For most people, sex is one of the most important parts of their marriage.
However, what if it stops?
You’ll be surprised to know that this problem is more common than you think.
The truth is, sometimes (let’s be honest, sometimes is an understatement), life gets in the way of marriage.
With all the chores, work, and errands you have to accomplish, sex can take a backseat.
If you want to spice up or at least bring back your sex life with your partner, this guide is for you.
The belief that sexual activity stops with age is inaccurate.
What is a Sexless Marriage?
The most pressing question in your mind right now may be “what is a sexless marriage?” and “am I in one?”
According to The Social Organization of Sexuality, a sexless marriage is when couples do not engage in sexual activity, or when they are only having minimal sexual encounters.3
This definition opens up a new question: what is considered minimal sex?
Minimal sex is defined as a partnership where sexual intimacy happens less than ten times annually.
This is according to the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota relationship and sex therapist, Dr. Rachel Becker-Warner.
However, the problem with this definition is every person has their own idea of sexual intimacy.
Therefore, you are the only person that will know whether you are in a sexless relationship or not.
One of the main characteristics of a sexless marriage is an unconscious or conscious avoidance of physical contact between partners because there is a lack of desire on one or both parties.
Therefore, if you are still having sex with your partner just because you think “you should,” then you are not in a sexless marriage.
In the same way, if you suddenly stopped having sex for one week due to work commitments, that does not mean you are in a sexless marriage.
If the number of times you have sex in your relationship does not cause issues or bothers you, then there is no reason to panic.
Types of Sexless Marriages
Because of how unique couples are, it’s intensely hard to define the “perfect” number of times couples should have sex.
However, studies have linked lower happiness levels to couples who have sex less than once per week.4
If you think you are in a sexless marriage, look at its different types below. You may be surprised that you fit one of these descriptions.
1. Rare or no intercourse at all
Many couples have stopped having sex, but that doesn’t mean they have let go of all types of sexual activities.
Most married couples in this situation still categorize their marriage as sexless due to the lack of intercourse.
But how does this happen?
This is common among couples where one partner still has trauma from a past relationship or takes things slow due to inexperience.
It is also common among same-sex relationships where one partner is still getting used to a different kind of intimacy than their previous heterosexual relationships.
2. Rare or no sexual intimacy
Sex and intimacy are not the same things, and you can be intimate without having sex.
So when you think you have lost both, you have to start thinking about your relationship and how you can make it better.
3. Little or no sexual interest
Many married couples simply don’t engage in sex. Usually, one partner does not have a sex drive, and the other is craving intimacy.
This is completely normal, considering male libido declines as they get older.5
For women, contraceptive methods such as birth control pills can also cause their sex drive to decrease.6
4. Subpar sex
For many couples, the problem doesn’t lie in the frequency of their intimate or sexual relationships.
Instead, it’s the quality of the sex that is bothering them.
What Causes a Sexless Marriage?
The truth is no non-asexual couple wants to be in a sexless marriage. However, this is not something that happens immediately.
As the excitement and newness of a relationship start to wear off and those in the marriage are taken over by work hours or duties that come with a new baby, sex tends to rank lower on your priorities totem pole.
The last thing you know, you’ve already gone months without having sex with your partner. However, what causes sexless marriages?
Let’s take a look at the most common reasons:s
1. Changes in your mental state
When you get married, the number of times you have sex does not remain consistent. Just like the tide, it ebbs and flows.
However, it makes sense to examine you and your partner’s mental state because sex connects the mind and the body.
That means it does not come out of the blue. It can manifest after:
- A serious illness
- Body changes
- High-stress levels
- Unresolved conflicts
For example, it is normal for women going through menopause to have lower libido because of decreased hormone levels.7
This also causes vaginal dryness, which can make sex painful.
Therefore, it makes women feel less interested in having sex with their partners.
Many women also withdraw from sex due to changes in their bodies, particularly after a pregnancy.
2. Lack of sex drive
Another reason married couples stop having sex is their lack of sex drive.
Some people are simply not interested in sex, while others have become averted to sex because of other issues such as childhood sexual abuse8, or they have been rejected multiple times when they initiate sex.
If you are not interested in having sex with your partner, but you are thinking about having sex with other people, this is not the issue you are facing.
Emotional connection issues can also cause a lack of sex drive.
If your marriage lacks an emotional connection, the frequency of your sex will decrease over time.
For married people in this situation, they feel distant from their partners.
3. You’re on your phone at all times
In a study of 150 women, 70% reported that technology interferes with their sex lives.9
The moment you wake up, the first thing you do may be to check your phone, and it’s also the last thing you do before falling to sleep.
Assess how much time you spend on your phone and see whether or not it interferes with you spending quality time with your partner.
4. Poor communication
You may think you don’t need to talk about sex because you’re already married, but your status makes it even more important to talk about sex.
Lack of communication is the biggest culprit of divorce, so if you start to feel like you’re part of a sexless marriage, do not hesitate to keep an open line of communication with your partner.10
If you feel like you’re consistently not “in the mood” at the same time, or you are constantly fighting, it may be a sign that your sexless marriage is caused by poor communication.
5. Medical problems
Many medical issues can affect people's desire or capability to have sex.11
Some examples of these include:
- Heart disease
- Hormonal imbalance
For those depressed, taking antidepressants can also affect one’s sex drive.
Best Tips & Advice on How to Fix a Sexless Marriage
Just because sex is off the table now does not mean it has to be that way forever.
If you are committed to bringing back sex in your married life, here are some tips you can follow.
1. See if a sexless marriage bothers you
Marriage is different for every person. What society dictates as essential may not be as crucial for you and your partner.
This is why before you label sexless marriage as a problem, think about why it bothers you.
Typically, the most common issues that come up due to lack of sex include:
- Lack of self-esteem
If you don’t notice any of these in your marriage, you need to rethink your perspective of sexless marriages.
When assessing if a sexless marriage bothers you or not, do not let the opinion of other people taint your answer.
Perhaps you both may be asexual12, don’t experience sexual attraction or have any desire to pursue sexual relationships, and that’s completely normal.
Except for you and your spouse, no one should decide whether or not being in a sexless marriage is something you should be concerned about.
If you decide that you are content with having sex less than ten times a year, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Remember that a sexless marriage does not equate to a loveless marriage.
2. Talk about it with your partner
If you have done your assessment on the first tip, and you think you’d be happier if you were not in a sexless marriage, it’s time to take matters into your own hands.
The only way for a sexless marriage to survive is through effective communication.
After all, communication is touted as one of the major elements in your partner’s relationship satisfaction.13
Talking about sex may seem awkward, but you need to do this to address the lack of sex in your marriage.
Bring the topic up with your partner and see if they are not happy with your current sex life.
Do not simmer in silence and let your frustration build up.
Let your partner know that you want to talk about your sex life in advance.
Do not surprise them with the topic.
This way, they can have time to think about the things they want to say.
Commit to communicating with your partner and see how they feel.
This may seem frightening, but it’s necessary.
By communicating, you can foster a more profound sense of connection.
3. Think of your partner’s needs
It’s not just you.
Most Americans today have less sex, and from 2000 to 2016, the number has declined from 65% to 54% in men and 61% to 52% in women.14
If you think sex will spontaneously happen just like the first months of your married life, you have probably watched too many Hollywood movies.
As much as spontaneity sounds exciting, planning is more important and realistic.
When you settle into your marriage after a few years, you tend to forget that sometimes, you have to initiate sex for it to happen.
After talking with your partner, admit to yourselves that you have settled into behavior or routine that caused your sexless marriage.
For instance, you may have stopped going on dates, or you’ve stopped kissing or being physical.
Try to remember what attracted you to your partner in the first place.
Then, think about what you can do to make your partner happy, not just when it comes to sex.
You’ll be surprised at how the answers to these questions will revive your sexless marriage.
4. Try new activities
Nowadays, it seems that all couples on social media are always holding hands, showing affection, and shouting to the world how much they love each other.
However, not all couples are like that. Growing studies have shown that social media use can drastically impact relationships.15
The truth is, some couples find it hard to get physical with each other. So what can you do to reignite the spark in your marriage, especially when it comes to intimacy?
Be intentional in trying out new things such as:
- Taking a vacation
- Having more sex (even scheduling it!)
- Going on a night event such as a concert
- Watching sensual films (not talking about porn) or reading something sex stories
5. Figure out the cause
Try to take a step back and see where your sexless marriage began.
Did it happen after your partner got promoted?
Or after your first baby was born?
Usually, the cause of a sexless marriage is not something trivial.
It is something deep.
If you cannot uncover this, seek the help of a counselor.
This may do the trick considering a staggering 98% of couples who received counseling during their marriage were satisfied with the results.16
6. Explore other ways to be intimate
Pleasure doesn’t always have to be caused by intercourse. There are a million more ways to satisfy your partner.
As the taboos surrounding the use of vibrators and other sex toys are dissolving, perhaps you can incorporate one into your relationship.17
Try to take sex out of the picture and see how you can make your partner happy.
Of course, this doesn’t mean going through lengths not to have intercourse. Shift your mindset to:
“If you have sex, that’s great. If not, then you both still had fun,” instead of “we didn’t end up having sex, so it’s not a good experience.”
7. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable
The odds of you finding love is 1 in 285,000 – that’s 28 times worse than the chances of the New York Jets winning the Super Bowl.18
Considering you’re married to someone you love today, that accounts for something. The least you could do is open your communication lines.
However, communication won’t work if you’re afraid to be vulnerable and honest.
Admittedly, this is easier said than done.
Muster up the courage to become vulnerable.
Think about it:
the last person that will judge you is your husband or wife.
Treat vulnerability as the glue that holds together your marriage.
After all, there can be no intimacy of any kind without vulnerability.
So how can you practice this? Do not be afraid to ask for what you need.
If you want to get through any hurdle, you must speak up and be willing enough to expose your feelings.
However, be careful not to hurt your partner. Honesty doesn’t always have to hurt.
For example, instead of blaming your partner for your sexless marriage, maintain a proactive mindset and talk about how you can get through this hurdle together.
8. Be realistic
Just because you decide to work on your sexless marriage does not mean it would go away overnight.
Studies have shown that 34.2% of women and 15% of men reported lacking interest in sex.19
Despite this statistic, there’s still a heavy expectation society imposes on married couples when it comes to the frequency of sex they “should” have.
If you let this weigh you down, you’ll end up feeling pressured.,
Accept the reality that sex in marriage isn’t always spontaneous.
It’s normal for married couples to have problems related to sex and have less excitement compared to their dating and honeymoon stages.
9. Be proactive
Deciding to work on your sexless marriage is no easy feat.
If you are serious about reigniting your spark in the bedroom, you have to specify how you want to solve it.
Do not just leave it to chance.
Do you want to schedule your bedroom time? Maybe you’d like to go on more dates?
Or perhaps you want to book a session with a counselor and see where it goes?
Deciding on the clear steps you want to take will make it easier because proactive decision-making increases decision and life satisfaction.20
10. Stay confident
The National Science Foundation reported that an average person has 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts every day.
Of those thoughts, 80% are negative.21 The trick is not to be taken over by negative thinking.
The truth is, no matter what tip you decide to do to tackle your sexless marriage, you’ll eventually run into problems.
However, if you love your partner and are sure that your marriage is worth saving, be confident that you can overcome this hurdle.
It’s bound to be challenging at first.
Although it may take a while for you to get back into having sex more frequently, do not get your frustration bleed in other parts of your relationship.
And if you don’t think you can fix the problem yourself, remember that there is no shame in seeking help.
I am pretty sure that all the Disney princesses had a marriage or sex counselor after their Happily Ever Afters.
Recommended Reading: Best Marriage Advice: 100+ Tips for a Happy Marriage from Experts
Sexless Marriage FAQs
Here are the most common questions people have about sexless marriages.
How frequently do happy and normal couples have sex?
A study published in Social Psychology and Personality Science, which surveyed more than 30,000 Americans in over four decades, discovered that couples who had sex more than once a week did not report being happier.
Those who have sex less than once a week feel less fulfilled.22
Every couple is different, and “normal” can be any number that feels fulfilling between you and your partner.
Can a sexless marriage survive?
Approximately 15% of married couples are sexless.23
However, if one partner wants to have sex but the other one is not interested, this can lead to resentment, among other issues.
How long do sexless marriages last?
Sexless marriages can last a lifetime. Infrequent sex or lack of sex does not automatically mean your marriage has a higher chance of getting divorced.
Is a sexless marriage grounds for divorce?
In the US, sexless marriage is not listed as a ground for fault for a divorce.25
However, it can be evidence for a court to find constructive abandonment, a type of abandonment where a spouse has not physically left the marital home.
Is a sexless marriage a problem?
A report published by Harvard University states that 90% of people believe that a good relationship is vital to a quality life.26
However, only half of these people said that although sex gives them pleasure, it’s not a necessary part of a good relationship.
Is sex essential for a healthy marriage?
Although sex has tons of physical and psychological benefits, you can still have a healthy marriage even without it.27
Just because sex is absent, it does not mean a lack of love in your marriage.
Is it normal for couples not to have sex after menopause?
When women go through menopause, they experience major changes in their bodies and sexual drive.28
This includes not being easily aroused and becoming less sensitive to touch, leading to a decreased interest in sex.
What happens in a marriage without intimacy?
Sex is only a physical act. Meanwhile, intimacy is emotional. The types of intimacy include:
- Experiential intimacy
- Emotional intimacy
- Sexual intimacy
- Intellectual intimacy
When you lack all these in your marriage, you may start to feel a general sense of dissatisfaction.29