I am livid about a recent Huffington Post article espousing how one could not only hold together, but thrive in a sexless marriage. I posted this article on Facebook and the responses I got ranged from “unbelievable” to “self-imposed sexual abuse”. The more I sat with this article the angrier I became especially considering the source which until now I believed to be extremely sex positive and one of the few nationally respected publications that actually deals with sex intelligently. The fact that this was about couples 50 plus pissed me off even more.
This issue is very personal for me having lived in a sexless marriage for almost two decades. I had my reasons, as does everyone who experiences this. Fear of being alone, financial dependence, not wanting to break up the family, all can play a role.
In an earlier post on this topic, I received some very valid feedback and want to be clear that I certainly appreciate and support a decision made by a married couple to be asexual if that’s what they both truly want. We all go through different stages of sexuality including being asexual. This article is about those couples in which one of the partners is essentially “forced” into celibacy because of lack of desire from the other and ends up becoming sexually shut down.
The sad facts are that national surveys show that 15-20% of couples are in a sexless marriage but I suspect that number is significantly under-reported and certainly does not account for the large number of men and women who stay in their marriage and have completely unsatisfying sex lives. Not surprisingly, the divorce rate in sexless marriages is considerably higher than the norm.
There are a many reasons why married couples stop having sex. Lack of time for intimacy is one of the leading causes and that is relatively easy to resolve. But what I see so often in sexless marriages is a deep despair, from one or both partners, about the foundation of the relationship. Problems with sex are most often a symptom of significant relationship issues. Low libido, which is a typical complaint for both men and women, is more often a symptom of something gone awry in the relationship itself, than hormonal changes. Since orgasms actually prevent the risk of mild depression and increase libido, the lack of sex becomes its own Catch 22.
Here are some things you can do if you are in a sexless marriage:
- Nip it in the bud if you can. Do not brush this under the table thinking that it will go away or resolve itself. It won’t.
- Talk about it with your partner. Communicating your concerns, needs, and desires with your partner is critical to finding a solution that will work for both of you.
- Define what “sex” means. If the relationship is solid and there are physical issues in the way that are making intercourse impossible, then you may have to change your definition of what having sex means. There are endless ways to pleasure each other, have amazing orgasms and connect without having intercourse.
- Consider opening up the relationship. If one spouse really desires sex and the other one doesn’t or can’t, there are still ways to get one’s sexual needs met. This has to be done from a place of love, consent and stellar communication but many married couples do successfully open their relationship. There are loads of resources on open marriages and some great therapists and coaches. Top of my list is Marcia Baczynksi who runs the program “Successful Non-Monogamy”.
- Get profesional help from a sex coach, therapist, or Tantra educator. My strong preference is to work with someone whose focus is on somatic sex coaching and can work specifically with a couple on initiating touch and teach them how to juice up their sex lives. As a Tantra Teacher, I often teach couples how they can connect with each other in a very powerful, but not necessarily sexual way.
The key thing is to recognize that you do not have to accept living in a sexless marriage…so there Huffington Post!