In the Bedroom
Do You Have a Sexless Marriage?
Who does, why and what you can do to prevent one … if you want to
-Julie Ryan Evans
*Georgia married *Tom about 12 years ago, and initially they had a healthy sex life. But after a few months went by, the heat started to cool, and the periods between have sex stretched out further and further … until it eventually stopped.
They haven’t had sex since.
“Initially, he said he was tired and depressed because he was having trouble finding a job,” Georgia says. “Then it became that I was working too much and had too many things going on independent of him. He would say that I was the reason we weren’t having sex, even though I was always ready and offering. … I started gaining weight and really thinking I was unattractive. So then he started blaming it on my weight. It was always something.”
And for millions of American couples, that’s it – it’s always something.
Something that postpones it, then something else that postpones it further, until neither partner can remember the last time they had sex … or even why it was so important in the first place. Dr. Phil calls sexless marriages an undeniable epidemic. Experts — who define a sexless marriage as having sex 10 times a year or less — estimate that there are 20 million to 40 million couples living such lives. 20 to 40 million!
Dr. Leslie Seppinni, says the reasons people fall into a sexless marriage are varied. She says many people don’t realize that whatever issues a couple has prior to getting married are still there after they get married, even exacerbated by the demands of marriages.
“Those issues from before, if they aren’t resolved, wind up separating the couple in the bedroom,” Seppinni says. “So superficially you may think a couple has a great marriage, but behind closed doors, when they go to bed they’re not having an intimate relationship.
In other cases, she says couples get married and the sex wasn’t that good to begin with, but they marry anyway thinking that this person is THE ONE and the can live with the fact that the sex isn’t that good.
“It’s not until they’re married and ‘stuck’ that they realize that sex is a much bigger part of the relationship than they estimated in terms of importance,” she said.
Sometimes couples end up in sexless marriages because a partner changes, and it’s not what their spouse thought would happen. “So the spouse withholds sex because it’s the only thing they feel in control over in the relationship,” Seppinni explains. “They feel vulnerable because they feel their partner has changed, and so even if their partner tried to initiate sex again, the spouse that hasn’t changed is then resistant.”
Seppinni says it’s important for couples to be aware of the intimacy, or lack thereof, in their marriage.
“When a marriage becomes sexless, a lack of sex or affairs is symbolic of the relationship not working,” she says. “So by the time you get to the point where there’s no sex happening, it’s pretty damaged and will require a committed effort on both parts to bring back intimacy.”
She offers some warning signs that your marriage may be headed in a sexless direction:
• Gradual decline in amount of times you have sex (willingness to let things interfere like job, kids, preferences like time of day).
• One partner constantly asking or initiating sex and the other person always giving an excuse for why it can’t happen.
• One person may start making comparisons such as “I’ve noticed that other women have their nails done and wear lingerie to bed” or “Other men wear boxer briefs.” Usually it’s a statement that references people in general but they could be thinking of someone specific they have in mind, someone they find attractive or have a crush on.
• The couple doesn’t go to bed at the same time regularly – one person stays on the computer, in the living room etc.
• You stop having playful flirtations with each other that you had at the beginning of the relationship.
Can a marriage do a u-turn and get back on the highway to a healthy sexless life? It’s challenging for sure says Seppinni. “… you still think about your previous history of sex together and what the limitations were. Let’s say you had a particular type of sex life with your partner and it ended. Now, the partner wants to reinitiate sex. It’s challenging because you had a pattern with how sex is initiated and who does what, and when one person tries to alter that the other person feels more vulnerable because that has changed. They can start becoming distrustful and thinking the other person is cheating, which worsens the situation since an intimate relationship requires trust.”
But there are some things you can do. She offers these tips:
Seek help. In order for you to get back on track, you really need to have an intervention with an outside person who can be objective, such as a marriage counselor.
Take responsibility. Personal responsibility is key. It’s up to you to keep the romantic feel going. “Date Nights” are a good idea for married couples, especially those with kids, and that should end in sexual intimacy. Sexual intimacy is a very important part of date night.
It’s really your personal responsibility to remember that you made a commitment to this person, and whatever is going on with you is not just about you. It doesn’t affect only you, it also affects the person you are with. It’s on you to address the issue head on. Just because you decided, for example, that you’ve gained too much weight and don’t want to be seen naked, it’s not good enough, because you are still responsible for the other person’s needs. It’s a partnership– it only works if you’re both actively engaged.
Spice things up. If sex is boring, use fantasy and role play to make it more fun. Become spontaneous and creative again, become open to new things. Think creatively and outside the box, without judging the other person for their fantasies and desires. Physically stepping outside the bedroom can interrupt the pattern you as a couple have had, so you can then start slowly getting to know each other again.
So tell us, are you in a sexless marriage? And if so, how did you get there and do you want to change things … or does it work for you? E-mail your story to Julie@BettyConfidential.com, and we promise to keep your identity confidential if you choose!