3 Reasons for Sexless Marriages
"Never go to bed angry with your partner."
That's the golden rule many of us heard from our parents and grandparents. After all, unresolved anger can lead to one partner sleeping down the hall and could, before a couple knows it, lead to weeks or months passing with no sex.
But is anger always the reason for a sexless marriage? Experts and real-life testimony indicate the causes are far more complicated and varied. In 2009, The New York Times reported that 15 percent of spouses had not had sex for the past six months to a year. Here are the three primary reasons why.
Problem 1: Logistical issues
"One very common acronym now is DINS, standing for Dual Income No Sex," explained Dr. Jessica Popham, a licensed marriage and family therapist and assistant professor at Albilzu University, Doral, Florida. In this scenario, both partners may be working full-time with stressful work responsibilities, plus daily chores like cooking and cleaning. If you add kids and hobbies to the mix, time constraints become even more difficult.
"All of that combined reduces the time and energy we have for any type of sexual intimacy," Popham said.
Couples need to take the time to build and maintain intimacy in and out of the bedroom.
"There are many working 'Alpha Couples,' waking up at different times and going to bed at different times," said Samantha Goldberg, a celebrity wedding planner and TV personality who speaks about weddings, relationships and divorce. Goldberg said these couples end up getting too wrapped up in work, without communicating about their days and could end up falling asleep down the hall. Before you know it, both sexual and nonsexual intimacy have been nonexistent for months.
A couple could be choosing not to prioritize sex to instead focus on other areas in their lives and careers. However, if these different priorities are not communicated well, anger, resentment and further separation can result.
Problem 2: Lack of communication
"I remember saying at six or seven months that we haven't had sex," said Sarah, a housewife from New York City. After having been ill and her many surgeries, Sarah's sex life with her husband was virtually nonexistent.
"He wanted me to get sleep, [but] he snored and I couldn't sleep, so it was just like this continuous thing," Sarah explained. "He felt unattractive, but physically I had no energy. I still thought about [sex] and we tried to do things, but it just felt forced at that point."
Many couples have trouble communicating in a healthy and productive way, and that can increase frustration. Whether everyone's on the same page about prioritizing sex or not, both partners need to actively communicate.
"If someone needs that intimacy, they need to express it in a clear, nonjudgmental way," Popham said. "If the other partner is at their limit in terms of stress or lack of energy, they need to be able to express that as well."
Don't just say no. Strive for a solution, such as scheduling sex for a weekend or a time when you think you'll have more energy.
Problem 3: Different sexual needs
Ultimately, the issues in Sarah's sexless marriage with her husband ran deeper than illness and snoring.
"One day, he came home with a bag full of sex toys," Sarah shared. "We'd already been married for 12 to 13 years, and I was just learning that these are things he's always been interested in. He'd been hiding this for so many years."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Popham explained, many couples have trouble communicating their sexual wants and needs.
"It's a very vulnerable place to be to share something you prefer sexually that you think your partner won't like or accept," she said. "Even if you have a safe and trusting relationship, there's still the fear that your partner will judge you."
People have different preferences, favorite positions and ideal frequencies when it comes to sex, but they may feel they have to choose between being completely open about their desires and the risk of losing their partner. Additionally, there's a timing issue, as people don't want to ruin the mood by speaking up during sex, but they don't want to bring it up later when they feel like it's out of the blue, either. The problem is that the longer you avoid talking about it, the more your anxiety about it will grow.
What can you do about it?
If there's a key takeaway from the causes of a sexless marriage, it's that communication is key.
Busy working couples need to acknowledge that they're prioritizing other things for the time being. Even if the timing is tricky, having those difficult conversations about sexual wants and needs is absolutely necessary. Couples need to take the time to build and maintain intimacy in and out of the bedroom.
Remember that intimacy doesn't always have to be about sex. It can be conversations about things you'd like to do together, whether that's building a family or improving the relationship. These conversations need to take place because if they don't, the lack of communication can erode a relationship.
Sexless marriages may seem complicated, but with good communication, you can always find your way back.