If you have a low- or no-sex marriage, you certainly are not alone. According to a 2009 New York Times article, some 15% of couples often go six months or longer with no sexual activity.
How many of these couples are fine with a lack of physical intimacy is anyone’s guess. But couples often come to me when one person is unhappy with the situation.
Less Sex vs. Little or No Sex
It is normal for the frequency of sex to fall off after the first few years of marriage. But unless you want a platonic, roommate situation to develop, it is important to keep the closeness that regular sex brings. A complete loss of physical intimacy often leads to a loss of emotional connection. Plus, a lack of sex is often a symptom of another problem.
What Causes Marriages to Become Sexless?
There are dozens of physical, mental and emotional issues that can cause a person to pull away:
Medicine side effects, erectile dysfunction and hypo-sexual desire disorder can impact a person’s self-esteem, libido and ability to perform. The stress hormone cortisol can disrupt the libido. Overall physical health plays a role as well. After childbirth, women should abstain for 6-8 weeks. Caring for the child, body changes, exhaustion and hormones can further lengthen the “Not-Tonight” period.
Mental health issues such as depression can have a big impact on libido, the desire for sex, and the physiological arousal process. Stress can make you so spent, drained, and worried that you just don’t have the energy for sex.
Let’s face it, conflict is not a turn-on. If you are angry at your partner or not communicating, the last thing you want to do is be intimate. If one of you has experienced job loss, is grieving, or is facing financial difficulties, it is difficult to get “in the mood.” A history of sexual abuse can cause fear, shame, PTSD and self-perception distortions that interfere with a healthy sex life. If one of you has experienced job loss, are grieving, or facing financial difficulties, it may be difficult to compartmentalize and relax enough to enjoy sex.
Turning Around a Sexless Marriage
Talk through the issues
The first step is to talk about it. This can be awkward and is a challenge for many couples. A sex therapist can make it feel more natural, because we deal with these issues every day. We help couples find ways to communicate that do not involve blame or attacks.
Talk honestly about your wants, needs, and expectations. Decide whether you are willing to work together to get back to a sex life that is satisfying for both of you. Then come up with concrete steps you can take to rebuild your connection.
Put it on the calendar
For some couples, having more intimacy is merely a matter of time management: carving out more time to be together. You may need to put it on the calendar, which at first can seem unromantic, but ensures that you get around to what’s important.
Find other ways to connect
No-sex marriages often lack closeness, which can be rekindled by doing things you used to enjoy together. A vacation, stay-cation or simply a walk in the park can start to rebuild an emotional connection.
Make it your solution
You may need to compromise if you have different ideas of how much sex is enough. But whatever you do, don’t try to live up to what you have heard is “normal.” What works for you is normal for you.
Meeting with a sex therapy professional is a great way to work through your issues, together as a couple.