How to Avoid a Sexless Marriage

avoiding_a_sexless_marriageThe very short answer would be to start having lots of sex!

It’s not that easy. According to Newsweek magazine, 15 to 20% of all marriages in America are considered “sexless.” What exactly is a sexless marriage?

What Is a Sexless Marriage?

A sexless marriage may not literally equate to zero sex, but it is a relationship in which sex does not play a regular role, perhaps occurring only once every couple of months or less. Some consider 10 or fewer occasions per year as “sexless.”

Whether infrequent sex is considered an issue or not is actually relative to each couple. If both partners are satisfied with the amount of sexual contact, be it twice a year or twice a week, they are in balance. It becomes a problem when the partners disagree on the frequency, leaving one feeling needy and the other feeling put upon. It’s important to note that without a healthy sex life, couples are often challenged to find other ways to become connected and intimate with each other non-sexually.

Sexual disagreements are one of the most frequent areas of conflict in a marriage, on par with financially-related conflict, and more frequent than parenting and extended family issues.

Causes of a Sexless Marriage

There’s an old joke that asks, “What food will take away 95% of someone’s sex drive?” The witty answer is “Wedding cake.” The topic of why marriage often destroys a couple’s sex drive merits its own article, but one answer is that by the time many couples get married, the honeymoon phase starts to wear off, causing their libidos to recede. In addition, as the relationship becomes more routine, a couple’s differences surface and their closeness and intimacy can be affected.

Another contributing factor is that in this country both partners in a household typically work outside the home. After a full day at the job, followed by running errands, helping the kids with homework, preparing dinner, and doing other household chores, sex is the last thing on their minds when a couple finally crawls into bed — late and exhausted, with another work day ahead. Too often, this describes the female role, which plays into the paradox: Men usually feel closer by having sex, and women often need to feel close to be interested in being sexually intimate. It’s hard to feel close or sexy if you’re stressed, fatigued and/or angry about your partner not pulling his weight.

As the cycle continues, more distance between the couple equates to less sex. A disparity in libido can also contribute to feelings of rejection and resentment. A wall begins to build between the partners, and a sexless marriage develops.


Health issues can impact sexual frequency. Physical and mental illnesses, including erectile dysfunction, dyspareunia(painful intercourse), and depression, can all play a significant role in a couples’ level of sexual intimacy. Seeking appropriate professional help is critical.


A couples’ early history can also play a role. How people are raised, or previous negative sexual experiences, can affect attitudes about sex. If sex was considered evil, wrong, or dirty; or if sexual or physical abuse occurred in the past, having sex is likely to be avoided (though it can cause some people to become hypersexual). Counseling may be necessary to work through these issues.

Regardless of the reason, problems between a couple impact the quality and quantity of their sex life. As time goes by and the lack of communication and distance between them grows, it no longer feels okay or safe to try to initiate sex.

Prevention and Repair

Couples should be careful not to let a few sexless months turn into a few years. Over time, the issues only intensify. After a prolonged period of little or no sex, it’s important for them to try to address the issues and determine why. They should be honest with each other and identify the main contributing factors. There are usually past and present resentments and issues to uncover.

Partners should keep in mind that complaining or whining about a lack of sex will typically not get them very far. Both partners need to learn to express their needs in a respectful and proactive way. Couples may need to reflect on the beginning of their relationship and start “dating” again in order to rekindle the attraction and sexual connection to one other that existed originally.

One way to start is by recreating past pleasurable experiences and shared positive memories that originally drew them close to one another. Then they can begin to shake things up by finding new creative activities and interests that are mutually enjoyable.

Finally, while not spontaneous or appealing to all couples, scheduling sex dates can help. It may seem forced or awkward at first, but for many busy working couples with children, it’s often the only realistic way to make it happen.

Couples — go ahead and try some of the above suggestions. If you and your partner both make a real effort, you can have a more active sex life! If you get stuck along the way, or the issues appear to be overwhelming on your own, be sure to seek out professional help.

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