Research suggests that as many as 3 out of 10 people are in a sexless relationship (Relate, 2018). Whilst it’s important to acknowledge that some people are happy being in a sexless relationship, there are many people who are NOT happy about it!
So why is it so common? And what can be done about it?
Well, it’s complicated! Loss of intimacy in a relationship can happen for lots of reasons… being busy with or being too tired from work, stressful life events, mental health issues, physical health issues, having kids, mismatched sex drives & incompatible sexual desires etc.
Although it’s likely that one of you in particular is the main reason for sex not happening, both parties can feel upset with the situation. The partner wanting more sex might feel rejected, unwanted & unloved by their spouse; they might feel confusion as to why sex isn’t happening, or angry that their basic needs are not being met. The one not wanting sex might feel guilt over not being able to satisfy their partners needs; they might feel ashamed that they can’t perform, or like feel they are a failure and a let down.
So what can you do if you are unhappy in a sexless relationship? Proactive steps to take:
Talk to your partner about how you are feeling… but don’t just blurt it all out and expect it to be problem solved.
Set some time aside to talk. Take it in turns to speak & really listen to what the other person is saying; be honest and respectful in what you say. If it’s hard to talk, try writing it down in a letter or email.
Take some time for yourself to really think about the relationship that you have… are you happy with the other aspects of it? Or is something amiss there too? This can really help to figure out if this is an isolated problem or if there are bigger issues at play.
If the relationship is suffering, you will have to decide whether you want to stay and fix things, or to come to terms with it being over and leave.
If you decide that you want to stay and work on the relationship, think about what you both could do to get the relationship back on track; this part really depends on the reasons behind the lack of intimacy for you, but also needs both of you to make the commitment to work on things.
You might decide to seek out couple counselling and/or individual counselling to work through any mental health issues or newly identified problems in the relationship; seeking professional help means things can be worked through in a safe and confidential space.
Make time for intimacy; schedule regular date nights, get a babysitter in, maybe cut back on overtime at work, do whatever you need to do to make some time for each other.
… or say goodbye
It can be hard to call time on a relationship, especially if you’ve been together a long time and don’t want to have wasted it on someone who didn’t work out. Ultimately, it’s better to have shorter, happier relationships than longer, miserable ones.