What is a healthy sex life?

There are many versions of a healthy sex life. It looks different from one person to the next and changes a few times in the course of a lifetime.

I asked sexologist, sex therapist, and couples therapist Isiah McKimmie, who works with clients around the globe, for her definition of a healthy sex life. She said, “A healthy sex life is someone feeling confident and empowered to express their sexuality and desires, free of fear and shame, as long as we’re safe and consensual. We can enjoy a healthy sex life in such a wide range of different circumstances”.

In other words, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for a healthy sex life.

A good recipe calls for an ingredient list and a preparation method.

In this article, I will look at two essential ingredients, and how to utilize those to create the healthiest sex life for you.

These are the ingredients for a healthy sex life:

  1. The frequency in which you desire to have sex; and
  2. The ability to enjoy the sexual activity that you desire.

To be clear, a healthy sex life can be experienced regardless of the presence of a sexual partner.
Having solo sex is a perfectly natural and healthy way to experience sex. So even if you don’t have a partner, or if your partner is not available for sex as often as you would like them to be, your sex life can still be healthy and fulfilling.

Furthermore, the ability to enjoy sex does not mean it has to be enjoyable each and every time. Contrary to popular belief, sex sometimes sucks. It’s not a given that it will be awesome.
However, it’s the ability to enjoy it that I want you to pay attention to. And your health — both physical, emotional, and mental — plays a vital role in this ability.

Ingredient #1: Libido.

When it comes to partnered sex in a long-term relationship, I recommend a once-a-week average for most couples.

But when we’re talking about your own libido, there’s no right or wrong. Some people are perfectly comfortable being sexually active once every three months, and others are happy with sexual activity three times a day.

McKimmie agrees: “how we feel about our frequency/level of sexual desire is more important than the level itself”.

When you determine the frequency that is optimal for you, you need to consider one that supports your life as a whole.

Sex is an integral part of our lives. It affects and is affected by multiple factors. And ideally, a healthy libido should enhance your life.

If you feel the urge to masturbate 5 times a day, is this nourishing or is it distracting? If you feel your libido emerging once a month, are you feeling focused or are you lacking vitality?

No one can answer these questions for you. 

About six months ago I was very happy with a below-average (for me) libido. For four months, I juggled two jobs, writing, and being the sole carer of my young daughter. Even though I was writing about sex, I had zero interest in it and zero participation in any sexual activity. Yes, that includes solo sex.
In that period of my life, my time was limited and sex was not a priority, so no libido suited me very well.

It’s a few months down the track now, my life is back to normal, and my mojo is back. My libido has returned to its old familiar level and for my current situation, that suits me very well.

I would go as far as to suggest that my libido was self-regulated. When my psyche and time were occupied with other things, it simply adjusted itself to the level that was optimal for my wellbeing.

Should you alter your libido?

When we experience a libido we are not happy with, we need to ask ourselves why we are dissatisfied.

Is it because society tells us a higher libido is more desirable?
Is it because our partner has a different libido and we are frustrated with the mismatch?
Is it that our libido used to be different and we assume something is wrong because it’s changed?

Before we do anything to alter our libido, we want to make sure we are changing it for the right reasons.
The most important thing is to make sure our libido supports our current circumstances. Even if it differs from what we’ve been given the impression is “normal”.

If your libido is too high or too low compared to your personal ideal, you might want to alter it.

Different ways to manipulate your libido.

Your libido is determined by many factors: health conditions, medications, diet, stress, emotions, and cultural expectations to name a few.

If you want to alter your libido, look at these factors and see which one of them you can change.

Sometimes something as simple as switching medication or adding a supplement to your diet could bring about the desired effect. Other times, it might require more effort to create a noticeable change.

And sometimes, it’s not about changing your libido at all, but about changing your attitude toward it. Perhaps your libido responds to different cues than it used to. Or different cues to the ones your partner expects. If you understand how your libido works, you might find that it doesn’t need altering after all.

Ingredient #2: The ability to enjoy sex.

The ability to enjoy sex is about having the capacity, both physical and psychological, to find pleasure in sex.

In the same way that libido can’t be quantified, the ability to enjoy sex changes from one person to the next, and shifts throughout life.

But as long as your libido is at the right levels for you, (and assuming you are able to move your body by yourself) you can always find a way to have sex that is enjoyable. Either solo or partnered.

First, though, you might want to reexamine your definition of sex.

If you think sex is something that starts with a penis entering a cavity and ends with that penis ejaculating, I would ask you to broaden your horizons.

Sex has so many variations. Many do not require penetration.

Sex can be deliciously fulfilling even without an orgasm. Some people would go as far as to say it is more satisfying without an orgasm— at least in the long run.

Being able to enjoy the delights of sex is all about finding ways to please yourself (and your partner, if you have one). The secret is to be creative, and let joy guide you.

Sometimes it takes effort to learn how to enjoy sex.

Sex is not always easily enjoyed. Even at times when it is sought after.

There are many reasons why sex could be disappointing, unpleasant, or painful. Whatever the reason might be — physiological or psychological or both, there are ways to find ecstasy in it.

As long as your libido calls for sex, you can overcome whatever obstacle is between you and blissful sexual experiences.

Finding your way to a truly satisfying sex life could take a bit of time. It requires some investigation. You’ll need to find the underlying cause of your discomfort, then you’ll need to find the best treatment for you.

So while you’re going through your healing journey, or if your condition is permanent, how about looking for a suitable workaround to enjoy sex? Think outside the box: sex is not about doing one thing or another.
Sex is about being open and attune yourself to pleasure where it can be found.

Once you fully accept that sex can be enjoyed and experienced in many ways, the sky is the limit.

The enjoyment of sex won’t depend on your condition, but on how open and creative you are.

Combining the ingredients.

Once you have the libido that you want and you’re able to enjoy sex to your capacity, mix them together to create a top-notch quality sex life.

And voila! You have a winning recipe for a healthy sex life.

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