Not This Year, Dear: Turning On the Sexless Marriage

Has it been a while since you had sex with your husband? If so, you’re not alone.

The US Health and Social Life Survey found that 20% of married couples have sexless marriages, defined as having sex fewer than ten times per year.

The reasons for the lack of sex vary. Some couples never had much sex to begin with; others stopped making love after a big event like childbirth or illness. For some, sex gradually dwindled away.

A couple in a sexless marriage focuses on common interests like children and careers rather than passion. There are some benefits to the cooler relationship; the couple doesn’t have to deal with all the messy, emotional issues that arise from sexual intimacy.  But according to David Klow, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, these couples miss out.

“Life without sex lacks a lot of the juice, the connection, to what we really long for,” he said. “The asexual couple misses out on intimacy and desire—they become cut off from their own life force.”

Still, as long as both spouses are satisfied with their level of sexual activity, the marriage can work. Klow says there’s no magic number of times a couple needs to have sex to be happy.

But frequently, one person in a sexless marriage longs for more.

In her book, “The Sex-Starved Marriage: Boosting Your Marriage Libido: A Couple’s Guide,” Michelle Weiner Davis writes, “People with low sexual desire are generally married to partners who desperately yearn for more sexuality, intimacy, physical closeness and connection.”

Women aren’t the only ones saying, “I’ve got a headache.” Bob Berkowitz and Susan Yager-Berkowitz, authors of “He’s Just Not Up for It Anymore: Why Men Stop Having Sex, and What You Can Do About It,” have found plenty of men aren’t in the mood either. They say living without sex has consequences for both husband and wife.

“Often the loss of sexual pleasure and intimacy results in depression, suspicion, anger, resentment, and sometimes infidelity and divorce.”

How do you know when a break in the action has gone on too long? Klow says if a couple hasn’t had sex in two or three months, it’s time to honestly discuss the situation and perhaps consult a marriage counselor.

Libido is tied to many aspects of a person’s identity and self-worth. It’s important for partners to understand one another, but Weiner Davis is a fan of the Nike approach: just do it! The idea that you should be aflame with desire before you have sex is wrong. Many people don’t feel turned on until after they’re already engaged in lovemaking, she writes, so making the initial effort is important.

“You have to decide to make having a vibrant, exciting, emotionally satisfying sexual relationship a priority.”