So, it’s been a minute since you and your spouse shook the sheets. Every relationship runs into a sex rut from time to time, you tell yourself. But in the back of your brain, you can’t help but worry that perhaps you’ve crossed over into sexless marriage territory. A slew of Google searches ensues: How many times should couples make love in a week? Does once a month qualify as a sexless marriage? Before long, you’re in a full-blown panic over the state of your marital union.
First things first — breathe. In the glowy haze of those sex-crazed newlywed years, you probably never thought you’d end up here. Still, you should know that you aren’t alone and there isn’t any shame in seeking out answers. And to minimize the amount of digging you have to do in order to find those answers, we asked licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified neurotherapist Dr. Catherine Jackson to weigh in on how to tell if you’re in a sexless marriage and ways to cope once you’ve established your marital intimacy could use a booster shot.
What is a sexless marriage?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. According to Jackson, “A marriage in which very little to no sex occurs constitutes as a sexless marriage. ‘Very little’ is different for each couple. Some couples feel sex should occur several times a week, while others require sex several times a month. There are cases with couples who have sex only several times a year and that is enough for them. Therefore, what constitutes very little sex is different and defined by each couple. Physical intimacy is what separates a friendship or platonic relationship from a romantic one. Without it, those in a marriage can feel more like roommates.”
How can I tell if I’m in one?
You’re going to have to trust your gut on this one. What’s normal for you? If you and your partner previously enjoyed sex several times a week and it has dwindled down to once a month, that may qualify as a sexless marriage in your relationship. Obviously, if you aren’t having any sex at all anymore — and you have historically been a couple who likes to get frisky — it’s readily apparent you have some intimacy issue to work through. If you’re still unsure whether you’re in a sexless marriage or just experience a sex drought, consider speaking with a sex therapist or psychologist to discuss your concerns.
What are some possible reasons for a sexless marriage?
Relationships take work, and that includes intimacy. With so many other things weighing on your mind daily, it can be easy to let things like exhaustion and being overwhelmed with the outside world to overshadow your sex life. However, it isn’t always a matter of neglecting to nurture that intimacy. “Sometimes issues that prevent or negatively impact a healthy sex life are much deeper than just the act of sex itself,” explained Jackson. These issues may include conflict in the marriage, lack of trust in the relationship, sexual incompatibility, history of trauma, changes in libido, relationship or sexual boredom, erectile dysfunction or vaginismus, emotional dysregulation, mental illness, side effects from medication or substance abuse, and effects of pornography addiction.
Are there ways to cope with a sexless marriage?
As you may have guessed, communication is key! “The first thing to do is talk about it with each other openly and honestly. Discuss the decline in sex and explore what may be contributing to it and brainstorm solutions. If possible, make adjustments to any causes that impact your sex life, such as reducing stress, making changes to schedules, etc. Recognize that it will not be easy to make changes to your sex life, but it is doable by staying mindful of it,” advised Jackson.
Another idea? Prioritize sex much like you would anything else in your life — by putting it on the calendar. “Couples can also schedule sex, much like they schedule other events and tasks,” Jackson said, adding, “Scheduling intimacy time, like planning dates, lets each partner know when physical connection will occur and gives them something to look forward to.”
Can a sexless marriage survive?
Don’t dismay — you can fix a sexless marriage. However, it’s important to accept that you might not be able to do it alone. “If couples find it difficult to make changes on their own or if efforts aren’t working out as hoped, then seeking the help of a licensed professional, a marriage and family therapist and/or a therapist who specializes in sex problems (a sexologist) is recommended,” explained Jackson. “Couples need not feel embarrassed, as these professionals can help them get back on track in their relationship without wasting more time that can lead to resentment — or the demise of the relationship.”
Written by Julie Sprankles.