Let’s not forget that marriage is not only about sex.
By Pleasure Mechanics — Updated on Mar 14, 2023
Photo: Angelina Tyshkovets / Shutterstock
Can a sexless marriage be a happy one? This question is an urgent one for the millions of men and women who are in sexless marriages — either by choice or because of a medical condition.
As an online sex educator with an open email policy, I get emails every day from people desperately wanting to know if their marriage can last — even if their sex life has gone cold. The good news? Yes, sexless marriages can be happy and fulfilling.
Marriage is about far more than sex and many couples find joy and security in being great life partners, best friends, and co-parents. We should never underestimate the importance of these roles within a marriage.
Yet, for many people, sex is expected to play a major role in a marriage. Most of our marital relationships start with a sexual connection and most people expect and hope that their sexual needs will be fulfilled by their spouse.
When a marriage goes sexless it can cause great suffering and alienation. Sometimes it can lead to separation or betrayal. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are six totally wrong myths about what it’s like to be in a sexless marriage:
1. Sexless marriages are doomed.
Sexless marriages are not failures. Much of the suffering that couples express as part of a sexless marriage is the sense of failure. We are told that happy marriages should be full of wild, passionate sex.
We are led to believe that if there is good chemistry, sex just happens. These myths make people feel like they are failing if they are in a sexless marriage.
What defines a successful marriage? Perhaps we need to look at the love, respect, and overall happiness of that marriage rather than keeping a scoreboard over the bed.
2. If you aren’t having sex, it means you’re just not ‘in’ to each other anymore.
Sexless marriages are not caused only by a lack of physical attraction. Marriages go sexless for a wide range of reasons. Only a very small percentage of sexless marriages are caused by a lack of attraction between spouses.
One partner may be dealing with a medical issue, too much stress, healing past sexual trauma, or a changing body image. None of those reasons have anything to do with how hot they find each other. This is a hard but essential truth to absorb if you are the partner who wants sex: It might have nothing to do with you.
3. Once you stop having sex, you’ll never get it back.
Many times, the “sexless” part of a sexless marriage is only temporary. It is essential to remember that long-term relationships have many seasons. A marriage may go sexless for a year or two for a good reason — a new baby, sick parents, financial stress or health issues are some of the most common.
If a couple can stay loving, connected, and honest through this sexless period, their marriage can emerge even stronger and the sexual connection can be reestablished when it makes sense in the greater context of their life.
4. When you stop having sex, you’ll resent each other.
Sexless marriages can instill compassion. If your partner’s libido has gone missing, you have two choices: You can get angry and resentful, blame your partner for your sexless marriage, or you can be compassionate and stay on their team.
Together, you can ask the necessary questions to find out why their libido has dropped off. Is there a medical issue that needs to be attended to? Is a medication interfering with their sex drive? Is there an emotional issue in your marriage that’s been festering? Is their libido being killed off by stress?
Once you pinpoint the causes you can start finding solutions. Do this together your bond will grow stronger. Acknowledging that your relationship has become sexless, without blame, is an important step in being honest and staying connected. Both of you may have different feelings about that fact, and talking about it is important.
Sexless marriages don’t have to be full of loneliness, as long as you dedicate some time to open and honest communication.
5. A sexless marriage means you are both celibate.
Just because you don’t have sex with your spouse doesn’t mean you lead a sexless life. Marriage is the union between two individuals with two independent sexual tendencies. Even if your marriage is sexless, your sexuality can be awake and alive. Sexuality extends far beyond the act of intercourse with your spouse.
You can maintain active sexuality by taking great care of yourself, feeling sexy in your own skin, and actively fantasizing and masturbating with creativity and passion. Then, when your spouse is ready to reconnect, you will be fully powered up and ready to go.
6. If you’re not having sex, you’ll lose your connection to your spouse.
Even if you’re not having sexual intercourse, you can maintain an active and affectionate love life. If intercourse is off of the menu for some reason, you can still cuddle, exchange massages, play with foreplay techniques, and even have fully orgasmic exchanges.
Perhaps you aren’t interested in sexual penetration of any kind. Would you be willing to watch as your spouse masturbated — or even help with the process? Some would still call this marriage “sexless” but others call it sexually thriving.
Even if you aren’t interested in more explicit escapades, are you willing to touch and express physical affection? As long as a couple is willing to touch one another with love, even if it is just a long hug, then there is hope.
A marriage is only in danger if there are long periods without physical affection of any kind. Let’s be clear: Living in a sexless marriage can be extremely painful, especially if you don’t understand why your partner isn’t interested in sex, or if you blame yourself for the lack of intimacy. But a sexless marriage isn’t a death sentence for your marriage.
If you bravely communicate about the situation and understand why your relationship is temporarily (or permanently) sexless, you can make it through this sexless period and come out on the other side feeling closer than ever.
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The Pleasure Mechanics is a team of sex educators and touch experts dedicated to providing people around the world with the tools and strategies they need to experience maximum sexual pleasure.