Sexless Marriages Are A Problem. Here’s How We Fix Them

Sexless marriages aren’t exactly unheard of. But what isn’t discussed nearly enough is just how detrimental they can be to your relationship. Here’s how you can keep your bond from falling into the rut of sexlessness.

By Mia Gonzalez5 min read
Pexels/Victoria Strelka_ph

Picture your wedding night. You were most likely walking on cloud nine, buzzing in a daze of joy and excitement and triumph. You’d just lived out one of the most memorable, significant, magical days of your life, and at the end of it, you were no longer a girlfriend or a fiancée – you were a wife now. You were probably deeply in love, too. Basking in the bond you already shared with your now husband, but with a new flavor added in. 

And on that day, you couldn’t imagine anything being wrong between you two. You simply couldn’t imagine not feeling lucky to wake up next to him every morning, or getting used to your new title, or growing tired of your husband’s quirks, or ever becoming one of those depressing, sexless marriages you’d heard about. There was no way. Your connection was too strong, too powerful, too unique.

Fast forward a few years. Maybe you’ve had a baby, or you’re both working long hours to save up enough for a down payment on a house, or being a wife came with more challenges than you’d initially thought. Whatever filled the years in between your wedding night and right now, it’s been a little while since you’ve felt in love, for lack of better words. Excited by your husband. Drawn to him. Desired by him. 

And then, it hits you. You haven’t done anything intimate for… a while. Much longer than you ever used to, even at your busiest, most stressful times. And perhaps even scarier than that? You hardly even noticed that it was missing. The realization hits you like a ton of bricks, and you couldn’t be more shocked by this revelation: You’re in a sexless marriage.

Your mind races around. You wonder how something like this could’ve happened. You were crazy about each other. What went wrong? If it happened to you, you think, is this just what marriage is? Getting bored of each other and not having the kind of fun you used to in the first few months of marriage? Well, the good and bad news is that you’re not alone.

Sexless Marriages Are More Common Than We Realize

Being in a sexless marriage feels shameful and lonely, as if no one else is struggling with this issue. You’re tempted to think that your love just wasn’t strong enough or that you weren’t the right match after all. But sexless marriages are, sadly, far more common than most would assume.

Many couples go through bouts of more or less sex (some perfectly normal times to abstain for a short period might be the weeks after childbirth or during an illness), but many professionals define a sexless marriage as one in which the spouses have sex fewer than 10 times a year, though others would say a marriage is not truly sexless until a year has passed since sexual intimacy last occurred. And these kinds of marriages aren’t that uncommon.

A study published in 2018 found that, after surveying 18,000 American adults, just over 15% of the married individuals hadn’t had sex for the last year. The same study reported that 13.5% of married participants hadn’t had sex in the last five years. Because of the embarrassment many might feel when talking about their sex life (or lack of it), Katie Gilly, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Colorado, thinks there might be even more sexless marriages out there than what the stats are telling us. “It’s often taboo to talk about sex or shameful to admit to others that one is in a ‘sexless’ relationship, so we do not have a clear picture of the frequency of sexless marriages. … In my practice, of the couples that I work with, about 50% are in ‘sexless’ relationships,” Gilly says. 

It’s possible that this number is inflated because couples who are in sexless marriages may be more likely to seek counseling, but that figure is staggering nonetheless and suggests that sexlessness might be more common than previously thought.

So If It’s Normal, Is It Okay?

You breathe out a sigh of relief. Your predicament isn’t unheard of, so does that make it not a very big deal? If enough people are in sexless marriages, should you take that to mean your situation isn’t as dire as you initially assumed? Is it…okay that you’re in a sexless marriage?

Well, no. Some of the most common reasons people find themselves in a sexless marriage are depression, health issues, hormonal problems, and major life changes. And while it’s normal for marriages to go through bouts of more or less intimacy based on the different circumstances life throws at you, this doesn’t negate the fact that sexual connection is a necessary ingredient in a healthy, happy, long-lasting marriage. If a marriage doesn’t have this, it will undoubtedly suffer, creating a cycle of loneliness, resentment, frustration, and both physical and emotional separation.

A marriage without this kind of connection struggles to differentiate itself from that of a deep friendship, or worse, a roommate relationship. But it’s not just that – while the notion that men “need” sex like they need oxygen can easily slip into toxic territory that causes women to feel pressured to always be “on” with no regard for their health or desires, it’s also true that sexual intimacy is deeply important to many men, as they typically have a higher sex drive than women do. And being his wife means you’re the only woman he’s able to seek this kind of intimacy from.

Not to mention, making regular physical intimacy a priority isn’t just about making your husband happy. It’s also about you, your experience of the physical and emotional intimacy of sex, and the health of the marriage itself. Regular sexual intimacy has been linked to lower divorce rates, increased levels of commitment, and high levels of self-esteem. It’s an essential part of the marital bond, not to be dismissed easily or ignored.

What You Can Do To Keep Things Alive

We know now that while a sexless marriage isn’t exactly uncommon, it’s also not something we shouldn’t be worried about. So how do you solve your issue? How do you work your way out of the no-sex rut you and your husband have found yourselves in?

First, do some internal reflection. Ask yourself why you’re in this rut to begin with. Is it because you’ve been putting in extra hours at work and have less energy? Is it because you’re exhausted from taking care of the baby? Is it because you don’t feel desirable? Is it because something about your husband or your marriage has changed? Is it because of past trauma? Putting your finger on the reason behind it will make it more possible to tackle.

Next, be willing to talk things out. Chances are, if you’ve gone long enough without sexual intimacy, you won’t be able to turn it back on without any issues, as if it’s a faucet. Talk to your husband about your thoughts concerning your sex life. Ask him for his thoughts, and encourage him to be honest. Remember that it might take some time before both of you feel ready to start the engine again, especially if it’s been a while, so don’t try to rush too much. Before you move to sexual intimacy again, try flirting with your husband, whether by sending him a winky text or cuddling up to him while you watch TV. Establish a sexual connection well before you ever get to the bedroom. Put effort into the lead up, not just the actual act.

Once both of you are on the same page and feel up to reconnecting sexually, this is your chance to really set the tone, to start again. You can ask your husband for insight on what might be exciting for him, or you can surprise him. To prepare, do the absolute most to make yourself feel confident and beautiful. Whether that looks like taking an “everything shower,” putting on a little bit of makeup, slipping into some lingerie, or spritzing yourself with some perfume – don’t skimp on doing what you can to get yourself in the mood.

Let yourself go slowly. Put on some music. Remind yourself why you fell in love with him in the first place, and how beautiful your connection can be. Think about your earliest days as a married couple and what you felt for him then. Find the excitement in romancing your husband, in seducing him. You might even try recreating your wedding night, to represent the new corner that you’re both turning.

Moving forward, you might consider “scheduling” sexual intimacy. And we’re not talking down to the minute, but perhaps just to the day. While many might scoff at the idea of planning sex, it’s actually incredibly helpful when you’re both trying to get back on the same page – you’ll at least be having regular sex, you’ll be anticipating it all day (which just adds to the excitement), and you’ll stay away from awkwardness or hurt feelings that can come from one spouse not being in the mood.

Closing Thoughts

A sexless marriage is definitely cause for concern, but it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. It’s imperative to take seriously just how important sexual intimacy is to the health of a marriage and to get creative about how to bring back to life what was once vibrant. If it existed once, it can exist again.

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