Rosie Green: Be honest, how often do you have sex?

Frank revelations from our unmissable sex columnist, Rosie Green (@lifesrosie)

When I was telling my long-married friend about a boyfriend asking me what I wanted in bed, her eyes widened in horror, then narrowed with envy, then finally creased with laughter. After she stopped laughing (which took some minutes) she spluttered, ‘If my husband asked me that I’d say, “Eight hours’ uninterrupted sleep”.’

Photograph: Louise Samuelsen

I cast my mind back to my life BD (before divorce) and I was totally with her. Those days of young children pawing at you, bags under your eyes that wouldn’t pass BA’s check-in limit, a wardrobe characterised by food splatters and a sleep deficit that feels like it is never going to get worked off in one lifetime.

During this period the only time my clothes were coming off, other than to go to sleep, was when the children debagged me (still one of my all-time most embarrassing moments was having my trousers pulled down to the ankles in the freezer aisle at Waitrose).

Even my friends with previously high libidos found that theirs went MIA in the early days of parenthood. Or dwindled in long-term relationships. NB: this was mainly female friends, but to be fair I wasn’t discussing the situation with male ones. It might be a generalisation, but it seemed the guys still wanted regular sex and the women, well, just didn’t.

According to one study, 80 per cent of couples experience desire discrepancy where one partner wants to have sex and the other doesn’t. The truth for me, and a lot of my friends, is that sex was just one of the things on my tick list: wash hair. Check kids for nits. Have sex. I would promise myself all day that tonight I was going to do it. Then I’d be so tired I’d roll it over to the next day, till I’d have to have sex every day for a millennium to make up the shortfall.

Then there was the question of what frequency was acceptable. And who knows what is acceptable? Sometimes I think there should be a set limit by the government, not all that wishy-washy advice on ‘what works for you’: exercise for 120 minutes each week; have sex 2.4 times. I had regular sex during my marriage, but I will confess that in the same way I massaged my alcohol unit figure downwards to the GP, I inflated my sexual encounters upwards to myself and my ex.

Having open conversations with friends, when the truth juice (dry white wine) has been consumed, you get the real facts. There’s always that friend who confesses they haven’t done it in a year. And then another who says they did in the park on the way home from date night last Tuesday.

On the whole, though, I don’t think we ever really know the truth about how often other couples do it. Heck, even the couples themselves can’t agree. I know my ex’s version of our numbers differed from mine.

But is the cliché – men are gagging for it and women are the ones with a headache/hair-washing – true? I feel it generally is, but I have friends for whom it was the other way round.

One pal looks forward to her birthday as it’s the only time he will ‘put out’. Another spends
all her air miles taking her husband away for luxury breaks. ‘I went all the way to the other side of the world and we did it once,’ she told me one time.

On my mission to be more self-aware PD (post divorce), I’m trying to see situations through different lenses – mainly the male one. I can now see how rejecting sex with someone might feel like a rejection of their whole selves. My friend Dee would say, ‘It’s not a rejection of them, it’s a rejection of sex. Even if Brad Pitt sidled over to me in the super king I’d turn him down.’ But I can see how it would chip away at a person’s self-confidence, especially if that’s how they feel love.

It’s funny the things that suddenly make us desirous. Like seeing someone else fancying your partner makes them a lot hotter to you. I remember Eamonn Holmes (bear with me) saying that exact scenario made him propose to his wife Ruth Langsford. Like a child only wanting a toy once they realise it might be taken away.

Anyway, lack of desire is not my problem at the moment – instead it has been fired up by the newness of dating. Also by being desired. On that note, my newly single friend Claire just texted me that she has a hot new Italian boyfriend 20 years her junior. ‘I felt dead between the legs for years. Now I’m doing it five times a day…’