A “sexless marriage” can mean different things to different couples. But what all sexless marriages have in common is a lack of physical intimacy that leaves one or both partners feeling alienated, unsatisfied, and disconnected.
The feeling of disconnect is key. After all, a lack of sex is not necessarily a problem if both partners aren’t bothered by it. But when lack of sexual intimacy becomes a source of stress for one or both spouses, their marriage may be at risk.
Read on to learn about the common causes of a sexless marriage, how to talk about sex with your partner, and simple ways to increase your sex drive if you feel like your libido could use a boost.
7 Common Causes of a Sexless Marriage (Plus 7 Possible Solutions)
Changes in a couple’s sex life are normal, especially when kids or other major changes come into the picture. Even so, it’s completely possible for couples to maintain an active and satisfying sex life throughout their marriage—unless certain underlying factors arise and are left unaddressed.
Here are a few of the top factors which can lead to a sexless marriage, as well as suggestions for ways that couples can resolve them:
Sex is a powerful way to relieve stress for some people. But for others, psychological stress and worry makes it hard to relax and become aroused.
- Solution: make stress management a priority by finding healthy ways to relax and cope, such as exercising, journaling, deep breathing practices, and even enhanced time management skills. For an added bonding bonus, do stress-busting activities together, like art or hiking!
2. Unresolved conflict
Physical intimacy fosters emotional intimacy—but it goes the other way, too. If partners are dealing (or not dealing) with unresolved marital conflict, then the lack of trust, openness, and emotional connection that occur as a result can become a major barrier to the bedroom.
- Solution: have those tough conversations and work together to resolve challenging issues in your marriage. Utilize tools and resources to improve your bond and communication skills, including books, seminars, and individual and couples counseling.
3. Erectile dysfunction (ED)
According to UW Health, mild to moderate ED, or the inability to achieve or maintain an erection, affects about 10 percent of men per decade of life (e.g., 50% of men in their 50s, 60% of men in their 60s, etc.). For both physical andemotional reasons, this can lead to significant sexual challenges for men and their spouses. Sexual dysfunction in women—including vaginal dryness and dyspareunia (pain during sex)—can also contribute to sexlessness.
- Solution: talk to a doctor pronto. Sexual dysfunction can be managed with appropriate treatment, and it’s often associated with other underlying health conditions that are treatable, too.
4. Mismatched sex drives
People have natural temperaments when it comes to how often they need sex in order to feel satisfied. Just imagine the frustration that can occur if one partner prefers sex once a month, but their partner prefers sex weekly or even daily! In scenarios like these, neither partner is “wrong.” But the frank difference in sex drives can quickly become a major obstacle to their mutual satisfaction.
- Solution: be clear with each other about your expectations and beliefs when it comes to sex. In the meantime, consider penciling in times for lovemaking into your calendar—it might sound unappealing, but it can really help you prioritize physical intimacy together. Don’t forget to set the mood with plenty of romance and foreplay!
5. Depression and other medical conditions
Low libido is associated with health conditions like depression, obesity, pregnancy, menopause, and heart disease.
- Solution: seek treatment for any underlying health conditions and be sure to maintain proper nutrition, exercise, sleep, and other healthy lifestyle habits.
People in long-term relationships may face boredom and tedium in the bedroom. If sex feels like a chore rather than an opportunity to bond and experience pleasure, it’s easy to see how some people become turned off to it.
- Solution: build intimacy and rapport in your relationship—go on dates, try new things in the bedroom, go on a vacation, or dress up “just because.”
7. Porn addiction
According to the American Psychology Association, porn has been shown to both hurt and help relationships, depending on the context. But a person’s use of porn could lead to a sexless marriage if it causes them to lose interest in the “real thing” or negatively skews their expectations of intimacy.
- Solution: reduce your pornography use and speak to a licensed mental health professional if you need additional help.
Making A Difference: 3 Ways to Talk To Your Partner About Sex
Sexless marriages rarely get better without conscious, loving, and honest effort from both partners. If you’re feeling sexually frustrated in your marriage, here are 3 ways to get a healthy conversation started with your spouse:
- Choose a comfortable time and place to talk about your sexual needs, desires, and expectations. Yes, this can be a hard conversation, but it’s so important to be as honest as possible!
- Avoid the temptation to hinge the discussion on who is “right” versus who is “wrong.” Instead, approach the conversation with the goal of truly understanding each other and helping each other feel heard.
- Meet with a licensed marriage and family therapist or other counselor who can help you clarify your expectations and beliefs about sex and reach a solution that works for both of you.
The bottom line:
Whether you and your partner have no sex at all or simply not enough of it, it’s important to be honest with each other about your physical intimacy needs. These conversations can be difficult, so reach out to a therapist if you need some support—and know that it is possible for you and your spouse to go from sexless to sexually satisfied.