“You know more about my sexuality than my wife,” said my client, a man in his early 40s who was lamenting about the lack of intimacy in his marriage.
I was initially taken aback, how could this be so? Then I realized that my client and his wife were like many couples, if not most, in that they were not having open and honest conversations about their sexual feelings, needs, and desires.
In short, he was trying to figure out how to fix a sexless marriage, as physical intimacy was missing from his relationship.
What is a sexless marriage?
Before we go into details of how to fix a sexless marriage, you should know what a sexless marriage is.
A marriage in which a couple has no sexual intimacy is defined as a sexless marriage. In a sexless marriage, there is no intimate activity between a couple.
Although getting intimate depends on the individual dynamics of a couple, typically, in a sexless marriage, a couple has sex less than 10 times a year.
Many reasons can be responsible for a sexless marriage, including physical or mental health problems, stress, miscommunication, lack of attraction, respect or desire, etc.
A sexless marriage can ruin your entire relationship, as, without intimacy, a couple might feel unhappy and frustrated. A sexless marriage might break down the relationship or result in divorce without professional guidance.
Why do couples avoid talking about sex?
Before understanding how to bring intimacy back into a marriage, you should know why couples do not even discuss sex. Here are some reasons:
Embarrassment or shame in talking about sex, in general, may arise due to religious or cultural teachings that sex is somehow dirty, bad, or wrong.
Being private about your sex life, which is often something intensely personal that we may not often discuss openly with others.
Previous experiences of sexual talks with your partner or former partners that didn’t go well.
Fear of hurting their partner’s feelings, rejection, and conflict.
Hoping that the problem will magically resolve itself. Actually, the opposite is more likely. Often, the longer you wait, the bigger the issue becomes.
Here is a video explaining the negatives of no-sex marriage and how it greatly affects us.
10 practical tips on how to repair a sexless marriage
After more than 20 years of counseling individual adults and couples on relationship and sexual issues, here are some tips that might help in fixing a sexless marriage.
1. Address your sexual relationship
Use “I” statements instead of “you” to reduce defensiveness. For example, “I love you and want to explore these fantasies with you” instead of “You never want to experiment.”
Before speaking, ask yourself, “Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true?” Choose diplomacy and pick your words carefully.
For example, “A healthy lifestyle is something I find really attractive. Can we work on this together?” instead of “I am not as attracted to you since you gained weight.”
2. Be honest
Express your needs and desires in an honest, authentic, and clear way. For example, “I really enjoy foreplay and need it to get in the mood,” or “I am interested in trying some sex toys or role-play together. What do you think?”
3. Communication is power
Communicate, compromise, and be creative. The client I mentioned in the opening paragraph needed pornography to get an erection.
Through counseling, he finally developed the courage and the language to share this with his wife.
He asked that she consider allowing pornography to be introduced into the bedroom. At first, she was surprised and resistant, but through conversation, she agreed to try it.
It solved an unspoken problem that created a huge divide in their relationship and ignited the passion in the bedroom.
Nurture emotional, relational, and spiritual intimacy. Spend 20 minutes a day talking about non-household related issues.
You know, like you did when you were dating before bills and kids when you talked about everything from books, movies, and current events to your innermost dreams and passions.
5. Practice mindfulness
How to fix a sexless marriage? Be present. Apply mindfulness to your relationship.
Get off your smartphone or tablet and give your partner your eye contact and full attention. Consider doing something reflective together, such as meditating, prayer, watching the sunset, or simply taking a walk.
Do shared activities or projects together. My favorite is working out because it can raise endorphins and have you both feeling more confident and attractive.
Also, consider gardening, taking a cooking class, or working on a home improvement or decorating project together.
Learn one another’s Love Languages®. Dr. Gary Chapman says we all have preferred ways of giving and receiving love.
Say words of affirmation, do acts of service, spend quality time together, demonstrate physical intimacy, and give gifts to show your partner you love them.
When only one of the partners desires sex in the relationship, and the other refuses, they might start resenting their partner. It can lead to multiple conflicts and might create a strain on the relationship.
This can also lead to a lack of respect and trust in a relationship.
3. Low self-esteem
Feeling unwanted in a relationship might make a person question their self-worth. The lack of sexual intimacy might make them believe they are not good enough, causing low self-esteem.
There is a high chance that the lack of intimacy might make one or both partners seek sexual fulfillment outside of the marriage.
5. Lack of emotional connection
Sexual intimacy is also extremely important in marriage in terms of emotional connection. The lack of intimacy can lead to emotional detachment and a relationship breakdown.
More on how to fix a sexless marriage
Here are some of the most searched and discussed questions about how to fix a sexless marriage.
Can a sexless marriage survive?
A sexless marriage might have a lesser chance of survival but with the right guidance, efforts from both partners and professional help, a sexless marriage can survive.
Suppose two people intend to work on their relationship and seek help from a relationship therapist specializing in intimacy issues. In that case, they might get to the root cause of the lack of intimacy in their relationship.
This will help them work on their sexual problems and improve their relationship. It all narrows down to honest and healthy communication.
If a couple can openly discuss their issues and try to put in efforts with patience, their relationship can bloom out of almost nothing.
How long do sexless marriages last?
There is no set time frame for the survival of a sexless marriage, as every relationship is unique. Some couples are able to work through intimacy issues, while others fail to rebuild their sexual relationship resulting in a breakup or divorce.
It takes a lot of effort to make a sexless marriage last, but with the right approach, people have overcome intimacy issues and built their relationship stronger than ever.
Since it depends on individual dynamics and factors, a sexless marriage lasts from 6 months to 5 years; however, no research has proven this statement yet.
What percentage of sexless marriages end in divorce?
According to these statistics, 15.6% of married individuals in the US hadn’t had sex the previous year (an increase from 1.9% in 1994). It also states that 74.2% of sexless marriages end in divorce, and almost 20.4 million people live in a sexless marriage.
Having a positive sex life in your marriage takes communication, creativity, and collaboration. You and your marriage are worth the effort.
If you think about how to fix a sexless marriage, you need to make sure that you have thought it through and are ready to put in required efforts to turn around your relationship.
Joyce Marter, LCPC is a licensed psychotherapist with over 20 years experience and Founder of Urban Balance, a counseling practice with over 100 therapists working from ten locations in three states. She is a member of the National Read more Speakers Association and the Chair of the Midwest Region of the American Counseling Association. She is frequently quoted in the media, including outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, US News
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.