Here’s How Experts Define Maintenance Sex, & Why It’s One Way To Keep The Spark Alive

Maintenance sex is a term that gets thrown around pretty often, and it can sometimes get a bad rep as sex just for the sake of, well, having sex. It’s a tricky topic but an important one, because according to experts, it's actually a good way for couples to keep intimacy alive in a long-term relationship. Maintenance sex can also serve as a lesson in the importance of consent in relationships, because consent is still a central requirement no matter what. But first, what is maintenance sex, anyway?

“Maintenance sex is making sex a priority and just doing it even if you aren’t in ‘the mood’,” Kelley Kitley, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker, tells Elite Daily. It’s also sometimes called “duty sex," a term Kitley dislikes. “That makes it sound like a chore and submissive,” she shares. Maintenance sex should be neither of those things. She differentiates the two by saying that the purpose of maintenance sex is to help maintain a level of intimacy, and that it's sex you choose to have with your partner, even if you're not particularly turned on at the moment but you're willing to do it anyway.

What maintenance sex is not, however, is having sex when you have been coerced, pressured, or you straight-up do not want to, Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, tells Elite Daily. "Let’s get one thing straight: Rape, or sex by force, is never acceptable whether with a long-term partner, acquaintance, or stranger," she explains. Period.

With that distinction made, is maintenance sex something you should have if you're in a relationship? And if so, why? Here's what the experts say.

Should you be having maintenance sex?

While maintenance sex is never required, Kitley says to consider making it part of your long-term relationship because it's a good way for couples to keep the sexy spark alive. “In long-term relationships, if couples wait too long until they are both ‘in the mood’ or ‘feeling sexy’ or ‘not tired’, they will never have sex,” explains Kitley. She suggests putting maintenance sex on your schedule. “If you add sex to the calendar — which I always recommend — it might not be spontaneous but at least you and your partner are making it a priority." She says that whether or not you're in the mood, "the act of doing it will bring you closer together.”

How often should you have maintenance sex?

Dr. Walfish says to consider having sex, maintenance or otherwise, roughly once a week. “The findings in a recent study from researchers at the University of Toronto that suggests that people who only have sex once a week are the happiest parallel the reports I hear regularly from my couple patients in [my] private practice,” she says.

For Dr. Tina B. Tessina, the frequency of maintenance sex varies from couple to couple, but what matters is fostering closeness between you and your partner. If you do that, Tessina tells Elite Daily, the rest will follow. “The important thing is that if you keep your intimacy going, you’ll enjoy sex with each other,” she explains.

How to make the most of maintenance sex.

Just because maintenance sex isn't always necessarily "spontaneous," that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and enjoyable. If you know you’re going to have sex later that night, Kitley says you can help get yourself in the mood by getting in the right headspace. “You can get yourself in the mood by preparing beforehand. Take a shower, use clitoral stimulation to get yourself in the mood, sleep naked so it’s easy access,” she advises. Again, Kitley reinforces that maintenance sex must be consensual and you can say no for whatever reason, even simply just not being in the mood. “Ultimately, maintenance sex needs to be a choice by both people who are participating, not forced,” she reiterates.

Sometimes sex is spontaneous and passionate, and sometimes it’s just about taking a moment to connect with your partner. While sex is never something you “owe” your partner, the occasional plan for maintenance sex may be something you choose to do to keep the spark and intimacy in your relationship alive — and that’s totally OK.