A sexless marriage is defined as having sex fewer than 10 times a year. In most relationships, sexual satisfaction is a measure of the entire relationship. If a once-satisfying sex life becomes one in which sex is infrequent or non-existent, it’s more than likely that other aspects of the relationship are unsatisfactory.

Many couples I see in my practice used to enjoy good sex lives – but now they rarely have sex anymore.  “Forget the popular myth that sex is spontaneous – it’s not. You have to create the time and the space”.

It is difficult enough to talk about your sex life, but admitting you don’t have one at all can be embarrassing. And often couples believe they are the only ones with this problem.

When I ask them when they last had sex, they can’t remember and it’s not unusual for them to tell me they haven’t had sex for at least six months or sometimes several years.

But they did have satisfying sex lives in the past. They can remember it being so much fun in the early years of their relationship when they met, fell in love, and had sex as often as possible. But the intensity of this period, called ‘limerence’, can be difficult to maintain. Things gradually change and they are left wondering what happened to the desire and passion they once had.

When I talk to clients who are in a relationship that is lacking sex, my advice is: start fixing the issues before it is too late. When couples don’t sort out these problems, sooner or later resentment will surface and intimacy and sex will go on the back-burner. Problems should be discussed, otherwise, couples will grow apart, leaving both frustrated, resentful, and angry. 

woman lying on bed covered with white blanket
Photo by We-Vibe WOW Tech on Unsplash

A good sex life takes time and effort to maintain

Couples need to try making sex more playful and fun to keep their relationships exciting. Forget the popular myth that sex is spontaneous – it’s not. If you want to have good sex, you have to create the time and the space to get both of you in the mood and looking forward to it. Planning a date night once a week is a good start. Being more affectionate is another.

Simply kissing, hugging, holding hands or cuddling up on the sofa is easy to do – and physical affection is so important. Couples may find that increased intimacy can result in a more passionate and connected relationship.

I believe relationships can improve if people listen to each other more instead of telling each other what’s wrong. Rather than complaining about what your partner doesn’t do, tell him or her exactly what they can do to turn you on. When you talk about sex, focus on the positive.

If your partner’s lovemaking doesn’t excite you anymore and you have difficulties discussing the issue, you will both eventually lose interest in sex. It may be time to get expert help and be taught the skills to communicate openly and directly with each other about your feelings, problems, and concerns. (Check out this excellent TEDx talk about sexless marriage by internationally renowned relationship expert Michele Weiner-Davis.)

Not all sexless relationships are doomed. And that’s okay, as long as both people are happy not to have sex anymore. However, in my experience that – unfortunately – is very rare.

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This post originally appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald and was published on September 16, 2016. This article is republished here with permission and updated on October 12, 2020.