You’re in a Sexless Marriage. Should You Divorce?

sexless marriage
Stacey Freeman

By Stacey Freeman | Oct 20th, 2019

He’s a nice guy. He’s kind, smart, and considerate. He provides for you financially. He helps out with the kids. He even takes out the trash without being asked. There’s just one thing: he is not very interested in having sex with you. 

You are not sure how it happened, but you think you may be in a sexless marriage. Even so, is that reason enough to divorce him? 

The short answer is: it depends. 

Are you in a sexless marriage?

Many people do not realize they are in a sexless marriage until it has already happened. When people hear the term “sexless marriage,” they often believe it means you have no sex at all. But that does not have to be the case. Though there is no accepted definition of what a sexless marriage is, Newsweek reports that most experts agree a sexless marriage is one in which couples have sex less than 10 times in a year. 

That definition describes a lot of couples, according to Denise A. Donnelly, a professor of Sociology at Georgia State University, who has studied sexless marriage. In an interview with The New York Times, Professor Donnelly points out that in the last six months to one year,15 percent of married couples have not had sex with their spouse. However, as Donnelly also notes, the pattern may be nothing new. We only hear about sexless marriage more today than we did from previous generations, who often stayed together because of societal expectations and for the kids.

When people hear the term “sexless marriage,” they often believe it means you have no sex at all. But that does not have to be the case.

With sexless marriage on the mind (Huffpost reports it is the most frequently searched marriage complaint), unhappy couples are starting to ask questions.    

How important is sex in a marriage?

Pretty important, according to a 2019 study by the Pew Research Center on love and marriage in America. Sixty-one percent of those surveyed cited a satisfying sex life as a factor in a successful marriage. Why, then, are so many married couples willing to live without it?

Jennifer Hurvitz, author of “woulda. coulda. shoulda.: A divorce coach’s guide to staying married,” believes stressors like kids can be one of the major causes of a lack of intimacy. “Couples who have children,” she says, “are more inclined to stay in a sexless marriage out of guilt.” 

These couples believe being miserable together is still better than being happier apart.   

Hurvitz says this line of thinking is an issue in a lot of marriages and recommends struggling couples get their priorities in order.

“Put your relationship before the children,” advises Hurvitz. “Your kids will thank you later when they have two happy, loving parents.” 

What causes a sexless marriage?

If a marriage doesn’t start that way (and some do), there are many reasons why sex becomes nonexistent. A temporary or more permanent mental or physical condition can negatively affect both the desire to have sex and sexual performance. Among the top culprits, according to a Huffpost article on the topic, are high blood pressure, cancer, problems related to childbirth, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. Low libido in one or both partners, a lack of physical attraction, and infidelity can also play a role. 

Regardless of how a couple finds themselves in a sexless marriage, the point is that they are. At some point, both partners must decide if a sexless marriage is something they can live with or if they should divorce.     

Can a sexless marriage work?

Sometimes. If one both partners suffer from low libido or do not prioritize sex as compared to other qualities such as companionship and security, they may be on board with the lack of physical intimacy in their relationship. For couples whose libidos are mismatched and have differing sexual expectations and needs, trouble may be on the horizon. 

For couples contemplating whether to stay in a sexless marriage or divorce, Hurvitz suggests having the tough, uncomfortable conversations, in addition to working with a sexologist or an intimacy counselor.

You are not sure how it happened, but you think you may be in a sexless marriage. Even so, is that reason enough to divorce him?

“With so many fabulous resources available to help with intimacy issues, both partners should feel safe while they try to meet each other’s needs.”

Hurvitz says there is a caveat: both partners must invest themselves in their marriage for it to work. 

What can you do to repair a sexless marriage?

Those stuck in a sexless marriage but do not want a divorce may wonder what steps they can take to salvage their sex lives and, ultimately, their marriage. Could a simple fix be enough? 

Success may depend on how much time has gone by, whether resentment has built up, and if both spouses are willing to find solutions that work for them individually and as a couple.

In addition to reprioritizing and therapy, Hurvitz recommends getting back to basics, beginning in the bedroom. “Get a sex night on the calendar and schedule that sex! Sounds crazy, right? But it’s not. Scheduling sex takes the pressure off and increases anticipation, which is a natural aphrodisiac.”

Of course, there are no guarantees.  

What if your sexless marriage is beyond repair? 

Changing your priorities, seeing a counselor, and trying to rekindle the spark sometimes is not enough. In that scenario, Hurvitz says, “a healthy, amicable divorce can and should be the answer, especially if children are involved. Kids,” she emphasizes, “need to live in a loving, caring household.”

And that household begins with you.

Stacey Freeman

Stacey Freeman


Stacey Freeman is a New York City-based writer, lifestyle editor at Worthy.com, and the founder and managing director of Write On Track.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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