Happily Never After: What to Do if You Find Yourself in a Sexless Marriage

By ASTROGLIDE Team Relationships

Sexless marriages are more common than you think. One report suggests that an estimated 15-20 percent of married folks consider their relationship “sexless” and data from Google reveals that “sexless marriage” is a top-ranked term for users across the country. There exists, however, no universal agreement with regard to what constitutes a sexless marriage — just as there is no universal standard for sexual frequency in a happy, healthy relationship. Some researchers suggest that six months without sex is a reasonable standard to meet the criteria for “sexless” while others suggest that one year is a more realistic benchmark — especially for couples who have kids. I’m of the opinion that each couple should define it on their own, as circumstances related to kids, health, stress, travel, and family all play a role in sexual connection and frequency.

If you believe you’re in a sexless marriage, it’s important to note that abstaining from sex is not inherently problematic. Some people are perfectly happy not having sex, so as long as you and your partner are on the same page, you don’t have to worry. There are many ways to express love, cultivate emotional intimacy and deepen connection aside from sex.

If, however, a lack of sex is interfering with your happiness and relationship satisfaction, consider these strategies to help you and your partner to create a sexual reconnection as a married couple:

Talk About Frequency and Feelings.

sexless marriage

Don’t let a lack of sex be the elephant in the room. Every couple without exception should discuss sexual frequency before you find yourself in a sexless marriage. Ideally, you should make this conversation surrounding sexual activity a priority from the onset, but it’s never too late. Don’t make excuses! Even if you’ve been married for fifteen years, your relationship is still relatively young if you plan to stay together for forty more.

In addition to discussing your ideal sexual frequency and sexual needs, you’ll also want to have a conversation about why you’ve stopped having sex as a married couple and how you feel about it. Speaking openly about life changes (e.g. kids, hormones, health, stress, grief) fosters improved understanding and may help you to identify solutions to this relationship issue.

These discussions related to sexual activity require sensitivity, so don’t have them in the bedroom while trying to persuade your partner to have sex. Consider booking a single session with a counselor, therapist or coach (see AASECT’s directory here) to help guide the conversation. You may not need intensive therapy to discuss all relationship issues, but a professional can help you to stay on track and communicate effectively in a supportive environment.

Accept the Reality of Human Variation.

sexless marriage couple facing away from each other

Oftentimes when one partner loses interest in sex, their partner labels their lack of interest as “the problem.” The reality, however, is that it’s perfectly normal to have no/low interest in sex just as it’s perfectly normal to be highly interested in sex. Human variation in sexual needs is boundless and there are many reasons that our desire for sex ebbs and flows. You can have a blissful relationship that involves sex once per day and you can have a blissful relationship that excludes sex altogether. You simply need to find a partner with whom you’re willing to work to become compatible, especially when it comes to physical and emotional intimacy.

Ask and Answer: What Do You Need to be Sexually Satisfied?

woman being satisfied sexually

Sometimes we lose interest in sex and physical intimacy because it’s simply not exciting or satisfying. This can be a difficult subject to address with a partner, but it’s an essential conversation. Your partner needs to know what you like and how adjustments to their attitude, approach and repertoire might affect your interest in sex.

Make a Plan.

Do you both want to start having sex again or is it one-sided? You both have to be on board to cultivate sexual compatibility and you need to agree on specific desired outcomes to strengthen your emotional connection.

Do you want to have sex once per month? Once per week? Do you want to change the way you have sex (e.g. take is more slowly, start with oral, make it more intimate)?

Start by identifying a specific sexual intimacy goal upon which you both agree and then break down the habits and behaviors required to achieve it to reverse your sexless relationship status. Small steps/habits spread out over time are more likely to yield positive results than sweeping changes that are difficult to implement and sustain.

Book Physical Contact.

couple getting intimate in bed

If you’re feeling like you may not be in the mood for sex or are experiencing low sexual desire, consider scheduling time for alternative forms of physical affection. Fifteen minutes for a foot rub or ten minutes for deep breathing in a spooning position can help to cultivate connection and promote physical bonding.

Address Resentment and Underlying Issues.

If you’re holding onto anger or resentment towards your partner that may be contributing to the sexless relationship, book a couple’s therapy session with a solution-focused counselor or therapist today. Work through the issues with your sex life so that you can do your part to reignite the sexual flame. If you’re angry or resentful, you have to do something about it — it’s not your partner’s job to address your emotions or thoughts about sexual intimacy.

Stop making excuses and improve your sex life.

If you need more tips for boosting your love life in your marriage and strengthening an emotional connection with your life partner, sign up for our newsletter (which you can find below).

images are for illustrative purposes.