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Lack of sex in marriages happens—you may call them lulls, low points, or dry spells. Long-term sexless marriages happen too. We've all heard about it, seen it (on popular talk shows, etc.), and possibly experience it. The general statistic is that about 15-20% of couples experience a sexless marriage, which is defined as having zero to 10 sexual encounters per year with their partner. Think "Happy Birthday honey. See you next year."
A dramatic lack of sex in relationships leaves many people wondering how this happens? How does a couple go two years or 10 years without sex? Everything may be normal—no illnesses, chronic issues, or disorders. So what's going on?
For those of you who think dating is tough, try making a marriage work. It seems that marriages get more complicated as time goes by; resentment for things said or done can accumulate, having children, other family that lives with you or gets involved, illnesses, stress, work overload, and the B word—boredom. Almost all of these listed is inevitable. Not much can really prepare us for the demands of marriage. There is so much involved. It can be difficult to pinpoint just one single aspect that led to sexlessness.
Quantity Versus Quality
Once married, instead of sex simply being an aspect of a couple's relationship they enjoy, it becomes an expectation. Expectations are usually things we avoid or procrastinate on doing. Oftentimes, from the woman's point of view, "sex is just another chore". From the man's viewpoint, sex is expected, but he must realize it takes work to get her into it.
Men tend to keep score on how often they get sex. Women tend to barter, giving sex in return for something they really want, like a massage. Society focuses on quantity of sex. It gets more attention than whether the sex is good or great (quality). If you want to improve the quantity, then focus on quality—maybe this means foreplay or trying new things or finding what relieves stress for your partner.
The number one rule of human nature is to seek pleasure and avoid pain; therefore if the sex is good or rewarding in some aspect, a person will seek it. Likewise, they will avoid it if they are tired, the sex isn't good, bad mood, not interested, stressed.
Men vs. Women
Women derive all pleasure from how good her sexual experience is—did the man mentally stimulate her and was he willing to please her physically, not just for his own agenda. For a woman, 'good' doesn't always mean orgasm, it means fulfilling emotionally- made her feel closer to her husband, made her feel sexy and wanted. Once married a woman does a lot of little things for a man and he may not notice- she cooks, does laundry, makes his appointments. Men enjoy these little things and women do too, but in the form of little things to help her relax or enjoy a sexual experience.
Men need sex for different reasons—if they cheat it's not because of the quality of sex within their marriage. Instead they reported or complained about the quantity (lack of sex). In fact, cheaters state the sex was good with their spouse when it happened, but it did not happen enough. For men, a sexual experience is predominantly physical, but satisfies an emotional closeness to his wife as well. Sometimes it's the only way he feels close to her so you can understand the immense importance of sex to a man.
Many men view sex as part of the foundation for a healthy relationship—if the sex is happening, then there are no problems as far as they're concerned. In actuality, sex is an expression of the relationship. For some people, they don't need sex to have a good relationship. It's important for men and women to discuss their own needs of sex with each other.
Sex vs. Desire
As a couple, people need to realize sex and desire will obviously be different for each person. Sex is different for women, physically, because women ovulate once a month for a few days. During that time they are most fertile and at a natural sexual peak—they desire the intimacy of sex. There are also times in her cycle when she will naturally want to be left alone. Women who are pre, currently menopausal, or post will experience a fluctuation (highs, lows, and unpredictability) with their sex drive. Also women on birth control pills do not ovulate, therefore a possible decrease in sex drive may occur.
When the desire between a couple fades away, sex becomes an act of just going through the motions. Some people don't need to feel desire or desirable to have sex and others do. If you want to be regarded as desirable by your spouse, take pride in yourself and your body (no matter your size or limitations. Desire is all in the mind- whether it's you or your partner's mind, desire is purely a perception.
Routine vs. Spontaneity
Many of us married folk have fallen into the routine called marriage. It's the same thing every day for my husband and I; he goes to work, I stay home with kid, he comes home, dinner time, he plays with kid while I get a mini mini-break, I put kids to bed, and then we watch TV or read until we're both asleep.
Kids create routine; dinner time, bedtime, bath time, etc. It's healthy for kids, but not for marriages. So you're probably thinking I'm going to argue that spontaneity needs to be rekindled in order for sex to increase.
Wrong! Most sex in marriages with kids, is spontaneous sex- get it when or while you can. I miss the days when my husband (before he became my husband), had to call me up and ask me on a date, I got dressed to impress, and we both knew what would be happening that night- it was planned, but hot, and something we could look forward to. I like to plan to have sex, then I can put make-up on, dress up, etc and the anticipation is like foreplay. Same can happen in a busy marriage- planning can be hot. Make a date in the schedule and flirt throughout the day.
Communication vs. Relationship
Often times, lack of sex in a relationship has nothing to do with sex, it's a symptom of something else going on. There is a problem that needs to be resolved before sex happens. Unfortunately, communication breaks down or ceases altogether when sex diminishes, and communication is the only way to detect and resolve problems within the relationship. If one or both of you are not willing to talk, then divorce becomes likely. Lack of communication and lack of sex is more detrimental to a relationship than anything. A good clue to where the problem lies is at what point the sex began to slow down significantly. If communication is interrupted, then the sex life will be, and soon the relationship will completely suffer.
If you are the partner putting sex on hold, then you need to know exactly why your motivation is to do so. Once that hurdle is demystified, then it's best to go to your partner to tell them what you need to be physical again.
Likewise, if you are the partner doing without, then it's wise to bring the topic up comfortably with the other person. Make it not about sex only. Ask if there is anything stressing the other person out or how you can help them in some way.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.