A whopping 15 to 20% of couples are reportedly living in sexless relationships. Sex is one of the most important things for a healthy partnership and most people agree, according to a 2007 Pew Survey. So why are so many of us not having it?
A relationship is only sexless when one partner is unhappy with frequency. Generally, sexlessness is defined as having sex 10 times a year or less (so about once a month or less). However, if a couple is happy with that amount then it’s not a bad thing. Everyone is different, but when one partner has a higher sex drive than the other and is upset because of it, that’s when it can cause relationship problems and is defined as sexless.
It’s a very common problem. An estimated 40 million Americans are in sexless relationships, and this number has shown an upward trend over the years. According to one study conducted in 2017, couples had sex 16 times less per year between 2010 and 2014 than they did between 2000 and 2004. So why is sexlessness so common and not getting better? It turns out that it’s pretty complicated and there are a number of causes.
People get lazy. Once the initial spark of new love is gone, some couples don’t realize that it takes work to maintain that excitement or they’re just too lazy to work on fixing it. If you don’t keep the communication going and aren’t paying attention to your partner’s needs, you can lose that connection, which makes your sex life suffer. Technology and social media have also made it easier to ignore your problems than ever before. It’s important not to get so comfortable in your relationship that you’re not taking the time to make sure you’re both on the same page, and to continue to put effort into nurturing your relationship and sex life.
Hurt feelings could be interfering. If one partner’s sex drive is higher than the other’s, that partner can become resentful (from being rejected) and may just give up after a while. This can continue until it’s been months since the couple has had sex. If there has been an affair, this can also lead to a lack of sex because there’s no trust in the relationship. It can be really difficult to get that trust and intimacy back.
Financial stressors can have a negative impact. If a couple is having money problems, it can understandably affect their sex life, especially if it’s causing a lot of arguments. However, finances can affect men and women differently. One study, for example, showed that men making less than their partner was linked to sexlessness (not for women though). In contrast, women were more affected sexually by their overall financial dissatisfaction than men were.
Medical or psychological problems could be the cause. There are many medical reasons for an altered sex drive that could be making a relationship sexless. Menopause, childbirth, and hormonal imbalances in women can all lower libido. Erectile dysfunction and low testosterone in men can make sex drive plummet. Pain with sex (for example, due to vaginal dryness) or a history of sexual abuse, chronic pain or illness, and drugs like antidepressants and birth control pills can alter your sex drive. Other psychological issues like poor body image, anxiety, and depression could be causing your sex life to take a hit as well.
Physical exhaustion and stress could be to blame. If a couple has children, it can often leave little time for sex. Parents are often so exhausted that they have no energy for it. Another cause of stress for couples could be from infertility. People can also be exhausted from the demands of work or financial stress as mentioned before. Various life stressors can all cause sex to be put on the back burner, leading to sexless relationships.
Loss of physical attraction can make sex a chore. This is totally superficial, but apparently, it’s a common complaint in couples seeking therapy for a sexless relationship. If you’re not physically attracted to your partner, it can obviously be more difficult to be in the mood to have sex.
The good news is that it can be fixed! There are a number of things you can do if you’re in this situation. Communicate what you’re feeling to your partner. Schedule sex if you have to. It may not sound romantic, but it does work. Try new things in the bedroom to reignite that spark. Do more things together or find a common interest to bond over, like going to the gym together. Go to a therapist. Address any underlying problems like resentment toward your partner. If you have a physical issue then try to address that with your doctor. Sexlessness is a common problem, and if you’re unhappy in your relationship, you shouldn’t have to live with it.