Sexless Marriage: What It Is and What to Do About It

Is Sex Dead in Your Marriage?

Middle aged couple using tablet in bed
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Physical intimacy is what makes a relationship more than just a platonic friendship.  Some couples fall into a negative pattern or habit of letting the physical part of the marriage fall by the wayside. There is a "normal" drop off within the first few years of marriage, particularly after kids come into the picture. But, to let it dry up completely is often a major marital problem that must be addressed.

A married couple can become more-or-less roommates. If both are okay with this, it doesn't call for concern. But, this is rarely the case. Usually, one or both partners are significantly frustrated or hurt by such a circumstance.    

A sexless marriage is defined as a marriage with little or no sexual activity between the two spouses. It is estimated to be about 2% of marriage. There are many possible reasons that a marriage becomes sexless. 

Common Reasons for a Sexless Marriage

  • mismatched sexual libidos (sex drives)

  • relationship conflict

  • negative feelings toward your partner like anger or resentment

  • punitive or passive-aggressive withholding of sex

  • boredom

  • tiredness

  • infidelity

  • childbirth

  • stress

  • erectile dysfunction 

  • hypo-sexual desire disorder (low sex drive)

  • power struggles

  • medications side effects

  • depression or other mental health issues

  • history of sexual abuse

  • pornography addiction

  • excessive stress

Professor Denise A.

Donnelly spoke with the New York Times about her studies on sexless marriages. She estimates 15 percent of married couples did not have sex with their spouse in the last six months to one year. Our own unscientific poll on low sex marriages shows a very high percentage of those taking the poll consider themselves in a low sex marriage.

Perhaps this is why you are searching articles on the topic of marriage! Regardless, you are not alone. "Sexless marriage" is a heavily searched term on the Internet. 

Michele Weiner Davis, author of the book, Sex Starved Marriage explained why a low sex marriage is a major problem in a marriage: "It's when one spouse is desperately yearning for more touch, physical closeness, more sex, and the other spouse is thinking: "What is the big deal? Why are you so hassled?" When this major disconnect happens, intimacy at all levels tends to drop. It's really about feeling wanted, feeling loved, feeling appreciated and feeling connected and, in this case, feeling feminine. Because of the hurt, they stop spending time together. They stop laughing at each other's jokes. They stop making eye contact. The bond between them really dissipates, and it puts the marriage at risk for infidelity and divorce."

Tips to Help a Sexless Marriage

  • Recognize the signs of a low sex marriage.
  • Talk with your spouse about the issue of low sex or no sex in your marriage. It may be difficult, but it is necessary.
  • Accept that changing your sexless marriage will not be easy. You both need to make the decision to have a healthier marriage.
  • As you talk, decide on ways you both think you can rekindle your sex life.
  • Put sex on your schedule. It sounds unromantic, but it can also be very romantic if done the right way.  You both will have something to look forward to!
  • Take up a new activity together. You have to make an effort to renew your love and create that spark you initially had. Novelty and dating help!
  • See your medical doctors to address underlying medical conditions impacted your sex life. There are many solutions that can help, but you must open up to your doctor. They have heard it all and will be able to help if you are honest. 
  • Try a marriage retreat, workshop or seminar to help with communication and connection. 
  • Consider seeing a professional counselor who deals with sexual issues in marriage. A certified sex therapist would be most helpful in this circumstance.

    If your spouse doesn't agree that there is a problem in your marriage and doesn't want to change, you will have to decide if a low or no sex marriage is a deal breaker for you. Do not make the decision to betray your spouse and become unfaithful as a way of handling your frustration with a lack of sex in your marriage. Consider divorce before cheating.

    *Article updated by Marni Feuerman