Sexless Marriage? What to Do About It

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Sexless Marriage? What to Do About It

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD


You miss sex. Over time, it has become less frequent until it has finally all but disappeared – or perhaps has truly disappeared altogether. In its place is an increasing tension. You might have unsuccessfully tried to fix the problem with candlelit dinners, sex toys, or romantic getaways. Maybe you’ve tried to talk about it – or maybe you only address it when a situation triggers you to explode. In any case, nothing has worked. So, now what?

Rather than trying to fix the problem head-on (finding a way to have more sex) you might do better to focus on the ways that you and your partner are experiencing this situation. Consider your own thoughts and feelings. And focus on your partner’s thoughts and feelings. This can be difficult to do without becoming so overwhelmed with your emotions that you lose the ability to think clearly about the situation. If this happens, find a way to calm yourself. Then come back to understand and have empathy for both of your experiences. Hopefully, from this perspective, you will also have compassion for both of your struggles.

When you talk with your partner, keep in mind that the conversation will not be a quick one. You need to take it slowly so that you each understand the other and feel understood. This will help you address the immediate problem that is really keeping you stuck – which isn’t the lack of sex in your marriage, but rather, your failure to work together to solve the lack of sex in your relationship.

After coming together on the issue, you might find that you have a new focus. You might listen better or with more empathy to your partner. But listening is only part of the equation. You must also be sure that your partner feels truly heard. Talk until you and your partner feel that you truly “get” what your partner feels in regards to your sex life and your relationship in general.

It is equally important, of course, that you feel heard and understood, too. You must clearly express your own experience and be persistent about it. If you partner doesn’t seem to understand, try to express yourself in another way, or pick a different time or place to talk about it.

Sometimes it’s hard to decide who goes first in sharing their experience, or how to negotiate both of you feeling heard. But it can help to repeatedly come back to assuring each other that you want both of you to be happy. Once you have achieved a sense of being on the same team, though having different personal experiences, you can work more effectively together to resolve your issue. It might involve some compromise or moving a bit outside your comfort zone. If you are both stumped about how to move forward, you might decide to look for outside help – either from self-help resources or by seeking out professional help from a couples therapist or a sex therapist.

Your sex life is clearly not just about quantity – how often you have it – but also quality. It is also about two people coming together physically to express their emotional or psychological connection. So, think and talk about any difficulties that might be based in the physical act of sex as well as those that might be based in the dynamics of your emotional connection. If you come together effectively around your struggles as a couple, you will hopefully find a way to increase your intimacy on both physical and emotional levels.


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