Can a Sexless Relationship Be Happy and Healthy?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

If you’ve stopped having sex in your relationship and it’s bugging you, read on

Text: Jo

According to research, Greece is the most sexually active country in the world. Amid the white-washed buildings and servings of moussaka, every mature citizen there is reported to be having sex at least once every two days. Brazil comes a close second, with Russia not far behind. Across the globe, we are conditioned to believe that we should all be having as much sex as possible. But what if you’re not having sex and are in a sexless relationship?

ishonest No.501 - Frizzy Hair

No.501 - Frizzy Hair

Sex in a relationship comes with undeniable health benefits that extend well beyond the bedroom. It’s proven to lower blood pressure, increase immunity, lessen pain, improve sleep, ease stress, and much more. Yet despite the positive attributes, not everyone couple are getting down to it. There are varying definitions of a sexless marriage or sexless relationship, but it’s most quoted as being any partnership where sexual intimacy occurs 10 times or less within a year period.

Ebb and flow

Perhaps you used to be a do-it-daily type of marriage. Maybe a few times a month sufficed. There are couples who are happy to not have sex for their own reasons such as illness, early stages of motherhood or not being in the same country. If there has been a change in your sexual frequency as your relationship has developed, that’s also perfectly natural.

“Sex ebbs and flows over time and as we age, but the reasons it starts to stall are many and include everything from health issues to lifestyle factors,” says Andrew Da Roza, psychotherapist and sex addiction specialist at Promises Healthcare. “It can result from a great many combinations of variables such as sexual dissatisfaction, an emotional disconnection with your partner, poor communication, work stress, or simply a lack of privacy, space and sleep.”

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Andrew also highlights how human beings are essentially a paradoxical bunch. “We desire nurturing and supportive relationships that give us a sense of safety, security, familiarity and predictability. Yet we also seek novelty, excitement, mystery, unpredictability and a journey of transcendence in relationships. From this perspective, it makes sense that couples can come to a ‘sexual standoff’.”

It’s here that things get complicated: without sufficient communication, side- effects of a sexless relationship for a couple can include anger, frustration and resentment in one or both people. “A lack of sex can perpetuate feelings of rejection, low self-esteem and insecurity that you’re no longer attractive to your other half,” says Winifred Ling, couples therapist and relationship coach at Promises. In the worst case scenario, should one partner feel they’re not getting their needs met, it can lead to them seeking sexual satisfaction elsewhere.

Get back on track

While this sounds pretty grim, the good news is that your sex life can be revived if you both want it. As with all relationship issues, communication is key. “Choose a time to talk when you’re both calm and in a good space to identify how you’re feeling about the lack of sex,” suggests Winifred. “Be open to speaking out sensitively and honestly — broach when and how often you’d like sex to take place, what’s good in your current sex life and what needs to be improved.” If this is tricky to do together, seek a neutral third party in such as a psychologist or councellor to facilitate the dialogue and provide a safe space for discussion.”

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No.231 - Pigmentation & Blemishes

Of course, once you’ve spoken you’ve got to walk the talk. “Your actions have to be consistent with your words,” says Winifred. “The worst thing is when one partner feels invisible and alone in a relationship even though you’re physically together. Revive loving feelings in a sexless relationship by remembering what you love about one another, and affirm each other through words and actions such as hugs and touch. Show kind and generous gestures regularly (a kissy face emoji or a quick message keeps the connection going). Do the small things often to show you care and see your partner.”

Also, be mindful that sex doesn’t always have to be limited to intercourse, and sexlessness doesn’t have to mean a loss of intimacy. Physical intimacy, including cuddling, oral sex, manual stimulation and sharing sexual fantasies, contribute to bringing you closer which can then lead to a more fulfilling sex life.

“Ultimately, no one should tell you what to do in a relationship,” says Winifred. “So, if you’re having less sex than you think you ‘should be’ and are fine with it, there’s nothing to be worried about. What makes for a happy and healthy sexual relationship is meeting the needs of both partners and bonding as a couple. Only you get to decide if you fit into society’s definition of a sexless relationship or not.”

If you are having communication problems, issues with sexual arousal or painful sex within your relationship, it might help to seek support from a trained professional.

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