What is a Sexless Marriage and Are You In One?
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What is a Sexless Marriage and Are You In One?


No couple imagines on the day they get married that someday they will stop having sex. Yet, 15 to 20 percent of all couples experience long periods of time where they are no longer sexually intimate.



If this is a situation you find yourself in, read below to learn more about sexless marriages, the impact that is has on people, and some ideas of ways to address it. What is a sexless marriage? How do you know you are in a sexless marriage?  Let’s find this out.




Table of Contents



What Is A Sexless Marriage?


A sexless marriage is one in which a couple is not being sexually intimate. This can be for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is because of a lack of desire on one or both parts.


When one or both partners are no longer interested in sex, it can signal significant problems underlying the relationship will soon experience. A sexless relationship can also be the result of long-standing problems.


It’s important to understand that a short-term cessation of sex does not make your marriage sexless. Instead, sex must have stopped happening for 1 year or longer.



How Frequently Does The Average Couple Have Sex?


The average couple has sex 60 times per year, or once per week, according to famed sexual therapist Barry McCarthy. Many couples have sex more frequent than weekly, and many couples have sex less than weekly. It is important that each couple identify what is the healthiest sexual frequency for them. Further, one should know how much their partner desires sex in general.


In general, both men and women both report physical intimacy to be an important part of a relationship. Sexual intercourse is one aspect of physical intimacy.


It is also common that couples will go through periods of infrequent sex. A couples becomes a sexless couple when a period of infrequent sex lasts a year or longer.



Why Do Marriages Become Sexless?



Marriages become sexless for a variety of reasons. Common reasons are a lack of desire, postpartum depression, frequent marital conflict, or a recent marital crisis or personal crisis that has impacted the client.


When couples begin noticing a lack of sexual contact in their relationship, they should see that as a crucial time to address it directly and discern what is causing the change.

Top reasons marriages become sexless:

1- Low or non-existent sex drive
2- Relationship issues
3- Lack of love and closeness
4- Unresolved trauma in one or both partners’ past
5- Chronic Illness or medical reasons
6- Sexual dysfunction or sexual pain
7- Childcare stresses or family dynamics
8- Lack of sexual desire or attraction
9- Hormonal imbalance
10- Mental health issues, issues with Confidence


Do Sexless Marriages Last?


When couples have frequent sex, they are less likely to divorce and will report an overall higher level of satisfaction when compared to sexless marriages.


Thus, sexual frequency is related to marital satisfaction. When a marriage stops experiencing sexual frequency, it may serve as a signal of a problem underlying the relationship.


Couples that stop having sex are also more likely to divorce or break-up.


It is impossible to predict when a marriage or relationship will end, and the cessation of sex does not inherently mean a marriage will end. Many marriages are sexless. And whether sexlessness will lead to the end of your marriage is not an answer we can provide.



How Do I Deal With A Spouse That Does Not Want Sex?


Being married to someone that does not want sex is challenging and stressful to a marital bond. When you are married to someone that does not have to have sex, there are a few things to keep in mind.


1- It is okay that you still want to have sex. Sometimes partners that no longer want to have sex try to encourage their partner to become tolerant of no longer having sex.


2- You partner may have a legitimate reason to not want to have sex right now. It is important to accurately understand what the reason is that is causing the cessation of sex.


3- The only way to change the issue is to talk about it. If a couple is unable or unwilling to communicate about their sex life, they should never expect to have a satisfying sex life.



Is Having Sex Once Per Month Considered A Sexless Marriage?


A sexless marriage is one in which sex has not happened for 1 year or greater. A low-sex marriage is one that is having sex 10 times a year or less. So, a marriage that is having sex roughly once a month does not meet either of these definitions. However, that may provide you little comfort if you believe having sex once a month is not enough.


Having sex one time a month is not inherently a problem. That level of sexual frequency is only problematic if the couple sees it as problematic. If a couple is only having sex one time per month, it may not provide the couple enough time together to be able to experience a full sexually intimate connection.


No Sex Marriage


How Often Should Married Couples Have Sex?


This is hard to say because each couple is so different. Some couples do best when they have sex daily.  Other couples prefer weekly or every other week. There are even couples that prefer to not have sex at all.


Resident sex therapist Dr. Kyle Zrenchik recommends couples to have sex no less than 1-2 times every 1-2 weeks to ensure that they are experiencing regular sexual intimacy. This seems to also be roughly the average amount of times a typical couple has sex. Decades of sexual research shows the average couple has sex about one time per week.


Sexual intimacy, as Dr. Zrenchik states, is more than just sexual frequency. “It involves sharing emotions, being vulnerable, and taking risks. Also, it involves experiencing something inside the bedroom that is different and special.


Sexual intimacy provides a vehicle for connection and relationship building that cannot be replicated in any other way.


Both emotional and sexual intimacy are crucial factors that affect a couples overall relationship quality.


Ultimately, it is up to the couple to determine their ideal sexual frequency. As long as the couple feels sexually connected and satisfied, then the number is largely irrelevant.




What Age Do People Stop Being Sexually Active?



It is common knowledge that people often have sex less frequently as they age. This is particularly true between midlife and later life.  This is due to a variety of factors. However, there is no set age in which people are unable or incapable of having sex.


In fact, people in the age group of 70+ are seemingly having more sex now than that same age group in the past.


While people have less sex as they age, this is due to many factors and not necessarily just the effects of aging. These factors can include stress from child rearing, illnesses and injuries, time needed away from home for work or family, or lack of sexual confidence.



How Do You Survive A Sexless Marriage Without Cheating?


Sadly, many people have to live in a marriage where there is no sex happening. They endure this by using a variety of strategies. Some include frequent masturbation, grieving the loss of their sex life, and trying to focus more on what they are getting out the marriage rather than what they are not.


Some couples have agreed to allow exceptions to their fidelity agreement, including opening up their marriage. If this is something you are wanting to try, please consider working with a couples counselor first as this strategy can backfire if done poorly.


It is important to be aware of the impacts the lack of sexual connection has on a couple. Also, it is necessary to acknowledge the sacrifices a spouse may be making if they have sexual desire and their partner does not.




Does Sexless Marriage Justify Adultery?


When you married, you likely made a promise, explicitly or implicitly, that you would not cheat on your spouse.  So, violating the marital agreement is not justified under any condition.


With that said, spouses typically promise when they marry that they would tend to the needs of each person. This includes sexual needs. If one partner has stopped engaging in sex, and is unwilling to address that, they also likely violated the marital agreement.


Solving your sexless marriage with adultery is a highly risky and traumatic decision. Adultery, risks the physical and emotional health of a marriage.



Is A Sexless Marriage Grounds For Divorce?


That is an individual decision. People divorce for many reasons, and many believe their reasons justify their decision. It is problematic if your partner regularly declines having sex with you.  Also, if your spouse also doesn’t have any interest in changing that, then you are being faced with a very difficult problem. Living without and sexual touch or intimacy can be troubling and damaging to your health.


Before considering divorce, consider working with a sex therapist as it can help couples improve their sex lives and save their relationship.


Should you be unsure if you want to continue in a sexless marriage, Dr. Zrenchik of ALL IN suggests you consider Discernment Counseling. It is a short-term decision making process that helps couples determine the future of their marriage.


For further reading about sexual behavior, consider The Social Organization of Sexuality.




Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. We publish quality material for your own education. Our publications are researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.




Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

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