How To Survive A Sexless Marriage In 2023

Most sexless marriages start with an emotional disconnection. So in order to not only survive a sexless marriage but to actually thrive, you and your partner need to have a deep conversation about your desires and fantasies both directly related and adjacent to your sex life. We can help you navigate those sensitive conversations so that you can both become more fulfilled in your relationship together.

If you are reading this, then chances are you are in a sexless marriage, and most likely not by choice. Couples who choose a sexless marriage may do so for many reasons from severe mental or physical illness to an arrangement that may or may not include polyamory. At Marriage Quest, we primarily help couples to build a sexually intimate connection with each other. For some couples this has resulted from a recent experience such as an affair. For others it has either been missing for years or was weak from the beginning and in need of strengthening.

Why Are So Many Marriages Sexless?

We view a healthy sexuality as the glue that holds the couple together through both good and bad times — a regulating force for the marriage— and another expression of good teamwork. It builds the attachment and bond that is so useful in the long run. It’s normal for your sex life to ebb and flow in the natural stages of a healthy relationship. Most couples commit to each other during a time they are have a highly satisfying sex life. Unfortunately, sexual satisfaction can decrease for many reasons. A sexless marriage is often a symptom of other issues in a relationship. Some couples see sexuality as their primary issue while other couples wish to focus on other challenges before they are comfortable enough to go there. Either way we are here to help navigate your marriage through the maze of confusion or frustration to a new deeper understanding and ultimately incorporating new behaviors into your relationship.

Uninterested In Sex

Feeling bored with your sex life or not attracted to your partner can cause issues in the bedroom. No one wants to be bored with their sex life. Yet many people don’t know how to spice it up, not even how to begin that conversation with their partner. We help couples to feel more comfortable with the subject, learn how to increase desire, and to navigate those difficult conversations.

Emotional Disconnect

Most couples who feel disconnected emotionally do not want to connect on a physical or sexual level. After years of emotional stress, sex usually ends. While this pattern can takes years to form, the good news is that it can be undone in far less time when both partners are motivated and applying the right skills.

Past Trauma

Trauma can wire your nervous system to become hypersensitive to situations, conversations, or other moments where you feel attacked or unsafe. Many couples with trauma trigger each other to the point of escalation or complete avoidance. These patterns create emotional disconnection and in most cases challenges with physical intimacy.

Young Children

Finding private time for an active sex life and physical intimacy becomes much more challenging with young children. Those nights of swinging from the ceiling or an echoing orgasm through the hallway give way to tidying the house or catching up on sleep. This is a very challenging time for many new parents.

Busy Lives

Many couples get busy with kids and work and don’t find the time to be skin-on-skin together. Scheduling sex is a good idea for these couples. We schedule everything else in life so why not schedule some sexy time, and it might even happen. It certainly is more likely to happen.

Chronic Health Issues

Chronic physical and mental health issues can put a big strain on a marriage and can shut down people sexually. Many physical handicaps can have a work-around if the couple is open to being creative.

Why Does It Feel Like My Spouse Doesn't Need Sex?

Sexual intimacy is often replaced by a substitute. The substitute can be of a sexual nature such as infidelity, pornography, chronic masturbation, and more. The substitute can also be of a non-sexual nature such as psychological dependencies on the children, work, food, gambling, sports, shopping, pets, community activities, etc. Unfortunately these substitutions can make your partner feel undesired.

Dealing With Different Levels Of Desire

Some couples think they are incompatible because one partner wants sex much more frequently than the other. Desire is measures in many different ways, and some people see sex as the ultimate expression, while other’s prefer other forms of quality time to feel connected in a relationship. These other activities often serve as foreplay for later sexual activity as well. Additionally, what worked when you started dating may be the source of contention years later. In the romantic phase weaknesses are cute. Fast forward and those same weaknesses may annoy you. When couples are first dating, they are high on endorphins. By the time many couples get married, the endorphins disappear and triggers begin to appear. Working through the natural shifts in the relationship often help balance levels of desires within the marriage.

Is Masturbation A Good Substitute For Sex?

Some couples consider themselves and their relationship as being sexless, but they masturbate (self-pleasure) regularly to satisfy their libido. Self-touch is easy and there is no need to have to engage in a real intimate relationship sexually. Masturbation also allows you to be in full control of the situation including physical sensations and posture. Many people with trauma say that pleasuring themselves is safer because they can’t be judged by another person for their strange noises or expressions. Masturbation in these situations can be healthy, but many couples want to learn how to turn that erotic energy back towards the marriage, which is very possible.

What Is The Psychological Damage Of A Sexless Marriage?

A healthy sex life has many benefits, so living in a sexless marriage can create several psychological problems including:

  • Feeling undesirable or insecure
  • Increased stress symptoms such as blood pressure or muscle tension
  • Overeating or excess alcohol and drug use
  • Increased depression or anxiety especially if someone is prone to similar mental health conditions
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless about the future
  • Obsessive worry about their spouse’s extra marital relationships
  • Increased pressure on children in home for emotional connection

How Long Can A Marriage Last Without Intimacy?

Sexual satisfaction is extremely important for marital success and affair prevention, so whether you are experiencing a sexless marriage, feeling sex deprived, or just generally want to enhance your sexual satisfaction we can help. It is very common for partners to have different levels of desire, libido, or interest in sex overall. We can help you negotiate and bridge those gaps. When you find yourself feeling responsible for your spouse try labeling that feeling as anxiety, not responsibility. As psychiatrist Murray Bowen explained when you want to come to their rescue come to your own rescue.

Some couples will continue a marriage for years without intimacy, but that usually means both feel distant and unfulfilled. Most spouses report that a healthy sex life is highly important to their overall happiness and intimacy in their marriage. There are some exceptions, but most couples want to have a fulfilling sex life. We have helped couples who have been in a sexless marriage for nearly a decade finally reconnect with each other emotionally and physically.

How Does Past Trauma Effect A Quality Sex Life?

When marriage is done right, you get to heal your old wounds through the marital relationship. This requires that you and your partner know how to communicate and support each other as triggers are evoked during the course of the relationship. Navigating past triggers can be very complicated, and it often requires professional support to learn the right skills.

The Impact Of Sexual Trauma

Resolving trauma requires working through emotions that accompany the trauma and helping your partner feel safe. If sex was historically a difficult experience for you or your spouse, then improving your sex life with require compassion, patience, and clear communication. Many rape, incest, and other sexual assault survivors are able to have profoundly healthy sex lives with their partners when given the opportunity to heal.

Understanding Childhood Trauma

When marriage is done right, we get to heal our childhood wounds through the marital relationship. Considering so many childhood wounds come from not feeling worthy, not being good enough, craving unconditional love, fulfilling these psychic holes, shedding light on that darkness is the path to personal healing and marital satisfaction at the same time. Most arguments that escalate have very little to do with the current situation but are rather due to past triggers being activated that cause an emotional outburst. If both partners have childhood traumas, then even a simple conversation about where to get dinner that evening might turn into a war. By treating each other as though they are capable of being all they can be, you can self-regulate together.

Turning Trauma Into Growth

We turn PTSD into post traumatic growth. This is where treatment goes beyond talk therapy to experiential, and beyond educational and communication skill-building to visceral and body memory. Feeling the experience in your body and learning how to soften your fight-flight-freeze response will allow you to feel a deeper sense of intimacy with yourself and within your marriage.

Sex, Aging, And Other Midlife Crises

Many happy couples find greater sexual satisfaction when they are in the senior years than when they were in their 20’s and 30’s. Now that the kids are out of the house and pregnancy is not possible, they are able to be more fun loving and creative. They often feel more comfortable with fantasy, role plays, and whatever works without guilt and shame that many younger couples deal with. This of course assumed that you and your partner are able to navigate the stress that comes with middle age while creating a positive relationship with each other.

Sexless Marriage Advice: How To Repair The Situation

Talking about your sex life can be awkward whether it is with your partner or a therapist. Sex should be fun, and we help bring that back. We have extensive training in how to help both of you discuss sex in a way that will move you towards making positive changes and improve or resolve past sexual concerns. Sex is an important topic for most couples, and it can even create deeper healing within the relationship when addressed successfully. Improving the feelings of connectedness, desire, and desirability is one of our goals as your therapists. Sexual satisfaction improves as the overall health and wellness of the relationship improves. 

Making Sex A Priority

A healthy sex life takes work and effort. You both have to prioritize each other to make it happen, but many couples start to distance themselves as they feel a lack of emotional connection. This cycle feeds itself so that the lack of emotional intimacy, leads to unwilling sex, which leads to further emotional disconnection and often resentment. Some couples sex life suffers when they feel unattractive. It’s valuable to “act as if” you are hot and sexy even if you know you have a mole on your back that is ugly or are several ponds over weight. If you act sexy your partner will see you as being sexy and will want to jump in the sack with you more often for some quality sex.

Spice Up Your Sex Life

We help couples recapture the passion by exploring their erotic nature. While many couples find that emotional intimacy leads to sexual intimacy, it is also true that too much closeness can sabotage a “hot” love life. Dealing with the daily business of diapers, bills, and dishes can (and often is) a mood crusher and usually interferes with lust and passion.

Increase Emotional Intimacy

If you want to have an emotional connection, you have to share your thoughts and feeling with your partner in a safe and effective manner. This can be especially difficult for couples who have a history of triggering each other or avoiding difficult topics. Our process is designed to hold your hands and coach you through a conversation while begin mastering the communication skills that will improve your emotional intimacy.

Engage In Sex Therapy

Our experience over the years is that many couples have attempted to improve their sex life either through individual therapy or in couples therapy where they didn’t talk about sex. If you want to improve your sexual satisfaction, then you have to discuss sex with your partner. Because sex is such a tender topic, it’s best to have a skilled guide to start the conversation on the right trajectory.

Frequently Asked Questions

First realize that your marriage is important to you and that if you stray in your marriage the result could be devastating to both you and your spouse. If you feel comfortable, sit down and talk with your spouse. If not, get some professional guidance.

Find a time when both of you can be calm and attentive without distractions of children or phone calls. Usually, mornings are best for big subjects, but everyone is different. Begin by sharing how much you love your spouse then talk about what you want emotionally and sexually. Be clear and positive. No blaming or accusations.

Many couples have dry spells when sex is infrequent or nonexistent. This is common after childbirth, surgeries, or traumas. While this is normal, it is not really healthy. Find ways to get back on the horse again and find ways to be creative if needed.

Consider A Marriage Counseling Retreat

If you are frustrated and trying to fix your sexless marriage or relationship, we can help. A private Marriage Counseling Retreat can help you and your partner enhance your sex life by addressing the underlying issues through a compassionate, direct, and effective process.

I'm Ready For Help

Please contact us today to either book your retreat ASAP or schedule a free phone consultation to learn more about our programs.