Living in a sexless marriage can be a real challenge.
And although not everyone gets divorced because they lack physical intimacy, the vast majority feel unappreciated, rejected, and depressed. So, when is it okay to stay in a sexless relationship, and when should you end the suffering?
In this article, you’ll learn why marriages become sexless and how many of them end in divorce. But, most importantly, you’ll discover the main signs of when it’s time to walk away from a sexless marriage.
Marriage is classified as sexless when spouses have sex less than ten times a year. In a long-term relationship, sexual attraction gradually loses intensity and novelty. Decreased sexual desire is influenced by several factors, including physiological, psychological, and social.
For example, many couples experience a drop in sexual activity with the arrival of children. In addition, financial difficulties, communication issues, jealousy, and many other conflicts also reduce the desire to have sexual contact.
Lack of sex doesn’t pose a danger to a marriage if both spouses are okay with it. But when one person is uncomfortable and frustrated, it can become a serious problem.
Sexless marriage is a relatively widespread issue - almost 15% of couples don’t have sex in their marriages. In these couples, sex went down to less than once a month or became non-existent.
They may not even share one bedroom anymore, slowly becoming roommates rather than spouses. The exact percentage of sexless marriages that end in divorce is hard to determine since couples usually don’t talk about it.
The lack of sex is not a valid reason for divorce, and that’s why many of them are initiated on other grounds, such as infidelity. As a matter of fact, staying in a marriage with no intimacy is a straight road toward cheating.
And quite often, sexless marriages fall apart, no matter how much people get along emotionally.
Men’s and women’s views on the adequate amount of sex in marriage are very different. That’s where most conflicts and dissatisfaction with relationships usually begin. It’s a known fact that women struggle with low sexual desire more often than men, especially after years of marriage.
“Desire for women is no longer spontaneous in long-term relationships,” says Laurie Betito, a clinical psychologist, in her TedTalks about sexuality.
However, she adds that sexuality is evolving, and it’s a conscious decision for women to find new workable ways to enjoy it. In other words, if the marriage doesn’t have any issues except for lack of sex, it can be saved.
But when a wife avoids sex without any good reason or uses it to manipulate the husband, sooner or later, he will decide to get a divorce.
There’s a myth that women don’t care for sex as much as men. In reality, they just aren’t comfortable expressing their desires. Since childhood, they experience pressure from society to see sex as something dirty or forbidden.
Luckily, many women learn to change their attitudes towards their sexuality in adulthood.
So, when their marriage lacks sex, they suffer as much as men. Their imagination immediately comes up with the worst scenario where their husband is having an affair. And according to studies, these concerns are more than justified.
At least 25% of men cheat in their marriages. It explains the disappearance of romance and passion between the spouses and accounts for 40%-50% of divorces.
Sexless marriage may lead to separation or divorce when it causes distress in one or both partners. Yet, some spouses take sexlessness as a convenient norm and live happily for many years.
The most important consideration that will help you decide whether it’s time to call it quits is the underlying reasons for the lack of sex. Some can be fixed by honest communication or family therapy, while others cannot.
It’s up to you to determine if these issues are critical enough to end your relationship.
Every couple has their story about how they ended up in a sexless marriage. Partners may be close emotionally and share many interests, but the relationship just doesn’t work out. So, when is divorce inevitable?
The following eight signs will help you spot a hopeless marriage.
Discussing the relationship issues and finding a solution together is one of the ways couples resolve conflicts. It’s an important skill that helps marriages survive through difficult times.
For example, an open conversation with a partner about their needs or problems causing them to avoid sex can provide an understanding of the situation.
But all the effort to improve sex life will be futile if the other spouse doesn’t want to collaborate. So, if an honest discussion, one on one or with a family therapist, doesn’t give positive results, it’s probably time to reconsider the marriage vows.
Libido mismatch, where one partner has a stronger sexual desire than the other, is a severe relationship problem.
If the inhibition of sex drives is temporary, for example, because of work stress or after childbirth, it doesn’t endanger a healthy married life. But if the desires to have sex are incompatible all the time, without change, it may lead to a marriage breakdown.
Some chronic diseases harm sexual life. For example, men can suffer from erectile dysfunction, and women can have Alzheimer’s disease. Mental illnesses, such as chronic depression when a person just wants to stay in bed all the time, cause about 60% of sexual dysfunction instances.
While leaving a partner with health issues may feel like disloyalty and lack of support, staying together can make married life unbearable for both spouses.
It’s not uncommon for married couples to lose passion for each other after many years of marriage. Some of them almost painlessly adjust to the new circumstances, while others can’t handle the lack of intense romantic feelings.
And if amidst a sexless marriage, one partner becomes attracted to other people, it’s a warning sign.
If you’re in similar circumstances and believe that the urge for physical intimacy with the other person is not a mere whim, consider ending your current relationship. After all, it could bring relief to both you and your partner.
Physical and emotional abuse is a widespread thing in marriages. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, women and men experience poor treatment in almost 20% of marriages in the U.S.
The abusive behavior includes the infliction of physical pain, isolation, manipulation, extreme jealousy, infringing on the other person’s rights to free will, etc.
Most of these couples stay together because the abused partner often tries to validate the other person’s actions. But there is no justification for violence and abuse. If the toxicity in a marriage is a daily companion, it’s time to leave.
Infidelity is one of the main reasons one partner loses sexual interest in the other because they satisfy their needs outside marriage. On the other hand, the wronged spouse is less inclined to have sex with the partner who broke their trust.
Some couples resort to sex therapy to rebuild this lost trust if the cheating spouse is willing to work on the relationship issues. Yet, if affairs are recurring despite all the effort, separation and divorce are almost inevitable.
Some spouses use sex as a way to get what they want. By withholding sex, they try to control the other person and the relationship.
Such a tactic is especially common to women whose sex drive is lower than men’s. If they often avoid sex to hurt their partner and make them come around to whatever they desire, it is high time to quit this relationship.
The loss of attraction between the spouses may not be the main reason for the lack of sex but rather a symptom of other relationship problems.
They may include financial issues, alcoholism, conflict with children from previous marriages, and disappointment in each other as a life-long partner. The point is, when a marriage suffers from a bunch of deep-rooted problems, there’s a high risk that the lack of sex will become the last drop.
Marital happiness depends on many things, and healthy sex life has a leading role. So, the absence of physical intimacy or discrepancy in desires can undermine once-thriving relationships.
Thus, a sexless marriage won’t probably survive unless both spouses are okay with not having sex.
However, if there’s still love between the spouses and they are willing to look for compromise, their marriage can be saved. Modern family therapy offers several methods to reignite sexual attractiveness and satisfy the needs of both partners.
A few examples are “altruistic sex” and building physical intimacy by regular touching and cuddling.
Taking care of each other lies at the heart of every relationship. And without effort on both sides, the foundation of marriage will eventually vanish, leading to divorce.
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