Inside the Secret Sex Lives of Twentysomething Married Women
Aug 8, 2017
Gloria has been married for three years, has two children under 2, and sexts her husband regularly. “I’ll sometimes send him nude picture right after I get out of the shower — he loves that,” she says. She’s 27, and, like a lot of young married women in 2017, she wishes she had more sex.
“Married sex” can seem like an oxymoron, and a new Cosmopolitan.com survey reveals that a decline in the frequency of sex after marriage may be ubiquitous, regardless of how young the spouses or short the marriage: many couples in their twenties are already dissatisfied with their sex lives.
The survey of 1,162 respondents ages 20 to 29, drawn from Hearst publications social media accounts, found that 52 percent of respondents wish they were having sex more often. While a majority (60 percent) of respondents said they had sex at least 2 to 3 times a week before they were married, only 43 percent estimate they are having sex at least 2 to 3 times a week post-marriage. Men were more likely than women to say that they wish they were having sex more often (62 percent), but nearly half (47 percent) of women also said they wanted more sex
“There was definitely a drop-off after the first few months of marriage,” says Elizabeth, 24, who recently celebrated her second wedding anniversary, although she and her husband have been together for about six years. “Right after the wedding, it was great, we were having sex all the time. But now, there are just so many times when one of us feels stressed out and just wants to go to sleep.”
But the survey also revealed that most married twenty-somethings are nonetheless happy in their marriages — and even continue to find their spouses as attractive, or more attractive, than they did before the wedding. Hannah, 22, has been married for a little less than a year, and says that after the wedding, she and her husband began having a lot more sex. “I know it sounds cliche, but it feels really special, having made that connection to each other,” she says. “It’s almost spiritual.” The vast majority of respondents said their marriage is extremely (64 percent) or somewhat (29 percent) happy, and only 6 percent said they find their spouse less attractive than before they were married.
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For busy millennials, scheduling is often the main issue — either couples work different hours, or travel frequently takes them away from home. Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of respondents have maintained intimacy like Gloria does, by sending their partners naked pictures. James, 24, says that he and his wife travel for work frequently, so they exchange nude photos, sometimes as a prelude to phone sex. “You have to be willing to get creative or you do risk losing that spark,” he says. Then again, men are more receptive to receiving nudes than women are, in large part because women don’t tend to be interested in dick pics.
This makes sense, says Esther Perel, a therapist and expert on sex and relationships, because a photo of a penis is not especially arousing — even if it’s your husband’s. “It’s a terrible reduction of what makes a man attractive to a woman, focusing on the genitals,” Perel says. “It’s not aesthetic, it’s not erotic, it doesn’t provoke curiosity. Women would find a simple shot of a man’s torso much more appealing.”
Although some couples felt that their lackluster sex life might be related to other problems in relationship — like a lack of communication, or mismatched sexual needs — many respondents said that their desire to have sex with their spouse isn’t gone, they’re just too busy and tired to make it happen as frequently as they did before the wedding. Some said the stress of dealing with their partner’s family and friends, as well as the financial pressure of post-marriage milestones like buying a house, made work and social lives more taxing than when they were single or dating. And for other couples, sex and physical attraction just aren’t what holds their relationship together.