is related to happiness.  Maybe the woman has been rebuffed in their sexual advances one too many times, and she has each stopped asking.  Or, the man isn’t sure when the right time is to ask and has stopped as well.

Gottman suggests that the key factor in determining how often you have sex is how you react when your partner says “not tonight” to you.  If you react with any kind of rejecting behavior – sulking, sighing, complaining, criticizing, frustration or anger, you just set in motion a cascade of negative emotions that will lead to less sex.

If you react negatively to her refusal of sex … you get less sex in the future

Using game theory, Gottman estimates that sex gets as low as 15 times a year when both partners react negatively to a refusal of sex.  However, if the man, for instance, reacts positively when his partner says “not tonight” with understanding, kind words or affection, her payoff increases (she got treated nicely) and his payoff increases (she is more likely to feel positive feelings towards him for understanding and is more likely to say yes in the future).   Using mathematical formulas, Gottman suggests you could be getting it up to four times a week (233 days a year!) if you start rewarding your partner when she refuses sex.

If you react positively when she refuses sex … you get more sex in the future

A client recently lamented that he wasn’t having sex with his wife very often and wanted to know how to increase the frequency of sex.  I asked him about his thoughts on strengthening the relationship but he wanted to know how to increase the frequency of sex first, as that would make him feel satisfied enough to continue to work on the relationship.  I explained the following to him:

For men, sex leads to intimacy and for woman, intimacy leads to sex.

And thus, for both parties to want sex, there has to be intimacy.

If you work on your relationship by building intimacy, trust and ease, you will surely move towards intimate, trusting (read: fun) sex that has a sense of ease to it.   Bringing intimacy into your relationship comes from sharing secrets, small kindnesses, little kisses, frequent caresses, quick fixes around the house, loving words and so many other wise moves.

These small kindnesses are not done for the purpose of “getting some”, but for the purpose of expressing your appreciation.  By expressing your appreciation without expectation or coercion, you are building a foundation of intimacy from which intimate, satisfying sex will flourish.

p.s. Another recent study explicated that men are more likely to want to have sex in the morning and women are more likely to want to have sex at night.  This research makes all those refusals make more sense.  We don’t necessarily want less sex, we just want it at a different time than you!

For more on this topic, come to my workshop starting on April 4th.   The Secrets to Making Love Last is a four-part series focused on how to build and maintain a healthy, fun relationship.  You can come to one session or all four.  We will work through predictors of happy relationships and divorce, building trust, dealing with betrayals, understanding your patterns and enhancing your communication skills.  More information at localflamesmaine.com.  Register Here.


Authored by Erin Oldham, Ph.D.  Erin works with people as they navigate getting into, sustaining and getting out of relationships.  She also works withpeople as they negotiate divorce and the post-divorce world.  Erin has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching how children and adults form healthy relationships for 20 years.  She is approachable, pragmatic, empathic and effective.  This is an excerpt from her forthcoming book.  Contact her at erin@localflamesmaine.com or 207-200-3970.  She facilitates fun, engaging workshops on these topics as well.  Localflamesmaine.com

For more from John Gottman, I recommend his book, “What Makes Love Last”.