Are You in a Sexless Marriage or Sexless Relationship?

Co-written by Dr Alexis Shepperd, Ph.D. Life & Relationship Coach

What is a sexless marriage?

Sex is a key element of a healthy marriage or healthy relationship. Married couples often go through periods of desiring sex more or desiring sex less, and this is quite normal. However, this becomes a serious problem when one partner continually refuses to understand and is unwilling to work through the causes of their lack of desire for sex.

Many men struggle with the question…”Do you want to stay in Sexless marriage”?

It’s not as simple as just the sex part of the equation with mortgages, kids, pets, etc

Sexless marriages and sexless relationships are a lot more common than people believe. In fact most people refuse to accept that they are in what is classed as a “sexless marriage”.

Top reasons why marriages may become sexless:

Many things can affect libido and the health of your relationship, below are some commonly reported influences:

  1. Loss of libido, Low or non-existent sex drive
  2. Chronic illness, physical health issues, medical conditions, testosterone levels, medication side effects
  3. Relationship issues
  4. Stress
  5. Mental health issues
  6. Low self confidence
  7. Lying, lack of trust and safety
  8. Emotional, physical affairs, sexual activity outside the marriage
  9. Sexual problems, female sexual dysfunction, male sexual dysfunction, premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction
  10. Long term emotional or physical abuse

What is a sexless marriage?

A sexless marriage is a relationship which does’t currently include being sexually intimate with each other. A marriage can be sexless for a variety of reasons…the most common of which is a lack of sexual desire where one or both partners are no longer interested in sex.

It’s also common that a lack of sexual intimacy can be a sign that there are some deeper rooted problems in the marriage related to what’s required in creating and maintaining the emotional and intimate connection between you.

Sex therapists generally agree that having sex less than 10 times a year is reason enough to label a marriage as sexless. This ted talk on “low sex marriages” has been watched over 30 million times, so you’re definitely not the only one dealing with this issue.

Below are some thoughts on sexless marriages from prominent sex therapists:

“If you are aware of a decline in frequency or satisfaction but you aren’t sure if it is on your partner’s radar trust me, it is! If you are keeping track, chances are your partner is keeping track, too. Although you may feel alone in it, your partner is likely experiencing a parallel process (even if they are on the other side of the equation). In fact, the lower-interest partner is often more aware of how long it has been than the higher-interest partner, because they are the one with the ‘identified problem’.”  ~ Kimberly Resnick Anderson

“The longer you go without sex, the more you feel you aren’t interested in sex. It works the other way around as well. Sex is the best aphrodisiac. The more sex you have, the more sex you want. Having sex can jump-start your engine, allowing your body to begin reproducing more sexual hormones that can remind you that you like sex, enjoy making love, and want to do it more often.” ~ Dr Tammy Nelson

“We make excuses with everything from eating better to working out, and I hear it daily with sexual goals. When you experience low desire, your excuse may be you don’t feel sexy, you’re tired, or you are ‘just not in the mood.’ These are excuses that hold you back from experiencing anything at all. Start small and go big. Desire doesn’t start at an accelerated pace. It may have in the past, but what we do know about desire is that it is more responsive than spontaneous. Take a small step toward being more sexual each and every day. Set a daily intention dedicated to your sexual health like, Today I am going to feel positive in my body and find one way in which to give my body pleasure.” ~ Dr Shannon Chavez

Is sex once a month a sexless marriage?

Most professionals working in this area agree that a sexless marriage is one where sex happens less than once a month or less than ten times per year. While once a month would not technically be considered a sexless marriage by this measurement, a more important aspect is whether or not the lack of sex bothers you.  In other words, having sex once a month is not necessarily perceived as a problem, and for some people could even be classed as normal.

How much sex is normal or healthy? 

There is no right or wrong answer to the question “How much sex is normal or healthy?”

Kids, work, family, health, self confidence, finances, how much fun you have together, how well you communicate and support each other as well as other aspects of our busy modern lives, all contribute to stress levels which can complicate the amount of time, energy and enthusiasm people have for sex.

How does a sexless marriage effect men?

Feeling like a failure

If you’re a man living in a sexless marriage, you may feel like a failure.  Men often measure their relationship based on how often sex and physical affection happens.

It’s confusing because other aspects of the relationship, such as the level of care, consideration, support and love, are still healthy (although sometimes these aspects are suffering too).

Drifting apart and staying committed

Intimacy and sex are a major part of a healthy marriage, without it, feelings of insecurity and resentment often arise. Questions about the longevity of the relationship and the commitment of each partner can be ever present and feel exhausting to keep going over and over.

When you don’t feel wanted, needed or desired in your committed, romantic relationship, you may feel like your efforts to build a life and future for your family are unappreciated.

Depression and anxiety

Without a healthy sexual aspect to your relationship, you may feel ashamed and overwhelmed with anxiety and depression. It’s important to remember that the lack of sexual connection and enthusiasm is often a symptom that highlights a deeper problem in the relationship.

Cheating or thoughts of cheating

Both men and women need a healthy sex life. There’s a drive for acceptance, connection and the inarguable sense of love and trust that being closely intimate during the act of sex provides like nothing else. Unfortunately this drive means that men and women think about and often meet someone who is willing to connect in a sexual way which is missing in the current relationship.

How does a sexless marriage effect women?

Just as with men, the effects of a sexless marriage on women are feelings of failure, questions around longevity and commitment, anxiety and depression and the possibility of extra marital relationships.

Can you divorce because you’ve been living in a sexless marriage?

Although a sexless marriage is not listed in law as grounds or fault for absolute divorce or divorce from bed and board, it can be used as strong evidence for a court to find constructive abandonment as a legitimate cause to divorce.

How long do sexless marriages last?

It’s important to understand that a short-term lack of sex does not make your marriage sexless. Instead, sex must have stopped happening regularly for 1 year or longer.

Some couples don’t mind a marriage or relationship without sex. If it’s not a problem for both of you then there’s no problem with the relationship lasting. Sexless unions can last a lifetime, but for some people, a sexless relationship can be intolerable after just two weeks.

For many couples in a sexless relationship, the problem stems from not being able to discuss sex openly, calmly and with compassion and a desire to work together to improve things.

When regular sex is absent from a relationship, there’s often also a hidden comparison going on in one or both people’s minds – it’s a comparison with relationships where the couple are having sex all the time, which for 99% of relationships is far from the truth.

How do you fix a sexless marriage?

If you’re struggling being in a sexless marriage, don’t worry, we have a dedicated section of our website and our coaching services to help.

For more information and support options visit our Sexless Marriage resources here.

And if you’re ready to speak to someone about how to turn things around, visit our 1-to-1 coaching page here or apply for a free 90 minute coaching call here.

Can a sexless marriage survive?

Living a sexless life while in a committed, romantic relationship certainly is challenging, no-one could argue that point, but the strain differs from one partner to the other.

For some couples, the lack of sex is a warning sign that their relationship may be on a path to ending. For others, it’s an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of themselves and each other, plus what each person wants from their life and relationships now, compared to when they first got together (it’s often different after a few years and children etc).

Yes, while there may be no sex in the marriage, if there is plenty of love the relationship can still last a long time. In this case, there must be a mutual agreement to proceed in this way.

But when one partner wants a sexually intimate relationship and the other partner doesn’t, there’s a serious problem that must be addressed.

For some people, love and companionship is much more important than the sexual side of the relationship.

It’s a mistake to value your relationship only on the frequency of sex. Yes, sex is a very important aspect of a healthy marriage, but there are many factors that feed into a person feeling attracted, loved, cared for, and desired which have a huge influence on how open to having sex each partner feels.



: (Alexis Shepperd, Ph.D., 2022)

Alexis Shepperd, Ph.D. 2022. Alexis Shepperd, Ph.D.. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 26 August 2022].