Sexless Marriages (Causes and Solutions)

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Practical Psychology

Let’s talk about sex. Specifically, let’s talk about sex and marriage. You probably know the old jokes regarding sex and marriage - that it just doesn’t happen. Once you’ve been together with someone for years, the passion seems to die down. But does that actually happen? When you get married, is sex just off the table? Or are you in a sexless marriage?

What Is a Sexless Marriage?

Studies show that the average married couple has sex just over once a week. If that number is dramatically lower, or the quality of the sex in your marriage leaves you completely unsatisfied, you may be in a sexless marriage. 

When Is A Marriage Considered “Sexless?”

Sex therapists consider marriage to be “sexless” when a couple has sex less than 10 times a year. Of course, every couple is different. If you and your partner are both genuinely satisfied and feel intimate with each other, the number may not matter so much. If you have a higher sex drive or have more desires to be intimate, once a week may not be enough.

Not all sexless marriages are characterized by the number of times a couple has intercourse. Other types of sexless marriages include:

  • Lack of emotional or sexual intimacy
  • Little to no sexual interest
  • Low-quality sex

If you’re “going through the motions” without any fire or passion once a week, you may still be in a sexless marriage.

Are Sexless Marriages Normal?

A whopping 15-20% of couples find themselves in a sexless marriage. Not all of these couples will end up getting divorced because they are in a sexless marriage; maybe they are going through a rough patch or have personal issues that they are dealing with. What is not normal is avoiding conversations about your sexless marriage with your spouse.

What Causes a Sexless Marriage?

Not all couples just “get old” or “get tired.” Sexless marriages aren’t just caused by physical factors. Any of the following could cause a couple to withhold sex, stop asking for sex, or enjoy sex less:

  • Lack of physical attraction
  • Perceived lack of physical attraction or desire
  • ED, pain, or other physical factors
  • Lack of trust after an affair
  • One person wants more sex than the other
  • One person wants to experiment, and the other does not
  • Feelings of shame or guilt regarding desires and fantasies
  • Needs are not communicated
  • Children “get in the way”
  • Mental health or self-esteem issues

For example, a person may have specific desires or fantasies and fail to share them with their partner. They are left unsatisfied. The partner perceives this dissatisfaction and believes that it is a lack of physical attraction. Both people end up feeling undesired. Repeating the sex they have had for years just doesn’t fix the problem. They end up stop having sex altogether. This could have been prevented if one partner expresses their desires.

Is Sexless Marriage Grounds for Divorce?

A Reddit user asked this question recently. He was in a sexless marriage, and although he discussed the issue with his partner, she refused to go to couple's therapy. On the comment thread, users shared that the lack of desire to work on the marriage was the real reason why he should get divorced.

As you can see, one simple problem can spiral into bitterness, resentment, and dissatisfaction. If one or both parties are not physically satisfied, things must change. Action has to be taken if the marriage wants to be saved.

If a partner is intentionally withholding sex from the other, the couple is likely in big trouble. In some states, “alienation of affection” is grounds for divorce and even grounds for a lawsuit. But the loss of passion is not exactly a reason you can legally cite on your divorce proceedings.

Sexless Marriage Solutions

Fortunately, there is hope. It’s possible to bring intimacy and desire back into a marriage. If communication or insecurities are preventing the couple from having sex, communication and security can be the key to bringing sex back. Even physical barriers can be overcome. Do not give up on a marriage or a partnership because you are not having sex. There might be a lot more to your relationship than just a lack of physical intimacy.

Ways to Bring Intimacy Back Into Your Marriage

Collect Your Thoughts

Before taking action, figure out what it is that you desire.

Are you worried that you’re not having enough sex? Or do you want to have more sex? Simply having sex once a month does not mean that both partners are unsatisfied. But if you do not know how your partner feels, it’s time to talk.

Do you want something specific from your partner? Ask yourself why you haven’t asked yet. Fulfilling your desires can be as easy as telling your partner what to do. If you have asked and been rejected, it’s time to talk.

Does your partner want more sex from you? Ask yourself why you are saying no. Are you tired? Do you feel overwhelmed with caring for kids all day? Do you not like the way you look in the mirror. Be ready to talk about these issues with your partner and take action to overcome these barriers.

Talk to Your Partner

Communication is key to any relationship. If you are concerned with a lack of sex in your marriage, talk to your partner. Find a time to sit down and discuss not only sex, but larger issues within your partnership. Does your partner feel desired? Do they feel comfortable within their own body? Is there something that they have always wanted to try, but been too afraid to ask for?

 Remember to keep an open mind and be honest about your feelings, too. Many men and women repress sexual fantasies and desires due to insecurity, trauma, or feelings of shame. Create a safe space for you and your partner to talk about these desires.

Reach Out to a Professional

Does it feel uncomfortable to talk about these subjects? You may want to reach out to a professional. Going to a sex or relationship therapist does not mean that you have “failed” or that your marriage is heading for divorce. A third party (who is trained in psychology or sex therapy) can help you uncover the true meaning behind a “sexless” marriage and offer tools and solutions based on your situation.

Both parties need to be invested in this work in order to bring sex, desire, and intimacy back into your marriage. You may be required to step outside of your comfort zone, whether that is admitting to sexual fantasies, going along with your partner’s fantasies, or going to a therapist in the first place. But this work will benefit you, your partner, your family, and your marriage.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2020, July). Sexless Marriages (Causes and Solutions). Retrieved from

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