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Can a Sexless Marriage Work?

Can a Sexless Marriage Survive?

When you first met, you couldn't keep your eyes and hands off each other. Then your careers took off, or you became parents, or both. And then one day you realized that you couldn't even remember the last time you had sex. Will you work hard to get the sex back, or are you OK living in a sexless marriage? And can a sexless marriage survive?

An overwhelming majority of readers say there's no way they would stay in a sexless marriage. But either sexless marriages are becoming more common or the conversation about them is becoming more open.

This is not an epidemic limited by age, either. Heather S., a member of our young moms aged 20-30 community, laments the change in her relationship. "Sex isn't a part of my vocabulary anymore," she says.


What's a Sexless Marriage?

All marriages go through dry spells, but it's when couples have sex less then 10 times a year that experts describe them as having a "sexless marriage." A story in Newsweek, aptly titled "We're Not in the Mood," reported that this applies to 15 to 20 percent of married couples.

Toni M. comments that the decline can happen more easily than you'd expect. She says it can be as easy as a tough week that grows to a month and "then before you know it a year has passed and you are still not having sex."

While there isn't any one thing that causes a couple to stop having sex, readers mention three common themes with which experts agree: busy schedules, having young children, and lack of desire on the part of one partner or the other.

It's Not Just Sex That's Missing

For many, the problem isn't a lack of love; it's a lack of connection. A reader who goes by the name "Sweetpea3426" says her dilemma is "he doesn't seem to think us not having sex is a problem." She's one of several members in these conversations who say they miss the intimacy sex brings.

Joy B. says that lack of intimacy creeps into life outside the bedroom, and Brandy P. agrees, asserting that the lack of sex in a relationship will ultimately pull a couple apart.

Some women, like Melissa, have tried to downplay the importance of sex to keep any conflict over it out of the relationship. It didn't work. "I was lying to myself," Melissa says. "I'm a sexual person and I would be fooling myself if I tried to believe otherwise."

When Is It Worth Staying in a Sexless Marriage?

Several readers argue there are circumstances under which it's worth staying in a sexless marriage. When the celibacy is caused by medical issues, the majority say they wouldn't leave. As Veronica K. puts it, "Medically not being able to have sex is a different ball game."

It's worth noting that a number of moms indicated postpartum issues were the reason they weren't having sex. And readers say that this is a medical issue, not a marital problem.

Can a Sexless Marriage Survive?

Readers have much to say about whether or not such a sexless marriage can survive. Heather T. is emphatic: if you really love and are committed to the person, you'll work together to fix the problem.

Tia Melissa R. agrees but cautions that "Sex is not something to be expected or used as a bargaining chip in a power play."

Others say a sexless marriage is a hopeless cause. For Emma N., it's simple: being sexual is just part of her definition of a relationship. Celebrity psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw agrees, saying the loss of desire often has severe consequences for a marriage.

For one man in France, those consequences were financial. He was ordered to pay $13,300 to his ex-wife after he withheld sex for years. That's an unusual case, but it certainly demonstrates that a lack of intimacy can be emotionally damaging.

In spite of these stories and skeptics, more of these marriages survive than you might think. After all, if every sexless marriage ended in divorce or in court, people wouldn't be talking about them; they just wouldn't exist.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Allie Merriam
Join The Conversation
JenniferRoberts1387555146 JenniferRoberts1387555146 3 years
My husband and I have a statistically sexless marriage, meaning we make love less than ten times a year. Its not his fault, its not my fault. Its not the kids fault either. We love each other very much, share a bed, kisses, cuddles etc. He masturbates, I masturbate. We each have an "issue". I have lubrication problems and we have tried every lube on the market to no avail. We use condoms for birth control, so lubes need to be condom freindly. Unfortunately, such lubes tend to dry out and become sticky. My husband's issue is that he takes a long time to climax. If I had no lubrication problems I'd be the luckiest woman alive. But, I have those lubrication problems. Of course, him wearing a condom does not help his issue! So, those few times a year that we make love, either I have to be sore, or we have to time things just before my period and go bareback, or I get to climax once or twice and he does not. Hubby has offered to get a vasectomy - but I don't want him to - I have my reasons. Here is the kicker. When I masturbate, if I think of hubby, I'm dry. If I fantasize about someone else [certain men, certain women] I'm anything but dry. I love my husband dearly - he is kind, helpful, awesome with our kids. He pulls his weight - not just doing the stereo-typical man housework, but also pitching in doing half the laundry, washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, acting as 'dad's Taxi" etc. I feel so loved, so romantic with him. I want to kiss him, cuddle him, but I don't feel lust for him. He is the only man I've ever had sex with - I was a virgin, a mature virgin, before we met. Two years ago I was on a work related trip. At a party after hours, I got a little tipsy and started flirting with an attractive man. I became extremely aroused, but kept my clothes on. On the plane ride home, I thought of this man and of my husband. When I arrived home at 2 a.m. my husband was awake, I confessed the flirting and we had the most incredible sex since we became parents. I keep having dreams where my husband and I agree to an open marriage so we can each get an occassional fling for variety sake. In my fantasy world, I want my husband and a boyfriend as well - and I want my husband to have a girlfreind too.
jodyelliott jodyelliott 3 years
I continue to try to make our relationship work, but in the end I asked if he loved me or if I was just a comfort response. So I knew I was a comfort zone nothing more. I asked him to leave. He wouldn't, so I packed his belongings and I moved him out. I asked why do you want to be with someone when there is no love, no feelings, no sex, no touching, no respect, no trust, nothing....why?? He still could not answer. I found out he was still on the dating sites, talking to other women, and telling his friends about the places he was going to travel to cause there were beautiful women what was I??? I have moved on, continued with my education, my life, my family and I have started dating again. I met someone a few years ago through my place of employment and never thought of him in anyway, found out he lived 1 house over from me. We started out as friends going to hockey games, watching movies (which he hasn't done in years). In Feb we went to the states for the weekend, nothing happened but just spent time together. It was the most relaxing weekend with anyone....from there we have spent everyday together either we call each other or go over to each others house. July long weekend we went away again and this time it was the most amazing weekend. We finally have gone to the next level, and let me say first the most beautiful moment worth waiting for. People see us and ask how long we have been married and they are shocked to find out that we are just friends seeing where we go from here. My friends and his friends say that just looking at us they see true happiness coming out in the both of us. He hasn't done half the things he does when he is with me so his friends say....and all he does is talking about what we are doing, where we are going next, he talks about me a lot, so I am told.....It feels so good to know that I am thought of and talked about in a good way. I know that in this world there is one perfect person for each of us, I am turning 40 this year and I think, no I know I have finally found him, not even my 17 year marriage had this feeling. I have smiles everyday now....thank you for posting Can a sexless marriage survive. It is good to read that other women and men can work it out, some separate, and others find the happiness that was meant to be.....
CharlseAlves1374669782 CharlseAlves1374669782 3 years
i thank you this Dr,Ancient as you put smile on my face again. back,because it has been a lonely life for me since 3years ago because of my body no one want to marry me but when i contacted you i became every man desire and my Ex has come back again with many flowers and even begging me to come have a marriage with these is the happiest time of my life and i thank you papa,but if you also need help, you can contact him via
kasha1371377680 kasha1371377680 4 years
I am kasha i lives in uk and i was in a serious relationship with my ex guy for three good years.. One day we were in a dinner party, we had a little misunderstanding which lead to a Quarrel and he stood up and left me at the dinner party. i try to call him but he was not picking my calls so after than i contacted my brother and told him about it,my brother so much love me that he had to see him on my behalf,he told my brother that it is over between us.. Then i contacted a friend of mine that had this similar experience and she directed me to one of the spiritual diviner ( first i thought it was not going to be possible and i contacted him i was ask to come up with a little requirement,so i did what i was ask to do, after 3 days i was in my office when my ex guy called me and was asking me to forgive him and come back to him. i was very surprise it was like a dream to me,so ever since we have been happily married with one kid my lovely baby(Ceslav)...i wish you the best of luck...
sandrababy sandrababy 4 years
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sandrababy sandrababy 4 years
My name is Sandra sources from Florida. I never believed in love spells or magic until i met this spell caster once when i went to Africa in February this year on a business summit. I meant a man who’s name is DR.EDOBOR he is really powerful and could help cast spells to bring Back one’s gone, lost, misbehaving lover and magic money spell or spell For a good job or luck spell .I’m now happy & a living testimony cos The man i had wanted to marry left me 3 weeks before our wedding and my Life was upside down cos our relationship has been on for 2years. I Really loved him, but his mother was against us and he had no good Paying job. So when i met this spell caster, i told him what happened And explained the situation of things to him. At first i was undecided, Skeptical and doubtful, but i just gave it a try. And in 7 days when i Returned to Canada, my boyfriend (now husband) called me by himself and Came to me apologizing that everything had been settled with his mom And family and he got a new job interview so we should get married. I Didn’t believe it cos the spell caster only asked for my name and my Boyfriends name and all I wanted him to do. Well we are happily married Now and we are expecting our little kid, and my husband also got the New job and our lives became much better. His email is
JacquelynKennedy JacquelynKennedy 5 years
My husband and I have been together for over 10 years, married for 4 and have not had sex for 5! At first, I was busy with school, then I actually went away for 2 years, but every time I came home between semesters, it was the same thing. He's recently had surgery and I'm hoping this will allow him to be painfree enough to rekindle that spark. In the mean time, I'm 'making do', but I miss the intimacy we used to share. We hold hands and hug and kiss, but it's not the same.
LeahVerville LeahVerville 5 years
It is my opinion that there is no such thing as a "sex-less marriage" if you are still having sex. Let's be realistic here, if you are having sex with your spouse, it is not sex-less! (No matter how infrequent) The idea that a couple has to have sex to remain connected is proposterous! I have a very sexual husband. Me? Not so much. We mostly have sex to appease him, which I have no lie to tell, pisses me off. I need the "love" behind the love-making, but rarely get it. Yet I still have sex because I view this as another way of showing love to him. That having been said, you don't have to be a doormat either. Sex should be a loving proposition, not a routine or stress reliever. That is why I view sex as just another way of "raising" my husband to be the best husband he can be. Let's face it, sex is not simple (for a woman anyway).
AnjaMarie AnjaMarie 5 years
I'm so glad my husband didn't marry me for my looks or sex because otherwise we wouldn't be together any more! Hope Buckley, personally I don't need it if I'm going without because we have so many other things to share. I think a loving relationship makes life more than enough worthwhile and fulfilling for anything like that to matter.
AmandaMcEwen22805 AmandaMcEwen22805 5 years
I couldn't agree more with Lee Hardesty. My husband have had their definition of a sexless marriage for over 6 years now. He is on heavy medication that makes him very sleepy, and I suffer from chronic kidney stones and pain because of it. Our marriage has lasted through a lack of sex, two children heavily scheduled, bad neighbors, him being comitted for 3 months, and so much more. You know why we are still in love? Because We love each other, not the sex. I fell in love with his mind believe it or not. After all we've been through he says he's with me because he loves my 'piss and vinigar' attitude and I'm the only woman he's met whos strong enough to have stood by him through his hell. Me I'm with him because when you are in pain all the time you loose a bit of your funny bone, that man can make me laugh myself to tears no matter how bad i am. Also, I can really TALK *it's ok, take a minute to catch your breath* yes TALK to him. That is our intimacy, closeness of the minds. For me and for him to bare our minds is the closest anyone could ever get to us. I wouldn't trade my almost 8 year sexless marriage for all the steamy relationships out there. SEX does not a relationship make. ps, i am 31 and he's 40 and our children are both under 6
LisaWaller LisaWaller 5 years
it seems to me that nearly all the comments that ive read all the women are having sex with their husbands just for the sake of it?? correct me if im wrong but isnt this worse than no sex at all that night or week?? as when you do this you end up resenting and missing the whole point of connecting and getting intimate with your partner. ive been married for 4 years and have a lively 5 year old. we dont have sex all that much now as daily life takes over (as it does) but we still make time for each other to connect, talk etc. i certainly dont have sex for the sake of it and when i do its because i really want to.
AliciaHauck AliciaHauck 5 years
I have been married for 12 years now. We were very active in the bedroom until we won some money and tried in vitro fertilization. The tests they do before hand showed he had Hep C. Talk about shock! Ever since then we rarely had sex and if we did I would insist on condoms. The doc says it is rare to get it from a long time partner, but you never know. I am free and clear now but refuse to take the risk. We then adopted a baby and sex happpened even less. I have noticed that since hos diagnosis my husband has changed from an extreamly loving and supportive man, to one who constantly nit picks and criticises me. I started seeing a therapist and she said that this sometimes happens with a illness or disease. The person who has it tries to push their loved ones away. I have spoken with hime about and it changes for maybe a week then goes right back to the way it was. For the last two years, we have not been intimate at all. Now adays, because of his constant nit picking, I can barely stand the sight of him. It is not the lack of sex destroying our marriage, it's his reaction to a terrible diagnoses. Sadly, I keep trying, but have to admit, our marriage is over.
AnnetteLowe AnnetteLowe 5 years
We married in 1984 and had our first child in 1985. By 1989 we had our 3 children and made sure no more were to come. I've never referred to us having sex, we always made love. This area of our marriage thrived until the end of 2000. Due to medical reasons my hubby is no longer able to make love, and due to his feelings of failure in this dpt won't even play. We still cuddle, we kiss everyday and many hugs are given throughout the day. I have no barriers when it comes to making love to my husband, but will never turn to anyone else. It has now been 11 years and yes, I truely miss making love to my husband, my soul mate and my best friend. I will not leave this marriage as we still love each other and show affection in other ways. My husband gave me 3 wonderful children and 28 wonderful years of loyalty and trust. Our marriage still thrives. We still hold hands when we are out, and our never-ending love for each other has not changed because we have a "sexless marriage", if anything my husband treats me even better now that I am still here even though I sincerely miss making love to him. My husband understands how much I desire this and that I miss it everyday. But our love will never change and we will not be separated because of something we cannot control. And no, we are not real old. I am 44 and my husband is 52. However, we have a wonderful marriage and show each other love and admiration several times a day, not just daily. I wish things hadn't turned out this way but at the same time could never love another man the way I love my husband.
MaryEllenHoppenjans MaryEllenHoppenjans 5 years
Before we had children, sex was an every night thing for my husband and I. Two children later, we still love each other very much and connect, but our chances of having alone time have slimmed down. Sure, we may not have sex as much as we use to, but we still find time for each other. And if there is a chance that our schedule doesn't allow for alone time at least one a week, a few hours at grandma's house is in order for the kiddos!
KristiKamp KristiKamp 5 years
Can a sexless marriage survive? No, I don't think so; unless of course there is a medical necessity for abstaining. After giving birth you can have sex for 6 weeks.. It took me another 4 weeks to really be able to have sex again (because it still hurt.. And it wasn't like I didn't try either... It just hurt too bad... I've been married for 3 years and pre-child our sex life was great... He was in the military.. deployed twice and went to the field a lot.. But when he was home.. Man, it was on!! The times when he was home, we had sex at least once a day.. Sometimes as much as 4.. We couldn't get enough.. When I was pregnant it was uncomfortable and after I had our daughter I just felt soo fat and unattractive that I didn't want to.. It's hard making time with a newborn (who is now a teething toddler) when your exhausted and would rather sleep... I do have to admit that our marriage has hit a bit of a dry spell- we have sex about 2 times a week (way less than we did before) but my libido is increasing as I lose weight (8 lbs since new years and 30 to go!)
LeahWilson LeahWilson 5 years
i agree with kyrie if you love each other sex is a secondary part of marriage and sure its great but with true love, you know your marriage can survive without it. And i agree with laura, no desire but i wanna make him happy so i do it anyway
LeahWilson LeahWilson 5 years
due to many factors (school, toddler, work, housekeeping, birth control, and at times emtional abuse in the relationship( boyfriend wasn't raised well is very immature and needed a mother instead of a girlfriend but is slowly learning)) the majority of the time i dont want to have sex. My boyfriend (i know it says marriage but i consider us pretty close to married we've been together for six years and neither of us has ever been sexually active with anyone else) is a very sexual person and cannot understand that if he would help relieve some of the other stressors in my life then sex would be way more appealing to me. But when i take care of our daughter, go to wok, pay all the bills, am a full time student, clean the house by myself all the time, and struggle with trust issues because of things he and others have done in the past, sexual is the last thing that i feel. Underappreciated, overworked, and manipulated are the top contenders. BUT despite these feelings i will do my part in the relationship and have sex with him often (and enjoy it). I feel if thats what it takes to keep our family together then it is a small price to pay to give our daughter a home with parents who love each other. He may not be the greatest now, but eventually, he will mature, he has a good heart and he tries as best as he can at this point, until that day, i will continue to do my part as his "wife" although we do experiences dry spells occasionally that may last as long as a month. But it always works out and we always feel closer when we are being intimate.
DebbieMiller3255 DebbieMiller3255 5 years
I've been married for 13 years and we have sex or do something sexual nearly every night. Now, it hasn't always been this way mind you. My boys are 9 & 10 so we have a bit more privacy but even when they were a newborn and toddler, I still made time to stay connected sexually with my hubby. I see so many women saying they're fine with never having sex but I think you're kidding yourself. I couldn't imagine it any other way. He's gone on a business trip for a few days and we've already had skype sex, if that's the term :) My husband is very sexual and always wants to have sex. I'll admit that I could pass some nights but I made a pack with myself that I would never turn him down when he asks (unless I'm sick but then he'd let me rest anyway). I also made it a point to initiate sex sometimes before he does so he knows I'm still interested in him. We are always happy to see each other, we call and text each other if we're away. We sit and talk for hours after the kids go to bed. I think all of this is possible because we are intimate often and therefore we feel more bonded to each other through out the day. My husband has even said that when we start the morning by having sex, he feels closer and more connected to me for the rest of the day. I don't think marriage could survive without sex...and sex often. I wish the best of luck to any others our there struggling with this issue. I hope it gets better for you.
TammyHansen18341 TammyHansen18341 5 years
Speaking from experience, I know I need to feel close to my spouse and feel "wanted" and desired. In my previous marriage, my ex could not physically have sex due to a spinal cord injury. He lied to me and told me he could have sex. After we married, I soon found out that he was not capable of having sex. I chose to stay married and we found other ways of pleasing one another. Eventually, I think the guilt of lying to me overshadowed our marriage. One day, he just decided to leave me. He said that he felt like he could not stay married to me because he knew how badly I wanted children and he could not give that to me. He also said he was wrong to lie to me and immature. I also found out that he "cheated" on me more than once. Although he told me he could not have sex, there were other things that he could do. It hurt me badly when he left, but I moved on and found the love of my life. Immediately, our relationship was different. We had a very healthy sex life and it was important to me. I have to thank my ex-husband for leaving because it allowed me to be truly happy in my new marriage. I recently had an injury that makes it so that we cannot have sex as often. To those of you who believe that if you are not giving it to your husband all the time that they are getting it elsewhere, I am proof that you are wrong. I know my husband is faithful to me. I have no doubts whatsoever. I have been cheated on before, so it is not that I am naive. If a man truly loves his wife, he will not stray. If your husband cheats on you because of a medical issue, or any reason, he does not truly love you. Do not be fooled into thinking it is your fault. Do not be bullied into sex. That is NOT love! Not to mention, he is probably STILL getting it elsewhere, only now you are putting yourself at risk of diseases and heartbreak. Use common sense. If he is demanding sex or threatening you, he is not worth it. That is not love. You should value yourself more than that and send him packing. A real man loves his wife for the whole package, not just sex. I am very blessed that I found a real man. I now know what true love is and I do not worry anymore. Everyone deserves to find that in their lives.
BrendaLunn BrendaLunn 5 years
Ive been in a sexless marriage for 4 yrs now. Its like we are just room mates now. He has no interest in it. And as long as we dont talk about it we are fine. No fighting. But if I bring it up its a disaster.
Rachel82902 Rachel82902 5 years
I wouldn't say my marriage is completely sexless (at least according to the definition in the article) but it's on the verge because of me. I don't at all enjoy having sex with my husband and indirectly try to avoid it. Part if the problem if a self confidence issue on my end and the other part is that I've had to step up and take care of some big responsibilities that he's unwilling to fulfill. The fact that he hasn't "stepped up" for our family, leaving a huge gap for me to fill, has made him very unattractive to me, despite the fact that he's very good looking. I know he's frustrated but I'm frustrated with trying to fake any kind of sexual attraction to him. I'm hoping that once I'm done with school, we're in some kind of routine, and I'm less stressed all the time it will get easier but I don't know...
KateConnely KateConnely 5 years
Let me tell you what is happening when your husband is not having sex with you! If he has no medical issue that is preventing him from seeking sex with you, he is seeking it elsewhere. He is hitting on some poor girl and telling her all kinds of bull*^#* lies and making her believe that he cares for her and wants to be with her. She is participating in a SHAM relationship with a married man that will end up making her wish she is dead in the end of it! Stop participating in a lie. Get to the bottom of it! Men are DOGS. Most of them thrive on sex. Check out the statistics of how often they think of sex and or masturbate on a weekly basis. Yes, I have been on the receiving end of this from both sides. My husband cheated on me for years! Then I met someone and fell in love and he lied like a RUG to me for years. We lived together for 2 years and the whole time he was married to someone else in another country!
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