I have been out with my friends a number of times over the years when the topic of how often we all “do it” with our partners comes up. It seems everyone wants to know what’s considered “normal”… and if we should be doing it more. If we are in a committed, long-term relationship, how many times a week “should” we be making love? There is always one woman in the group who will blurt out her number.
Ahhh, the comparisons begin, even if they are only in each of our minds. “I don’t have sex that much… uh-oh” or “Wow, my sex life rocks compared to hers!” Don’t tell me you’ve never had some version of this conversation.
Here is the thing about trying to figure out if you are “normal” and wondering how your sex life stacks up against that of other people. It starts what I call the “Comparison Game.” And guess what? It’s a really-not-fun-game-that-you’ll-never-win.
The “Comparison Game” is one in which we think about how great something is for someone else, and about how happy it must be making them. Then we think about our own life, and how we don’t have that thing (insert here: car, love of your life, high-powered job), and negative emotions often ensue. The reason the game is flawed is that when, for instance, we imagine how amazing our friend’s new engagement ring makes her feel, we often forget that we are not her, and therefore can’t truly understand the emotional context. We can never completely comprehend how the ring makes her feel because we don’t have information about the rest of the experience (i.e. the relationship, the proposal, the mother-in-law-to-be). Until we go through it ourselves, we can never know her true level of happiness or how we would respond in the same situation.
The former relationships of Sandra Bullock, Tiger Woods, and Al Gore are reminders that, as outside observers, we don’t know what is happening behind the scenes. We think we do, but just when we finish dreaming about how amazing it would be to travel the world with our two adorable children watching our husband play golf at fancy country clubs, the bubble bursts.
So the next time you read an article, watch a TV show, or end up in a conversation about what’s considered “normal” when it comes to sex, don’t play the “Comparison Game.” Instead, simply assess if things are good for you. If they are, it’s time to turn the page, grab the remote, or switch topics to something more interesting… because when it comes to sex, the “new normal” should be whatever works for you and your partner.