Sexual intimacy is an important part of a marital life. By being close physically, spouses can also build an invisible emotional connection that makes their marriage happy, successful, and long-lasting. While sexual preferences, fantasies, and behaviors may differ, partners who are interested in preserving their marriage are usually capable of finding a compromise on this intimate aspect of the relationship. The real problems often arise when spouses have a marriage without sex and don’t want or don’t know how to improve the situation.
According to the latest statistics on sexless marriages, divorce rate for them is 74.2%. Typically, partners don’t indicate the lack of sex as the ground for divorce. Even if that was the main driving force behind divorce, they refer to it as incompatibility.
In this article, we will study the topic of marriage without intimacy in detail. We will talk about the general concept of sexual abandonment in marriage, its effects on a wife and a husband, possible strategies to overcome the difficulties, and cases when sex absence usually leads to marriage dissolution.
What Is a Sexless Marriage?
A no-sex marriage is one where spouses don’t engage in sexual intimacy on a regular basis for an extended period, typically a year or more. Though this sexless marriage definition is relative and may differ due to cultural norms and relationship dynamics, based on The New York Times study, couples that get intimate less than once a month or no more than 10 times a year have a sexless marriage. Approximately 15% of couples in the US are sexless. Still, you should remember that there is no widely-approved frequency of sex between couples for them to have a healthy marital relationship. As long as both partners are satisfied with how often they make love, they can be sure their marriage is thriving.
For many people, the concept of a sexless marriage isn’t solely about the absence of physical intimacy, though it is definitely very important. Other dangers of sexless marriage are the loss of emotional and psychological bonds that are bolstered during intimacy. If that happens, spouses may feel neglected, estranged, needless, unimportant, and unhappy.
Though many couples get divorced due to the lack of sex, some spouses still try to avoid marriage termination and look for feasible ways how to live in a sexless marriage. If you also choose this option, you need to be ready for possible challenges and emotionally taxing experiences. The most frequent scenarios of what happens in a sexless marriage are:
- Less Romance and Passion
Having sex is one of the most vivid ways of demonstrating passion and romantic affection. Thus, spouses who aren’t sexually active are likely to be deprived of such experiences.
- Emotional Detachment
The emotional distance between spouses usually grows without a sexual relationship, as physical closeness and soulful connection are related.
- Deep Frustration and Resentment
When partners’ sexual needs and desires are unmet, they may feel disappointed and stressed. Such feelings are accrued over time and may even cause depression.
- Increased Tension and Conflicts
Talking to a spouse who is angry with you due to sex-related issues isn’t easy and can eventually result in bigger misunderstandings.
- Loss of Interest in Marriage
Though sex isn’t usually the centerpiece of a marriage, it plays a crucial role in a healthy marital atmosphere. When a person is no longer physically engaged with a partner, the marriage may gradually lose its significance.
- Risk of Extramarital Sex
If a spouse isn’t wholeheartedly interested in their marriage due to the lack of sex, they may ponder on the possibility of satisfying their desire with a third party. Infidelity rates are high in the country.
- Decreased Self-Esteem
Sometimes, people perceive the lack of sexual intimacy as a sign that they don’t attract a partner anymore. If such thoughts arise frequently, they will gradually affect a person’s self-perception and value.
- Huge Toll on Mental Health
When people make love, they not only cater to their biological needs but also benefit from the release of endorphins and other chemicals that positively affect the human body. Couples who experience sex deprivation often suffer from higher levels of anxiety, depression, and stress.
If you are determined to save your marriage no matter what, try the following recommendations:
- Address a certified therapist for help.
- Talk to your spouse honestly, openly, and friendly.
- Focus on self-care.
- Concentrate on non-sexual intimacy.
- Set realistic expectations.
- Support each other.
This is a brief list of guidelines for you to try. We will provide more detailed tips on how to deal with a sexless marriage below. But you can first use these recommendations to figure out whether a more devoted approach is worth your effort and time.
The Effects of a Sexless Marriage on Men
There are similarities in how men and women react to marriage without intimacy, but men usually tend to conceal their feelings due to the fear of appearing weak. Fortunately, this tendency is changing nowadays, though not very quickly. In general, when men are faced with the lack of sex in a marriage, they may suffer from:
Men may be confused when sex frequency in their marriage drops. Sometimes, there are understandable reasons, like illness or lasting stress, which negatively impact the frequency of sex. But it also happens that men can see no clear grounds for their partner to avoid intimacy. Of course, the best option is to communicate sincerely to clarify everything. However, men may be either timid or sad to start a talk.
Another sexless marriage effect on husband is a soaring feeling of frustration. Since sex is one of the fundamental aspects of many romantic relationships, its absence means men can’t express their desire and connect with their partners on a deeper level. Besides, men may suffer from the feeling of detachment, which makes frustration even more severe.
Quite often, men interpret the lack of sexual intimacy as a personal dismissal. Or they can think that their partners don’t desire them sexually. It happens because sex is seen as a way to demonstrate love and passion. So, when it is consistently unavailable, men may perceive it as a rejection of physical and emotional connection.
- Lowered self-esteem
Men believe there is a direct link between their ability to satisfy their partner’s sexual needs and their self-worth. The absence of sex serves for them as a definite indicator of their failure in bed. They may ruminate about their partner’s unwillingness to have sex with them for a long time and eventually become totally reserved. That’s a very poor decision, as heartfelt communication can be extremely beneficial. There are also cases when an unbiased third-party opinion of a psychologist can help figure out how to deal with a sexless marriage as a man.
Sometimes, men experience guilt if they are forcing their partner to have sex. It is a destructive behavior for both parties that will bring remorse rather than satisfaction even if sex takes place. Besides, a husband can feel guilty if a partner expresses, either explicitly or implicitly, that intimacy is far from what they expected. When men feel like they’re not taking their marital sexual responsibility, they may even initiate a divorce.
Anger is a natural feeling. It may arise if a man initiates sexual intimacy but a wife doesn’t respond to his moves without explaining a reason. There are different ways to express anger, and sometimes, it becomes uncontrollable, especially if a triggering event repeats regularly. So, you may wonder, “How long will a man stay in a sexless marriage if he constantly feels angry?”. It is difficult to predict, but unresolved conflicts usually accumulate and may even cause an irreparable breakdown.
- Insecurity & loneliness
When there is no sexual intimacy in marriage, men may feel unloved and emotionally disconnected from their partner. In other words, men may question their value in the relationship. Loneliness arises when the emotional gap widens. Without the bonding element of physical intimacy, men may feel isolated in a marriage. The silence and emotional distance that stem from the absence of sex contribute to a deep sense of loneliness in a relationship.
The Effects of a Sexless Marriage on Women
The absence of sex in a marriage is rather painful for women. Besides its biological aspect, it allows partners to feel desired, loved, and special. When sex in a marriage disappears, women may experience a whole spectrum of negative emotions that affect their self-image and relationships in general.
Though some people believe that men are more interested in sex, intimacy is equally important for both men and women. So, when we think about how a sexless marriage affects a woman, we should admit that most emotions are identical for husbands and wives. For instance, the uncertainty about the future of the relationship due to the lack of sex can contribute to heightened anxiety. Besides, a woman may doubt her attractiveness for a partner. Such uncertainties will also raise anxiety.
For many women, sex encompasses craved emotional closeness. So, when there is no intimacy in marriage from a husband, a wife may immediately discern it as emotional distance. When the refusal to have sex repeats, a woman will eventually feel undesirable, unimportant, and very lonely. Such emotions are erosive, and if partners don’t look for possible solutions, they may become married strangers. No wonder such a situation is likely to lead to a divorce.
If a woman initiates sex, but her husband constantly refuses, she is likely to get hurt. The situation may get even worse if a man doesn’t want to explain what prompts his refusal. A woman may think that she isn’t good enough for her husband or that he is cheating. Any of these scenarios will bolster resentment and make her feel even more miserable.
- Sadness & confusion
Sex makes any marital relationship spicier, more passionate, and more lasting. No wonder a woman feels sad and confused if this component abruptly vanishes. It is natural to feel upset when something important for us is no longer available. Besides, if a woman has a high libido, she strives for sexual intimacy in a marriage even more, and its absence becomes a huge problem.
One more sexless marriage effect on wife is a sense of emotional numbness or apathy. If partners don’t get intimate for many months in a row, a woman may withdraw emotionally just to protect herself from further negative worries. This psychological coping mechanism helps humans live through turbulent life periods. Prolonged lack of intimacy is definitely a difficult time for most women.
The lack of intimate moments can make a woman question her partner’s feelings. Such thoughts will bolster insecurity about the overall health of their relationship. Moreover, if a husband doesn’t try to surpass her worries and provide logical explanations for his unwillingness to have sex, a woman may fear being replaced with somebody outside the marriage. If there is a clear temporary reason for sex absence, it makes sense to contact a therapist to learn how to deal with a sexless marriage as a woman till the problem is solved.
Tips to Deal with a Sexless Marriage
Marital life has its ups and downs. Being together when everything is going great is easy. Saving marriage when life tests our relationship is difficult but may be rewarding in the long run.
In this section of the article, we collected comprehensible recommendations on how to survive a loveless sexless marriage. Take your time to read and understand the tips. You shouldn’t expect immediate results, but step-by-step joint work will eventually pay off.
- Have Open and Honest Communication
The first step toward addressing intimacy issues is to create a safe space where you and your partner can express your feelings without fear of judgment. It is better to choose a cozy environment, free from distractions.
Active listening is paramount. Do your best to understand your partner’s perspective without interrupting or assessing their ideas. Make sure to acknowledge each other’s feelings. This way, you can start forming a deeper connection. Try to define the root causes of the intimacy challenges. These can be stress, communication breakdowns, or unresolved conflicts. Thus, you will both understand what the main problem is and will be able to solve it collaboratively.
- Prioritize Emotional Connection
You can rekindle the flame by engaging in activities that strengthen the emotional bond. Think about things you enjoyed doing together. These can be riding bicycles in the park, hiking, going to the dance halls, cooking, etc. Besides revisiting shared memories, you can discover new interests with a partner. By doing so, you will feel how great it is to spend quality time together.
When spouses shift focus on emotional connection, they may notice a positive change in other facets of their relationship, including sexual intimacy.
- Be Patient and Understanding
Recognizing and resolving intimacy problems takes time. Keep in mind that you and your partner may be dealing with your own emotions and struggles. It is a shared journey, and rushing the process can add unnecessary pressure. In a sexless marriage, patience and understanding lay the foundation for rebuilding trust and connection.
- Educate Yourself
Read trustworthy materials about the common causes of a sexless marriage. They can range from psychological and emotional factors to physical health issues. When you gain insights into potential root causes, you and your partner can figure out what to do in a sexless marriage.
Moreover, you can attend workshops or seminars on relationship building and sexual health. This way, you will not only understand how to deal with the issues at hand but also grasp how to overcome potential challenges in the future.
- Experiment in the Bedroom
Exploring new possibilities in the bedroom can be a revitalizing strategy. Unfortunately, intimacy becomes a routine for some couples. Instead, consider it an evolving journey where both partners can express their desires, fantasies, and boundaries.
Experimentation doesn’t necessarily imply drastic changes. Start by trying new positions, turning on candlelight or music, or incorporating sensual activities that align with mutual interests. The key is to keep an open mind and be receptive to each other’s suggestions.
- Schedule Intimate Time
Our daily life gets extremely hectic and busy. By allocating specific time for intimacy, you can make your physical connection a priority. Besides, by incorporating it into your routine, you can break the cycle of neglect and create a space for deep physical connection. Another advantage of this approach is that you will anticipate the planned time together more eagerly.
It is also important to create an environment conducive to intimacy. Dim the lights, eliminate distractions, and engage in activities that promote a connection, whether cuddling, massages, or more intimate gestures.
- Seek Professional Assistance
If none of the listed recommendations helped and you still think, “My sexless marriage is killing me,” you should consider therapy or counseling. An expert will guide your conversation, help you understand the grounds of intimacy absence, and offer efficient coping mechanisms so your sexual life gets better.
Signs It’s Time to Divorce
Can a marriage survive without sex? Sometimes, it can. However, there are cases when sexless marriage and divorce are consecutive processes. If you wonder when to leave a sexless marriage, check out the list below:
- If partners feel consistently ignored or unimportant to each other.
- If spouses discover that they have fundamentally different life goals, values, or priorities that cannot be reconciled.
- When personal issues or traumas are not addressed or resolved within the marriage, and spouses aren’t willing to handle them.
- If both individuals no longer express interest in the relationship.
- If the lack of intimacy is a source of ongoing conflict that escalates into bitterness.
- If one or both partners cheat to get intimacy outside the marriage.
- If one or both spouses are resistant to seeking professional assistance in solving marital problems.
- If there are other problems, e.g., abuse or addiction, besides the lack of intimacy.
If you google “What percentage of sexless marriages end in divorce?”, you’ll see terrifying numbers from 50% to almost 75%. However, if you try searching “How long without having sex in a marriage is grounds for divorce?”, you’ll see that no US state recognizes the absence of sex as a reason for seeking marriage termination. Though lawyers say “No” when questioned, “Is a sexless marriage grounds for divorce?”, they claim some of their clients really applied for marriage dissolution due to the lack of intimacy.