The idea of a marriage going through periods without sex isn’t unheard of, but the problem of sexless marriages is on the rise around the world.
In a 2015 New York Times article, data analysis revealed that ‘sexless marriage’ was the most Googled phrase for spouses, with 21,000 searches every month, even beating ‘unhappy marriage’.
Now a study from Japan has revealed that nearly 50% of couples had not had sex for more than a month, and didn’t see that changing any time soon.
So what do you do if you find yourself not getting between the sheets for anything other than sleep? We spoke to two experts to find out.
1. Remember you are not alone.
Firstly remember you are not alone.
Clare Prendergast, Relate Counsellor and Sex Therapist, told The Huffington Post UK: “Remember you are not alone – research by Relate, Marriage Care and Relationships Scotland found that less than half of UK adults (45%) say they are satisfied with their sex life and 51% say they have not had sex in the past month.”
2. Identify why you stopped having sex.
People stop having sex for a range of reasons - stress, low libido, menopause, age, loss of body confidence and other related issues with sexual functioning can all play a role.
Jenny Porter, Director of Client Services for Marriage Care and relationship therapist, says: “For many women sex may be off the agenda if they are feeling neglected or unloved by their partner. For many men and women there may be an underlying physical problem such as erectile dysfunction or pain during intercourse.”
3. Know that the honeymoon period isn’t a given.
Prendergast is keen to remind long-term couples that everyone goes through dry patches, saying: “At the beginning of a relationship, sex can be feel so easy, natural and exciting. But you have to work at your sex life and make time for sex and intimacy particularly when you have been in a relationship for a while.”
4. Don’t feel pressured to have sex.
It might seem counter-intuitive but lots of couples who are having counselling for these problems actually need to start by putting a ban on sex, as this takes the pressure off.
Porter says: “Try to take the pressure off in the meantime by not feeling obliged to have sex – intimacy can be achieved in many other ways such as by cuddling or by spending more time together as a couple.”
5. Don’t think about sex as just intercourse.
Clare Prendergast, said: “Try not to think of sex as just full intercourse. You can be intimate and sensual in lots of different ways. Sometimes when couples aren’t having sex, they also aren’t touching or kissing at all. Going from nothing to full sex can seem quite daunting in that situation.
“Ideally you should build up to it gradually. Rediscover each other’s bodies and if it’s been a long time you’ll be discovering each other for what might feel like the first time because we change. What rang our bell in our twenties most likely won’t in our fifties.”
6. But do ask yourself if a sexless life is satisfying for you.
Although you might be content with a sexless marriage for the short-term, be sure to ask yourself if this would be a dealbreaker in the longer term.
Clare Prendergast, said: “Some people in sexless marriages are content with not having sex. But for others, it can really impact on their emotional wellbeing and the quality of their relationship as a whole.”
7. Be honest in communication.
Clare Prendergast, said: “Communication is key - make time to talk and listen. Go out together, have fun together, make time for each other. When both parties feel truly heard and understood often intimacy increases along with the desire to have sex with that person.
“It sounds funny but if one partner isn’t pulling their weight around the house for example, resentment can build up and that can be a big turn off.”
8. Ignore what you see in the media.
“There are many articles published on how often the ‘average’ couples has sex, which can really put pressure on couples and make them feel abnormal. Try to remember that is no ‘norm’ in a relationship – every couple is unique and has different amounts and types of sex,” says Porter.
If you are still struggling, seek help. Relate is the UK’s largest provider of relationship support, and every year they help over a million people of all ages, backgrounds and sexual orientations to strengthen their relationships.