When to Walk Away From a Sexless Marriage?
Have you noticed that the passion levels in your marriage have dwindled? It’s extremely common for the amount of sex couples have to reduce as time goes on.
According to the Foreplay Radio Podcast, a sexless marriage is considered as having sex less than 10x a year.(1)
There can be many reasons a sexless marriage develops. It could be down to differences in libido, changing lifestyles, or physical conditions. (We have lots to explore around this coming up.) There are various factors that will influence what a couple wants from marriage.
Some people might want to reignite the intimacy, whereas others won’t. So, what do you do? Well, start by reading this…
You’re in the right place for a little sexless marriage advice…
What does marriage without sexual intimacy look like?
A sexless marriage looks different for every couple. The reason for this is that people have individual personalities, needs, and bodies.
A sexless marriage for some might seem a disaster, whereas for others it’s natural (more on this later).
It’s important to remember that there is much more to marriage than sexual intimacy.
Sex rarely pays the bills (unless you work in the sex industry), or goes to work, or feeds the kids, does the food shopping, or holds your hand during tough times.
My point is, a sexless marriage shouldn’t be defined by the lack of sex. Why? Because a lack of sex is usually a symptom of other issues.
Regular physical intimacy and a healthy sex life are often factors people include when considering the success of their marriage. It is, however, incredibly important to remember that intimacy and sex are different.
Intimacy is a space where closeness, trust, and openness exist. Sexual intercourse can be, but its focus is on the act of sexual connection through physical expression.
A healthy sex life doesn’t always have to involve penetrative (heterocentric) sex. Redefining what sex and intimacy mean to you and your partner can make all the difference in improving your sexual relationship and marriage.
There are times, however, when a sexless marriage has developed as a symptom of more deep-rooted problems. Such a marriage could signal that the marriage has run its course.
Reasons a couple's sex life can dissolve
There are many reasons a sexless marriage develops. Causes can stem from the physical, some people might not physically be able to.
This can be related to disabilities, sexual dysfunction, or other reasons. Others might be in a sexless marriage due to psychological causes that have affected their sex life. Then, of course, there are all the wider factors that affect an active sex life.
Causes of a sexless marriage might be due to (but aren’t limited to) the following reasons:
- Relationship issues. Perhaps the romance and “love” have waned.
- Stress in other parts of life can reduce desire.
- Low libido.
- The influence of hormones due to the menstrual cycle.
- Menopause and lower testosterone production around middle age can reduce sex drive.
- Vaginal dryness linked to age, or medication, birth control pills, or after giving birth can deter people from wanting sexual activity.
- A lack of communication about intimacy and desires.
- Mental health issues.
- A history where sexual abuse might have taken place.
- Differing sexual interests. For example, one person might enjoy kink and the other more romantic physical intimacy.
- One spouse might want more frequent sex. Couples tend to go through periods where one desires more sex than the other.
- A lack of or deteriorating emotional connection.
- One partner feels they always initiate sex and might feel rejected.
- Childbirth. Changes in the body might knock self-confidence.
Can a sexless relationship last?
Married couples can make a sexless relationship last if they want it to. Couples rarely experience a lack of sex without a lack of intimate connection first. When I say that, I mean that in a relationship people tend to grow apart before reaching the point of “no sex”.
For a happy life and a marriage that includes sex, or no sex, communication is key. To make the marriage survive there are things you can do to improve the relationship. We’ll get on to that, but for now, it’s important to think about when a divorce might be the right decision.
When to walk away from sexless marriage?
There are times that walking away from a sexless marriage is the healthiest option. It’s important sex isn’t the only reason a marriage ends.
An open conversation with your partner about sexual activity and physical intimacy can make a huge difference in the relationship. Many times, both partners still feel desire but struggle to articulate this.
There are, however, signs you should heed as a red flag signaling deeper problems. In the event of the following, a divorce could be the most beneficial outcome.
Signs that married couples should consider a divorce
1. Ongoing relationship issues
Sometimes a sexless marriage will be filled with arguments or emotional distance between the couple.
It might be hard to understand how the marriage got to this point, especially if years have passed. If there is a genuine lack of love, empathy, understanding, and care, then it’s unsurprising that sexual intimacy has deteriorated.
2. One partner (or both) refuses to put in the effort to work on problems
Most people live busy lives, but a marriage should be a priority if a couple genuinely cares about each other.
There are many reasons a person might use, but when a partner refuses to put effort into making the marriage work, then it speaks for itself. One spouse alone can not make a marriage work.
If one partner refuses to try therapy or therapy hasn’t worked then it’s probably time to walk away.
3. Extreme differences in sexual desire
A sexless marriage can sometimes occur when one partner has a high sex drive while the other has a low sex drive.
One might want to feel desired or feel rejected when the other isn’t up for sex. There’s also the sense that one might feel deprived through a lack of apparent feelings and a lack of passionate sex. This can lead to difficult feelings of resentment in a marriage.
Being physically intimate might feel easy for one partner, but the other just might not be up for it, or might need more of a “build up”.
Divorce might be the right option when the sexual relationship negatively affects the rest of the relationship. It is, however, advisable to see a psychologist in marriage therapy before heading straight to divorce. Many couples are able to discuss their sexual needs easier with an experienced professional guiding a discussion in sex therapy.
An extreme result of differences in libido levels can be one spouse cheating on the other. (More on this soon.)
4. Sex used as a way to control a spouse
Unfortunately, sex and physical intimacy might be used as a way to control a spouse. This is a type of manipulation and control.
Using sex in this way is unhealthy and can be dangerous at its worst. A divorce could be the safest option.
5. Affairs and infidelity in a monogamous marriage
Interestingly, where a sexless marriage exists, it might drive a partner towards cheating. On the other hand, cheating can cause a sexless marriage. If infidelity keeps occurring in what is supposed to be a monogamous marriage then it’s likely that the marriage isn’t going to last.
Research revealed the following reasons as to why people cheated on their partners.(2)
- Sexual desire.
- Lack of love.
- Lack of commitment (to partner).
- Situational factors (i.e. being drunk).
- Esteem (i.e. to feel popular).
- Variety (wanting more partners).
Note: some marriages find that the relationship is strengthened by inviting other partners into the sexual arrangements. Some might experiment with polyamory.
Another option might be visiting ***sex clubs*** together. Such a situation requires consent from both partners.
If other partners aren’t appealing, some couples might decide to explore other avenues. Many couples start to explore alternative sexual practices together. (For ideas around this, check out our guides to the ***best bondage sets*** and creating your own ***BDSM room***.)
6. Constant fighting
In the event that a relationship is colored by constant arguing and fights, it might signal the end of a healthy relationship. Sometimes people just aren’t meant to be together any longer. When love and intimacy have gone and all that’s left is resentment this can result in a lot of clashes.
Did you know?
In 2019 there were 746,971 divorces in the U.S.(3) You should not consider it a failure if your marriage ends in divorce. Divorce due to a sexless marriage is rarely ever the case. A divorce related to many challenging situations (that also resulted in a lack of sex) is totally fine and the best way forward for many.
Do all sexless marriages end in divorce?
Not all sexless marriages end in divorce.
Some couples don’t require or desire sex to make it work.
(I’ll go into this more soon!) Sex lives do, however, need to be discussed in relation to marriage.
Sex issues can often be resolved or made easier to face with an open, honest, and compassionate approach.
There are things a couple can do when there is a lack of sex and this doesn’t always mean immediately hunting for a sex or family therapist!
Tips to help your marriage survive a dry spell!
If you feel like your sexless marriage could be a temporary situation, there are a few things you can try before hitting up sex therapy (yep, that’s coming up)!
1. A healthy sex life needs open communication!
To help get away from a sexless marriage and make it sexy again, you need to communicate. This is the first rule of “Fight for your marriage club”!
Sex therapists emphasize how talking about sex makes sexual intimacy much better. Making time to discuss desires should be done outside of the moment of physical action!
To be physically intimate with someone you need to know how they’re feeling, what’s on their mind. Talking about sexual issues might feel tricky to start with, but approaching it openly and with a loving approach can make the relationship a whole lot better!
(Check here for tips on ***how to spice up your marriage***.)
2. Create a sex schedule
This is really helpful for a marriage where the couple wants to be together and love each other, but there is a difference in libidos. A sex schedule has the great benefit of giving the person who wants more sex something to look forward to.
For the person who has a lower sex drive, they’ll be expecting it, be more prepared, and can choose to initiate it when they want to do it.
The Relationship Advice Podcast advocates the use of a sex schedule (4). Taking a practical approach to your sex life can re-introduce sex and be a very satisfying experience for both. Sex doesn’t have to be spontaneous. As relationships go on, passion changes.
Tip: when scheduling sex, creating a romantic environment is key! Why not start dating again?! Or trying new sexual practices, like ***Tantric sex***?
3. Sex therapy
Sex therapy is a talking therapy. It explores matters related to a sexual relationship. A couple will usually see the sex therapist together to discuss the sexual aspects of the marriage and the issues around it.
A sex therapist might also be a psychologist, a clinical social worker, or a family therapist. They will have training and specialist knowledge in order to carry out psychological treatments related to sexual health. Some areas they’ll be knowledgeable in are how the physiological, psychological, and physical are all interconnected and influential on sex lives.
Their approach aims to support you towards practical solutions to improve your life with your partner.
Can I satisfy my own sexual desire in a sexless marriage?
I think this really comes down to the individual. If you’re a sexual being who enjoys masturbation and orgasms then go right ahead. Being able to satisfy yourself can be a very separate experience to the one you share with a spouse.
Solo-sex is a great way to remove some of the pressure that your spouse might feel (i.e. if you’re walking around horny all the time) or to just enjoy yourself!
Tip? Watching porn and investing in a good erotic toy can help! (I personally love the ***Womanizer Premium*** and for men, there is an incredible range of fleshlights nowadays.)
Also, you can invest in ***shower sex chairs***, take a new waterproof toy in and give yourself new types of pleasure!
What makes sexless marriages work
Understandably, stereotypical ideas around what constitutes sex can have extremely negative effects on a couple.
For instance, one (or both) might be unable to have ***PIV sex*** (penis-in-vagina) and experience feelings of inadequacy around this.
Research shows that actually, 15% of marriages are sexless.(5)
Although you might imagine everyone is doing it all the time, this just simply isn’t the case.
If you want some kind of physical intimacy there are other ways to approach it… Societal constructs can be very damaging. The truth is, sex is whatever the couple wants to define it as. It might involve hands and no genitalia, for instance. Or toys only. (Oh, controlling your partners ***vibrating pants*** might be fun, if you’re open to that instead?)
Also, communicating that perhaps you’ve both changed and don’t need to be having sex all the time is a positive move! It’s reflecting and accepting.
Perhaps you might suggest to your partner “<>>” as a healthy way to carry the relationship forward.
Why some sexless marriages are the norm
Contrary to what many cultural stereotypes would have us believe, sexless marriages do exist! Throughout history, going without sex was the most effective approach to birth control!
With the rise of technology and accessibility to porn and sexy TV shows, there is a huge amount to feed our imaginations. As good as that can be in some scenarios, it isn’t always helpful. The media can put a lot of pressure on people to feel that they should act a certain way.
The truth is, we aren’t all built the same. Neither do we all think the same.
Sexless marriages due to medical conditions
Due to the intimate nature of sexual issues, many feel uncomfortable talking about it. The lack of conversation can even mean that some might not even realize they have a condition. In order for a marriage to survive, communication is essential. This might be to your spouse or to a doctor if that feels easier in the first instance.
It’s very normal for sexless marriages to survive (and sometimes thrive) where the following conditions or circumstances are apparent:
- A spouse lives with chronic pain.
- Older age.
- Addiction issues.
- Mental health problems.
- Medications reducing libido.
- A spouse has a disability or mobility issue. (Note: you can use ***sex chairs/furniture*** to aid in this area.)
It can be useful to note that for those who are aging, or people living with mobility issues, you can buy erotic furniture to support you to have sex. Check out our ***sex furniture guides*** for inspiration!
For those who live with erectile dysfunction, a sexless marriage might occur if the couple is content with this.
If their partner has a vagina, (let’s be honest,) this isn’t the end of the world as the majority of us rarely cum through penetration anyway! (We already know that vaginal orgasms are easier gained through external stimulation!)
If their partner has a penis, then it’s useful to consider other ways to experience pleasure together.
If erectile dysfunction exists and a couple wants sex and penis arousal for that person then it’s advisable to contact your local doctor for advice (5).
A sexless marriage, like any marriage, can survive if both partners are willing to work at it. Kindness, intimacy and communication are the most essential parts of making a relationship work.
Never compare your marriage with others. Don’t be afraid to opt for a divorce if you have exhausted all areas and the relationship is unhealthy or damaging.
In terms of sexual activities, these need to be discussed in a respectful and compassionate way with each other.
Some might agree a sexless marriage works for them. It works for many and this acknowledgment can make all the difference in making two people happy. For others, the couple might choose to reignite sexual intimacy through trying new ideas, like sex scheduling or therapy.
Whether your marriage is with or without sex, if it works for you and your partner, that’s all that matters!