The beginning of a marriage is an exciting time. Couples get to spend time building a new life with a partner they love and cherish.
It’s often filled with passion and desire in the bedroom too.
But sometimes, things eventually slow down. And couples that were once frequently having sex are now barely touching each other.
A sexless marriage could be the result of several issues. Examples of these are health concerns, life challenges, or mismatched libidos. Regardless of the cause, a sexless marriage can break down your relationship. For this reason, couples must address the root cause of the problem rather than the frequency of sex.
If you’re in a sexless marriage or trying to avoid being in one, don’t panic. We’ll discuss how to remedy this situation.
But first, let’s define what a sexless marriage is.
What Defines a Sexless Marriage?
According to The Social Organization of Sexuality, a sexless marriage is one in which couples don’t have sex. It can also be defined as couples who have minimal sex.
The standard for “minimal” sex is 10 times or less within a year according to Dr. Rachel Becker-Warner, a relationship and sex therapist. But this standard can be rigid. A better way to measure sexlessness is by its impact on intimacy.
The International Society for Sexual Medicine states that there isn’t a “normal” frequency for sex — as long as both partners are happy.
Sexless marriages may be more common than you think under this definition. But is sex that important? Let’s find out.
How Important Is Sex?
Sexual satisfaction is a significant predictor of relationship satisfaction.
It also comes down to the individuals in the relationship. Some people need more sex to feel satisfied while others stop when their needs are met. Consider this study from the Social Psychology and Personality Journal. It reported that adding more sex at a certain point stopped increasing happiness.
Scientifically, sex releases a cocktail of endorphins. These include oxytocin and dopamine. These chemicals work together to help couples pair bond. This strengthens the love and connection in a marriage.
Conversely, the lack of sex in a marriage can chip away at your and your partner’s quality of life.
Here are a few ways that can happen:
- Increased loneliness and negativity.
- Decreased involvement in your partner’s life choices.
- Frustration and guilt can boil over and cause fights.
- Pressure from one partner to have sex may cause anxiety.
- You feel less intimate and connected with your partner.
Sex is important for creating a bond early in a marriage. As the years go by, its importance decreases, but it should still be a factor in maintaining a healthy relationship.
Causes of a Sexless Marriage
If you’re in a sexless marriage, ask yourself why. Figure out the root cause and work towards a fix. Oftentimes, it can be something as simple as boredom. Other times, it could be a complex issue such as a hormonal imbalance after childbirth. In the following sections, we’ve outlined the most common reasons for a sexless marriage.
Health issues impact your ability to have sex and how much you enjoy sex.
A common issue that affects the enjoyment of sex is obesity. It affects a person’s cardiovascular health and mobility negatively. This makes certain sexual positions difficult or impossible.
Cancer, heart disease, and diabetes can also negatively affect libido.
A difference in sexual desire is typical in many relationships. The problem occurs when couples mismanage this difference in desire leading to reduced sex.
A study from the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that four out of five couples had mismatched libidos within the same month.
The partner who wants sex more may feel rejected and hurt. This may cause them to initiate less. The partner who wants sex less may feel guilty for not giving in to their partner’s desires. This worsens their intimacy issues.
Ups and downs are a regular part of life. The loss of a job, or a loved one can make us temporarily disinterested in sex.
Other examples of life challenges that reduce sexual interest are infertility, menopause, and high stress. This could be from financial issues or a big move.
If this is the reason for your sexless marriage, work to stabilize your life so you can enjoy a healthy sex life.
Relationships are difficult enough to navigate even without sexual expectations.
Your communication and connection have to be on point. It’s no secret that emotional connection is a prerequisite for sex, especially for women.
Feelings of loneliness, lying, addiction, and extramarital affairs are other reasons why a marriage can become sexless.
Any lack of trust can hinder vulnerability. And this makes it difficult to engage in sex.
Childbirth brings about a temporary period of abstinence. It’s recommended that most couples abstain from sex for a couple of months after childbirth.
Caring for a child can be stressful and tiring. It also comes with bodily changes and hormonal fluctuations. This affects a woman’s sex drive significantly.
Menopause is a milestone in a woman’s life that brings about significant hormonal changes. So don’t be surprised if your sex life sees a decline.
During these periods of little to no sex, partners should still show each other love and affection. This can be done through other means such as cuddling or spending quality time together.
Thoughts about performing in the bedroom may cause sexual anxiety. And this can affect your ability to get or maintain an erection.
If you’ve experienced sexual dysfunction in the bedroom, you can probably attest that it comes with shame. And shame only makes the problem worse. Talk to your partner about any performance issues. Breaking the silence can help negate the shame.
Other reasons, including porn, can also cause erectile dysfunction. If you’re still experiencing performance issues, look into why this might be.
Sex early in a relationship is wild and exciting. Partners are discovering each other’s bodies and sexual tastes. It’s a novel time, but it can eventually turn into a routine.
In this stage, couples fall into a sexual rut. They stop taking risks and trying new things.
This leads to the same, boring, routinized sex every week.
Many people won’t tell their partner this because they fear a negative reaction. But sometimes shaking things up in the bedroom is precisely what a marriage needs.
Make an effort to rediscover what turns you on. Be playful and curious when exploring your partner’s needs too.
Stats on Sexless Marriages
The frequency of sex in a marriage can be arbitrary. Hitting a number doesn’t necessarily mean you have a healthy sex life. The quality of sex and how much both partners enjoy it should also be considered.
But it’s hard to quantify something subjective such as sexual enjoyment. Here are a few stats on the factors we can quantify:
- Approximately 15% to 20% of married couples claim to be in a sexless marriage.
- Sex therapist Jessa Zimmerman says about 20% of people are in sexless marriages. Another 25% have sex less than once a week.
- The 2018 U.S. General Social Survey concluded that 19% of 659 married couples surveyed reported having sex “once or twice” or “not at all” in the last year. Approximately 35% of married couples had sex one to three times per month. Twenty-five percent had sex once a week. And 21% had sex several times a week.
- Swedish behavioral economists revealed that increasing the frequency of sex from once a month to once a week boosted happiness similar to having an extra $50,000.
- American adults had sex 9 times more per year in the late 1990s compared to the early 2010s.
Now that you have a picture of how common sexless marriages are, let’s outline a few ways to save a sexless marriage.
How to Fix a Sexless Marriage
Fixing a sexless marriage can take time and patience. Chances are, the causes of a sexless marriage took months and years to develop. Therefore, the fix will require a slow, persistent application to take effect.
Here are a few ways to fix a sexless marriage:
- Improve communication: The breakdown of communication is often the first cause of a sexless marriage. Knowing each other’s sexual frequency, tastes, and general health is important to establishing a healthy sexual relationship.
- Reignite emotional intimacy: Emotional intimacy is the precursor to sexual intimacy for most women. Consider learning about your partner’s love language and giving them affection through it.
- Spice things up in the bedroom: Sex can become a routine. And that can get boring. Ask your partner if they’ve ever thought about trying something new. Maybe they’ve been afraid to communicate because they fear your reaction. Alternatively, you could introduce your own ideas.
- Address underlying trust issues: Infidelity or even the suspicion of cheating can dry up sex in a relationship. If there have been lapses of trust in the past that weren’t processed, talk through them.
- Consider professional help: The four ways shown above are more effective when worked on with a professional. Consider a sex therapist to help you and your partner dig deeper into solutions.
Frequently Asked Questions
A sexless marriage is a nuanced problem. As a result, various questions arise. Let’s answer a few frequently asked questions about sexless marriages.
Is it normal to go without sex for long periods in a marriage?
Having sex less often than the standard “10 times a year” isn’t a problem unless it’s affecting your relationship. People have different expectations in a relationship. Some couples may need sex once a month, while others need it many times a week.
What’s more important is targeting the reason behind sexlessness. Ask yourself why there’s a conscious avoidance of intimacy in your relationship.
Can a relationship survive without intimacy?
Yes, and relationships can survive without sex as well. We see it all the time. Partnerships can feature low sexual activity with high amounts of intimacy.
However, a relationship without intimacy is like a hollow tree. Partners that lack passion engage in empty love. Their relationship will survive, but they look more like distant friends rather than lovers. These relationships rely on friendship as their foundation, so they can carry on when passion is gone.
Is it cheating if you’re in a sexless marriage?
A sexless marriage is a terrible excuse for cheating. Consider fixing your sexless marriage first. If all else fails, suggest an open relationship or divorce.
Closing Thoughts on Sexless Marriages
Sexlessness can be a challenging hurdle for any marriage.
This is because sexual satisfaction is an important predictor of a strong relationship. It can be seen as the “glue” that holds a relationship together.
If you can’t have sex with your partner for reasons out of your control, don’t worry. Your relationship can survive on intimacy — build a strong foundation through friendship with your partner.
As mentioned, there are several causes of a sexless marriage. Communicate to identify and address the issues. Sexless marriages are common, so don’t feel ashamed to speak to a professional.
Lastly, be patient in your approach to fixing a sexless marriage. It will take time, and effort. But the commitment to overcome it can be a fruitful endeavor. It’s possible for couples to work through a sexless marriage and enjoy a healthy and fulfilling relationship.