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


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 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:

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. Ideally, you should make this conversation 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, you’ll also want to have a conversation about why you’ve stopped having sex 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.

These discussions 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, 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 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.

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

woman being satisfied sexually

Sometimes we lose interest in sex 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.

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 goal upon which you both agree and then break down the habits and behaviors required to achieve it. 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

You may not be in the mood for sex, but 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, book a session with a solution-focused counselor or therapist today. Work through your issues 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.

Stop making excuses.

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images are for illustrative purposes.