Almost no marriage is free of trouble. Sometimes it has to do with trust or intimacy issues, lack of balance in gender roles, financial issues, and even the more serious stuff like infidelity. But what may be one of the most dreaded occurrences is definitely the no-sex marriage or commonly called – sexless marriage.
Sex is a super important part of our lives. Once we become sexually active, sex rarely stays out of the picture when we choose romantic partners and especially long-term partners.
But, even if sex was great in the beginning, it can become rarer and rarer in the relationship until it eventually stops happening. What’s more, it often takes years for partners to admit to themselves, and to each other that they’re living in a sexless marriage.
So, as you can see, it’s kind of a tough thing to admit and to deal with for most couples out there.
What is a sexless marriage? How many marriages are sexless?
As it turns out, there are more couples living in no-sex marriages than we care to think or dare imagine.
Georgia State University’s sociology department did a study on US couples and found out that 15% of married couples haven’t had sex with their partners in the last 6 to 12 months. Compare that with the statistic that says how often do couples have sex in general – it’s about once a week, and you can see a big difference.
Definition of a sexless marriage
But does this make a marriage sexless? Well, if it continues to be that way even after a year, and then spills into 2, 3, 4, or more years, then yes, that definitely makes for one sexless marriage.
Besides, it’s not just about not having sex anymore. That’s why there’s a difference between sexless marriages, celibate marriages, or asexual marriages. Big difference. Celibate marriages are usually celibate on purpose, and both parties have willingly agreed to go along with it – a lot of them simply prefer it that way, having no or very little sexual desire. Asexuality and asexual marriages work in a similar way. Asexuality is precisely that – a sexuality, part of the spectrum, and cannot be changed. And since it’s one of the least studied sexualities, there are lots of misconceptions revolving around it.
So, as you can see, celibacy pretty much has to do with choice and mutual consent, and asexuality has to do with naturally low libido or sex drive.
But what about the other type of sexless marriage?
What I’m talking about here is the type of sexless marriage that affects more than just the bedroom. It’s something that makes the whole relationship tenser, and also often takes a toll on the intimacy of couples.
I’m not talking about dry spells, which are actually pretty common in marriages and nothing to be afraid of. People are under a lot of strain in their daily lives and it’s quite expectable that some of it will reflect in their sex lives and be the reason behind dry spells.
But when couples enter a prolonged period of lack of sexual activity, and when one of the partners actually wants to have sex, and the other doesn’t want to communicate why they don’t, then it’s a problem. It’s common for partners to feel frustrated and have low self-esteem, to feel undesired or like they’ve done something wrong.
And for the other side, the one that for some reason has withdrawn their sex life in the shadows, it’s often easier to keep everything in themselves, than to risk hurting their partner’s feelings or deal with their more extreme emotional reactions, such as anger, sadness, disappointment, etc.
Unsurprisingly, this can only end in drawing couples further away from each other and will only make them harbor more resentments in the long run.
How Can You Tell You’re in a Sexless Marriage?
Well, it has to do with a couple of things.
First of all, there’s gotta be a prolonged lack of sex, as I mentioned earlier, more than six months or more than 10-12 months. And it has to bother you.
A sexless marriage is only sexless when it bothers one or both of the partners. Sure, there’s an average in how much couples have sex, but that’s just a number – a median, and it doesn’t tell us much. Only you get to decide how much sex you want in your relationship and whether it’s enough or not. Even if you like doing it only twice a year – it’s up to you.
But, if one of you actually feels like they don’t have their needs met, and this goes on for a while, then you should sound the alarm.
These are some of the things you need to consider if you think you might be in a sexless marriage:
- You feel sort of detached from your partner, in terms of physical touch, intimacy, and verbal connection.
- Your relationship is lacking intimate gestures such as touching, kisses, your own unique (love) language.
- You can’t really think of when was the last time you were intimate with each other or enjoyed being so.
- When you think about sex, it only has to do with the genitals.
- You don’t really want to think about having sex with your partner, or you feel frustrated and unfulfilled when you think about the lack of sex life.
- When sex comes to mind, you’re either hesitating to initiate it, for fear of rejection, or you’re afraid your partner will and that it’ll ultimately end with undesired sex.
If you find some of these statements true, then it’s a good time to take a good look at the sexual relationship with your partner. Come up with a timeline in your mind and think about when all of this might’ve begun (I know that this is sometimes notoriously hard to pinpoint, but please try).
In any event, you will need to find out each other’s current perspectives on sex and see where they match and where they diverge.
Why Do Marriages Become Sexless?
There’s not one straight answer to this question. Marriages become sexless for any number of reasons, ranging from mental health issues, or physical health conditions, stress, mismatched sex drives from the very beginning of the relationship, work and family obligations, unresolved conflict, frequent fights, trust issues and infidelity, sexual dysfunction, as well as problems in intermarital communication.
And then it often turns into a hellish cycle of refusal/rejection and shame in which the partner that wants to have sex becomes increasingly reluctant to actually initiate it in the future because of a fear of rejection.
Another reason for the lack of intimacy and sex in marriage can be a desire for sexual novelty. It may be a desire for a new sex position or new sexual activities that one of the partners isn’t sure the other will want, or it can be a desire to have sex with a completely new person. This may also result in having fantasies about other people.
And, of course, there’s also the matter of sheer low libido or asexuality, where one or both partners simply don’t have the need to have much sex and are perfectly ok with it.
What to Do About a Sexless Marriage – How to Deal With a Sexless Marriage
This is the ultimate question. When a marriage becomes sexless, couples often find it very daunting to deal with the given situation, and the primary reason lies in the way we look at romantic relationships.
Basically, nowadays especially, we don’t separate romantic relationships from sex. Procreation is one thing, but sex is another. Couples have sex because they want to enjoy themselves, or because they find it pleasurable. It’s not just about making kids anymore. Sex helps partners become more intimate with each other and bond, connect on a deeper level.
And, while this is not always the case, when we’re settling for a partner, we want them to be good lovers as well.
So what does the relationship turn into when you put sex out of the equation? What do you become – best friends, roommates, siblings, something else entirely?
There isn’t a particular rule or a way of behaving when you find yourself in a sexless marriage.
Some couples decide to go their own ways – some divorce and some don’t but still pursue other romantic and/or sexual interests on the side. Others accept the situation as it is and don’t attempt to fix it – they just continue living with it as best as they can.
Some people don’t mind, really, and find or already have other pleasures in life besides sex. And some just go on having an affair without saying anything to their partners or having tried to communicate their frustration because of a lack of sex for months or years, to no avail.
But, there are a couple of things that are generally accepted as something you can do if you find yourself in a sexless marriage. Let’s take a look at them.
Communicate Clearly With Each Other
Nothing beats talking with your partner. Talking can be a great remedy, sex or no sex. The important thing is acknowledging that there indeed is a problem and that it needs to be communicated. This shows an initial desire to resolve it or at least address it and see what can be the next steps, so maybe you can work on it as a team.
These are difficult topics to communicate with your partner, I know. So it’s important to carefully pick the time and the place of your conversation. Do it when both of you aren’t too tired to talk, but enough relaxed to do so. Also, pick a place that’s comfy and where you won’t be interrupted. Try to think about what you’re gonna say ahead of the conversation. Write it out if you want, as well, since that often helps.
Remember not to corner your partner or make them feel guilty or ashamed. Nobody benefits from finger-pointing and putting the blame on one party only. For this, it’s best to use the famous “I” statements, such as “I feel like…”, “I’m concerned that…” which show how you view the situation.
Don’t be ashamed to ask for professional help
If you feel like you’re going nowhere with the conversations, however, it may be a good idea to talk to a professional instead. A sex therapist or a marriage counselor, especially one that specializes in sex stuff and sexuality in general is definitely a good idea if the going gets tough.
Therapists can be great at offering that long-needed third perspective in a relationship and helping you find out what brought both of you to a sexless marriage. What’s more, they can help you in figuring out what to do next – how to get back your sex life on track and strengthen that intimate bond with your partner, as well as work on your communication issues.
Besides, even if seeing a therapist doesn’t work out as you were hoping it will, it can still help you get to know better and deeper your own sexual needs and desires. Their methods might also make it easier to communicate them to your partner.
Try to Put a Spark in Your Sex Life Yourselves
Easier said than done, right? Well, sometimes the solutions lie at our very own feet. Sometimes we just have to roll our sleeves and do the job ourselves.
And this means seriously devoting yourself to the relationship. It means regularly making time for one another, going on dates or weekend getaways, trying new stuff together, both in the bedroom and outside of it (that’ll still affect it).
For example, you can try and do the following stuff:
- Try a new place in town that you’ve always wanted to, but never had the time. A new food joint with some exotic dishes, or a new comedy club or music club, it’s up to you.
- Go to a concert together, or get tickets for a play or a movie, go to a museum, visit a local landmark that you haven’t in ages, or maybe never had visited before.
- Take some vacation days from work and book a romantic getaway. Try new stuff while you’re there as well: food, monuments, local culture, etc.
- Schedule your sex life to make it more frequent (might sound very unsexy at first, but it can work).
- Try to introduce novelty into your sex life, gradually though, and one at a time if you’re the type(s) that find(s) it hard to try out new stuff. This means anything from new sex positions to new places where you get to have sex, and also the use of sex toys and sexual practices, such as BDSM for example or maybe even engaging in a threesome, a swinger’s party, and the like.
Don’t suppress your own needs if the “re-ignition” doesn’t work
If you still have the desire to work on your sexual relationship with your partner, that’s great news. And if you find a similar answer from them, then it’s even greater news. But, if you see that you don’t run into a type of behavior that’ll drive the relationship forward in that direction, then don’t suppress your needs. Communicate it with your partner and/or your therapist as well and seek ways to have your needs fulfilled.
This can mean seeing other people, for more serious relationships or just for sex, or it can also mean masturbating more. As long as it’s communicated in a fair and clear way with your partner, it’s better for everyone.
Can a Marriage Without Sex Work? Can a Sexless Marriage Survive?
There’s actually a rather short and simple answer to this question – yes it can, but only if both of you are fine with it.
There isn’t a magic formula as to how many times per day or week or month or year you should be having sex. All couples are different – what for some might be too little sex (like, let’s say twice a week), for some, it may be just enough, or maybe even too much!
Sexless marriages can survive if both partners are ok with not having sex with each other often or at all. But this would also mean they’ve communicated their desires and needs, and that they don’t do stuff behind each other’s backs, and only do stuff they’ve agreed upon. By this I mean, even if one of the partners still wants to have sex, but is okay with not having it with their partner, and if they do it with someone else outside of the relationship, it should definitely be clearly communicated first.
Sexless Marriage and Affairs
Unfortunately, some sexless marriages do end in affairs. The thing about affairs is that sometimes the reasons behind them aren’t that straight forward.
Some people do them because they really feel a lack of sexual satisfaction from their partners, lack of connection or intimacy, and they feel neglected.
Some do it to prove themselves that they’re (still) desirable, so it’s an ego thing.
And some do it because they like the secrecy and the excitement, and they like sneaking around on their partners.
I know some of you also wonder whether very long dry spells that eventually turn into sexless marriages actually justify infidelity? Well, how can I answer this question… Who am I to say what justifies what? Some people might think that if their partner refuses them sex, that it’s also a type of infidelity towards their own relationship, that in the beginning was quite different when it came to matters of sex.
It’s fair to say that infidelity is a very serious event in relationships and that it can very much be the cause for the dissolution of one, or at least a serious shake-up, not to mention the major breach of trust. So, before it comes to something like that, why not try the good old talking method?
Even if you have a strong urge to see another person or have sex with them, it’s better to communicate this kind of urge with your partner rather than jump the gun and go along with it straightaway.
How to End a Sexless Marriage
A daunting question, but the answer is like any other marriage. You talk it out with your partner, you try to seek help together first if there’s still even a fraction of a will to stay together. If it doesn’t work you come to terms with your different sexual drives and needs in the sack and if you’re good partners you’re gonna be open and honest about it without blaming each other.
Final Thoughts on Sexless Marriage
While sex isn’t entirely necessary for couples to have a successful relationship, it still often is an important part of the equation for a lot of them out there.
Sex and intimacy can be connected, but not always and under all circumstances. However, for married people, they often are, which is why a sexless marriage can be so detrimental to a relationship.
If you find yourself in one, don’t be afraid to speak up and seek help. Address your needs and encourage your partner to do the same. There’s no shame in that and it might just save your marriage in the long run.