Health Myth: Do Single People Have Better Sex Than Married Couples?

Answering the age-old question: Are vows of matrimony actually just vows of celibacy?

Photo courtesy of Matthias Vriens-McGrath/Trunk Archives

There's no disputing that some things get better with age—single-malt scotch, stinky cheese, and denim jeans all come to mind. But sex? According to a recent poll, 90 percent of people think sex also belongs on that list. Before you close your browser, hear us out. There's a reason to have sex with the same partner over and over again—and it's not love.

"When guys hook up with girls, the main payoff is the ego satisfaction they get from the conquest and orgasmic release. It's intense and thrilling," says Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D, a Manhattan-based relationship therapist. "There's a mania that's associated with it, but also a depressive side that frequently leaves them feeling spent and hollow after the deed is done."

In fact, a 2013 study of 3,900 college students found that men experience anxiety and depression after casual sex, and guys who hook up on the regular report lower levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction, and overall happiness than those who get their monogamous rocks off. Plus, Hokemeyer says that in committed relationships men have more opportunity to get exactly what they want out sex—playing, acting out fantasies, and flat-out asking for things guys can't (or at least shouldn't) ask for during a one-night stand.

And let's be honest, even if the bar scene offers a smorgasbord of potential sexual partners, how many are you really convincing to go home with you on a given weekend? Probably not many. Consider this: Research from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University shows that less than five percent of singles between the ages of 25 and 59 have sex two to three times a week, while a quarter of married folks are knocking boots at that rate. Things fare even worse for the bachelors in the crowd; about half of unhitched guys between the ages of 25 and 29 haven't had sex in the past year.

Still, "single" includes a whole lot of wiggle room; you've got dating, hooking up, casual relationships, and even friends with benefits. However, recent research suggests that the singles who pursue deeper connections with their bed buddies have a better time in the sack while those in no-strings-attached arrangements have a pretty "meh" time.

But since great sex is about more than stats (no, really!), we asked some readers—male and female alike—to share how their sex lives have changed with their relationship status:

From the guys…

"For me, sex life as a single guy is almost completely dependent on my career goals. As I've been trying to work up the corporate ladder in recent years, I haven't been focusing much of my time on non-targeted social events and just 'going out.'" —Single

"Being in a long-term relationship often means you're in control of both the quantity and quality of sex because you can talk openly and freely about it with your partner. Being single, that's not typically the case, so there's less control over sex and you're more likely to experience extreme fluctuations in both over time, which, I suppose, some may love and others may hate." —Engaged

"When I was younger I viewed sex as a goal in both the frequency in which it was being done and the number of individuals it was happening with. Now that I'm in a loving and committed relationship with my wife, it's more about learning about her needs and desires and fulfilling those. Plus, my sex life before meeting my wife was sporadic at best. Married sex is awesome." —Married for five years

"It's fine to just have sex, but when you can really be intimate with a person that you care about and know what turns them on, that's when sex is at its best." —Divorced after five years of marriage

"My sex life was at its best when I was married, and it just kept getting better. The difference to me is that most times we made love slowly and sensuously, making certain that we both enjoyed each other as much as possible with a connection that was more than just physical. It was spectacular. That was also the difference between when I was single and married. Before marriage I mostly just had sex, but after marriage there was that emotional bond that comes with making love." —Widower, married for 17 years

From the ladies…

"I had the best sex of my life with my first long-term boyfriend. Hormones were high and it was all we could do not to rip each other's clothes off every time we saw each other. We loved exploring each other's fantasies and driving each other crazy. Now, as a single lady, I still have a lot of sex, but it's more about scratching an itch than about getting exactly what I need. It does the job, but I know it could be better. Hell, most of the time, my vibrator is better." —Single

"I definitely think my sex life was richer before marriage. I can't exactly pinpoint why, but maybe it's because it felt more 'wrong' and exciting before marriage. Now it's just like 'Oh, you know, just sleeping with my husband.'" —Married for one year

"I'm not sure when my sex life has been its best or worst—it's just been different. When my husband and I started dating it was more of a physical urge, and obviously it was more often. The longer we've been together it becomes harder because our frequency is less and our wants are different. I think for me it becomes more of an emotional need than a physical one. If I'm stressed or tired the physical urge is suppressed. The fact of the matter is sometimes you have sex just to make the other person happy." —Married for two years

"Once married, I got pregnant right away, and that's when my sex life was at its worst. I wish we could of had more time as a couple only before having kids so we could have had sex whenever."—Divorced after 12 years of marriage

"My husband and I laugh and say we hope sex is as good as it is now when we are in our 70's. I got a text from him today it read, 'Hump Day! My favorite day of the week—and you know why, so be ready.' Heck, I was ready right then." — Married for 33 years

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