It’s a tough, but also common question.
According to research, sexual frequency among Americans has been decreasing since the late 1990s, especially among couples (married or living together).
And the situation continues during the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2020 edition of The American Family Survey suggests that spouses are having less sex. The report shows a 5 point drop since 2019 and a 10 point drop since 2015.
It’s difficult to spot what may be causing this decline, as there are many variables at play. But it’s not surprising. Given the amount of stress that relationships are experiencing due to lockdowns, home-schooling kids, and job changes—it’s hard to have some privacy or catch a break.
If you are struggling with a sexless marriage and wondering what it means for your relationship, you are not alone.
Common Reasons for a Sexless Marriage
A sexless marriage is a married relationship that has little to no sexual activity.
Common reasons for a sexless marriage include:
- Lack of physical and emotional intimacy
- Poor communication
- High stress at work or home
- Differences in sexual desire
- Life-altering events (e.g., childbirth, infidelity, loss of a job or a loved one)
- Physical health or mental health problems (e.g., hypo-sexual desire disorder, erectile dysfunction, depression, trauma)
While discussing her research with the NY Times, associate professor of sociology Denise A. Donnelly mentioned some people become used to their spouse and even bored. Others have a very low sex drive or could be asexual. “These folks may also be dealing with guilt, issues with the human body, or feel that sex is “dirty” or only for procreation,” said Donnelly.
Should I Be Concerned If I’m in a Sexless Marriage?
Common consequences of a sexless marriage include:
- Unmet needs
- Distancing from one another
- Low self-confidence
- Increased insecurity
However, these outcomes depend on the couple and the individual needs of each partner.
Donnelly’s study suggests a “lack of sexual activity may be a danger signal for many marriages” as people in sexless marriages were more likely to consider separating. Yet, she later explained sex is simply one form of intimacy and added that low sexual activity only becomes an issue when one or both partners are unhappy with it.
We don’t believe in “shoulds” or negative self-talk. Perhaps the most critical question is not how much sex you are having or if you “should” be concerned about it.
Instead, ask yourself: Are you and/or your partner frustrated or dissatisfied by your current intimacy situation?
If yes, then try the following tips.
How to Navigate a Sexless Marriage
Healthy communication is the foundation of a lasting relationship as it can foster connection and trust. Have conversations with your partner about what sex means to you, what you both need and want when it comes to intimacy. Ask questions, listen mindfully, and share your concerns.
Follow these conversations with curiosity and adventure. Explore different forms of physical and emotional intimacy to strengthen your bond (e.g., cuddling, massaging, being vulnerable with one another). You can also try a new activity that brings you closer, like exercising, traveling, or volunteering.
Couples therapy provides a safe space to come together and address these challenges. Your therapist can help you open up, identify patterns, and gain valuable insight into your relationship. You can also learn practical strategies to manage sexual issues and rekindle the flame.
If you are in a sexless marriage and need support, we can help. Here at Let’s Talk Psychological Wellness, we offer couples therapy and other services to couples from New York City and beyond.
Contact us today to learn more!