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.