Can You Fix a Sexless Marriage? 5 Tips You Need to Know
A loveless marriage is a marriage in which you and your partner are able to act as a functional team and live together (fairly) harmoniously, but the emotional and intimate connection is lost. A loveless marriage is notably different from a rough patch, which is often characterized by intense, fiery fights or a specific altercation. While sometimes rough patches are icy rather than explosive, they are still notably different from a loveless marriage, because you are at odds with your partner.
If you are in a loveless marriage, you and your partner probably aren’t generally upset with each other but you also are not content. A loveless marriage feels bad and can actually manifest in physical illnesses like headaches, back pain and stomach issues. While a lack of sexual intimacy is one of the main characteristics in a loveless marriage, it is not the only characteristic. Loveless marriages lack intimacy in all forms, romantic, physical and sexual, and leave you and your partner living more like roommates than life partners. There are many different things that lead to a lack of intimacy, such as high stress levels, mismatched libidos, mental health issues that affect your self esteem or sex drive and an inability to talk about sex in an open way. Stress levels are likely to fluctuate throughout a marriage, but sometimes stress levels can cause significantly lower your sex drive which can lead to a loveless marriage. Additionally, mismatched libidos (and an inability or lack of comfort around talking about sex) can also lead to a sexless, loveless marriage. Mental health also plays a huge role in people’s sex drive and whether it’s a mental health issue, or the medication to treat the condition, sometimes your sex drive will take a hit and your marriage will lose intimacy.
While overcoming these causes to a sexless marriage can be difficult, it’s important to note that it is possible to reintroduce intimacy to your marriage... even if it’s been a while. Even if your bodies are changing and you have to relearn intimacy with your partner. A lot of people stay in sexless marriages, despite how horrible and unfulfilling they are, out of a duty to their children, a resistance to change or just a fear that there is nothing better out there. While being in a sexless marriage might feel heroic or unselfish or praiseworthy, it is actually just bad for everyone involved. Instead of being miserable, you should try and take active steps towards introducing love and sex back into your marriage. Or you should recognize if it is time to call it quits and just move on. Before that difficult step, take a look at these tips for how to fix a sexless marriage:
1. Work on communication and expressing your wants and needs
Marriage is all about communication. It’s important to communicate about every aspect of your marriage from your financial status, to your emotions, to your sexual wants and needs. If you want to successfully get out of a sexless marriage, and reintroduce intimacy, you and your partner will have to talk about your wants and needs both inside and outside of the bedroom. Just think about it! If your partner is letting you down in the emotional support department, or in the parenting department or in some other way, then you are probably not going to want to be intimate with them. You will probably be angry at them and will shut down intimacy or any kind of closeness. If you are consistently disappointed with your partner, you need to express this to them. They may not know that they are letting you down or that you are upset with them, which will lead them to do the same upsetting things until you speak up. Asking for help and support and receiving it from them will make you feel closer, and will likely inspire a degree of intimacy. When you are being intimate, it is also important to express your sexual wants and needs to your partner. If you are not sexually fulfilled while having sex, you will be less inclined to have sex in the future. This is definitely an area in which you have to articulate exactly what you want and need. While it may seem awkward or difficult at first to express what you need in the bedroom (even if you have had sex a bunch of times) it is imperative that you do so that sex is fulfilling for both of you. This will encourage more intimacy in the future, which can help break you out of a sexless, loveless place in your marriage.
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2. Explore other ways to be intimate
While sex does play a huge role in the intimacy aspect of marriage, it is not the only form of intimacy out there. Going from a sexless marriage to having sex on a regular basis is not going to happen over night, especially if you and your partner are not being intimate in other ways. Even if you are being sexually intimate, it’s also important to explore other ways to be intimate. Focusing on emotional intimacy is a super important exercise if you are serious about rekindling the love in your marriage. Emotional intimacy requires establishing and/or reestablishing trust and open communication. We say reestablishing here, because sometimes periods of sexlessness in a marriage can cause partners to feel distant, misunderstood and even alienated from their partners. While exploring emotional intimacy, it’s important to assess where your levels of trust and open communication are, and move forward to improve these aspects of your relationship. In addition to emotional intimacy, it’s important to explore physical intimacy aside from sex. Things like hugging, kissing, cuddling and massage can help you establish and/or reestablish physical closeness with your partner. Doing this will help you feel comfortable around each other again, which will likely help your sex life. Exploring intimacy, and just generally increasing levels of emotional and physical intimacy in your marriage will lead to sexual intimacy and more connection overall.
3. Deal with your underlying problems
As we said above, sexlessness is often a result of stress, mental health issues and differences in libido can all be causes of the sexlessness in a marriage. If you know that one of these things is an underlying problem in your marriage, then you will need to work to address it in order for things to change. Identifying the problems and coming up with solutions will require a lot of open communication between you and your partner. If stress is an underlying issue for one of you, brainstorm stress management techniques. Or consider ways in which one partner can reduce the stress of the other, whether this is taking on more household chores, working more, etc. If the underlying issue is related to mental health issues then you or your partner should seek out a therapist or counselor to work through these problems. A lot of times, one partner’s problems (whether they are related to mental health or not) put a lot of strain on their partner. So while it’s important to pursue individual therapy, it’s also important to pursue couples therapy so that you can work through your problems as a couple. Seeking professional advice can also help you work through things like communication problems, which is one of the most common causes of marriage problems and a lack of intimacy. A trained therapist can help you learn to articulate your wants and needs inside and outside the bedroom. As much as we all want to deal with our problems on our own, sometimes it really is best to defer to a professional. Whether you decide to tackle your underlying problems on your own, or turn to a specialist, your intimacy problems won’t go away until you address the root cause.
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4. Meeting needs outside of the marriage
If you have tried to improve your communication as a couple, explore other forms of intimacy and address the underlying problems in your marriage that are getting in the way of intimacy and your marriage is STILL lacking intimacy, you and your partner can consider looking outside of your marriage to fulfill your sexual needs. While the idea of polyamory used to be rather taboo, it is becoming more commonplace for people to pursue relationships with multiple people at one time. If you and your partner are committed to being a couple, but intimacy is just not clicking for the two of you, it is a good idea to consider having sex with other people so that your sexual intimacy needs are being met. Like we said, this idea might seem a little crazy at first, but a lot of people find that this is a good solution when sex with your partner is not meeting your sexual needs. Of course, this is something that you will need to talk about and really consider as a couple so that any decisions are consensual. Polyamory comes in many different forms, so it’s important to consider what meeting your needs outside of the marriage will look like. Think of creating a rule book of sorts. Are certain people off limits? Are you comfortable with your partner seeing multiple other people? Will it exclusively be a sex thing, or will emotional intimacy be allowed? Cultivating sexual relationships with people outside of your marriage can help you both feel more fulfilled. And operating inside of the rules you have established can actually increase your trust of one another, which can improve your relationship. Exploring your sexuality in this way may even inspire you and your partner to be intimate with each other again, though this is not always the case. If this is the course of action you choose to pursue, make sure that you check in with one another frequently so that you are consistently on the same page about your relationship. You can always change your mind if you become uneasy with this idea at any point, but it is definitely worth a try if you and your partner are committed to staying together by any means possible.
5. Know when to move on
If you have tried all these steps and still find yourself in a sexless marriage, then it might be time for you to move on. Sometimes your problems are so deep that they cannot be solved. Other times, individuals’ problems become too much for the partnership to handle. And other times, couples just grow apart in a way that cannot be reconciled. Understanding when to move on, and then actually ending things and moving on is crucial if you want to maintain an okay relationship with your partner. This is especially important if you have kids and are planning to co-parent. If you don’t understand when to move on, or choose not to even when you know you should, you are only prolonging the suffering of yourself, your partner and anyone entangled in your marriage (aka children, other family members, close friends, etc.). Sexless marriages are not happy, and there’s a good chance that the important people in your life will either a) Notice your unhappiness or b) Get sucked in your unhappiness with you. Some people believe that they can stick it out in a sexless, loveless marriage, and think that they would rather stay together than admit that the marriage is failing. Instead of viewing a sexless marriage as a personal failure, consider it an incompatibility and try to salvage a platonic relationship with your partner and part ways amicably. Doing this requires a lot of maturity, and an awareness of when enough is enough. Sometimes it can be helpful to consult a professional during this time to help you understand what ending your marriage would look like and to walk out different scenarios before you actually pull the plug. If you do come to the decision to end your loveless marriage, just know that there is the possibility of love and sexual fulfillment in your life.
Doing the work to fix a sexless or loveless marriage can be really difficult, but leaning on the relationship coaches at Relish can make the process easier and more successful in the long run. Click here to start chatting with a relationship coach for free.