Susan Heitler Ph.D. Resolution, Not Conflict
Sexless Marriage Causes and Cures-To figure out what to do about a sexless marriage, start by seeking the causes.
A sexless marriage is a vulnerable marriage. Sex promotes the flow of oxytocin, the chemical that promotes feelings of bonding. Sex also is a free way of having fun together. Lastly, when sex is a special activity that married couples share only with each other, sexual sharing enhances the importance of keeping the marriage partnership loving and strong.
So what can a couple, or even just one partner, do when sex has disappeared from the repertoire of activities that they do together and a sexless marriage has become their new normal?
A good place to start is by checking out what has caused the decrease in sharing this generally pleasurable activity. Here's some of the most common factors that inhibit sexual sharing:
1. No private time together.
If spouses prioritize other activities over sharing sexual time, there may be trouble ahead. Sometimes there is little choice, as when couples have jobs with opposite hours. Most often however, setting up a schedule where there's no time for sex is a matter of priorities. Think again!
Note also that to want to make love with each other, having time together to refresh your connection with other fun activities or even just "hanging out" helps greatly.
Be sure to keep the cell phones and computers away during such times. Interruptions destroy bonding.
2. No privacy.
If the walls where you live are paper thin or for whatever reason you fear that normal sexual sounds will embarrass you vis a vis others in the household, this blockage merits real attention. What could you do to create more privacy? There's always options of some sort.
3. No motivation.
Some folks have minimal initial sexual drive. Others just don't experience sexual pleasure during intercourse.
Irritability, judgmental voice tones, criticism, blame and other hostile ways of interacting can easily squelch a partner's interest in sexual sharing.
Even if the receiver of this kind of negative energy is not intending to respond with resentment, revenge or tit for tat, few people feel affectionate toward sexually those who hurt their feelings.
Still others have had traumatic sexual experiences earlier in their lives that may be blocking comfort with adult sexual sharing. For this problem, acupoint tapping can be a good option, either working with a therapist or self-administered. Check out Emotional Freedom Technique on YouTube.
4. Age, which decreases initial sexual interest levels.
Age is among the easier causes of a sexless marriage to overcome. Initial sexual interest levels diminish with age. At the same time, once older folks "get going," sexual activity can still be gratifying.
The key for seniors is to find a method, such as scheduling regular sexual times, to launch sexual interactions.
Few people feel like exercising before they head out the door for the gym. Once they get going though, exercise, and sex likewise, feels good.
5. No one is taking responsibility for initiating sexual interactions.
Too much fear that the other may say no can block either from getting started. At the same time, too much saying No by one or the other partner can inhibit confidence about launching sexual contact.
6. Biological factors and psychological inhibitors.
As one reader has written in, "The two largest causes of diminished sex drive and sexless marriages are chronic illnesses like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, CFS, fibromyalgia, etc., which largely affect women and all the drugs that people (again, majority women) take, not just for physical ailments, but also for birth control and depression. Birth control pills and SSRI antidepressants slaughter libido. Together, they must work a special kind of sex-squashing magic."
In addition, negative sexual messages or experiences earlier in life can make sexuality feel dangerous, as I mention in point #3.
Sexless marriage options: What can you do if any of these factors pertain to your situation?
There are three main ways to address sexless marriage situations.
One is to begin by talking about the situation. If you choose this route be sure to use your best skills for how to communicate in a relationship about sensitive topics, focusing especially on tactful talking and open listening skills.
The second strategy is to decide that sex is important, and therefore figure out what you yourself can do differently that could help.
Third, there is now an association of certified sexual therapists. Google to find listings of these sex therapy specialists in your area. Most importantly, if you are troubled by a sexless marriage situation, address the problem squarely.
Wait and see is unlikely to prove to be a strategy that leads to change.
Some couples are fine with a sexless marriage arrangement. If either of you however would prefer that sex return to your relationship, pay attention and put your mind to problem-solving about change options. Otherwise, as I wrote above, a sexless marriage is a vulnerable marriage.
Denver clinical psychologist Susan Heitler, Ph.D, a graduate of Harvard and NYU, is author of Power of Two, a book, a workbook, and a website that teach the communication skills that sustain positive relationships.