Sex in a relationship can be an expression of love and connection and the giving and receiving of physical pleasure. When we think of marriage, we believe that a sexual relationship will be a natural expression of the union of love. What does it really mean to have a sexless marriage or to be sexless in your relationship?
Sex can be one of the joys of being in a body. We may feel the excitement and intensity of passion and lose ourselves in that sensate physical experience. We feel soft skin, see curves, taste, touch. We hold hands, cuddle, feel the warmth of another. Nurturing bodily contact is also soothing to our nervous systems.
Relationships tend to start hot and heavy in the sexual area. Yet, as familiarity and stressors arrive, sexual contact often decreases. Sometimes the result is a sexless marriage.
And not all couples enjoy sex together. For some, it may be an awkward experience – for example, if someone has shame about their body. In addition to love and lust, shame, attraction, fear, and control are all implicated in a person’s experience of connection with their partner and, subsequently, sex. Consequently, some couples are celibate. Others may have sex outside of their marriage, or only with themselves.
Some people or couples are not that sexually oriented. They love each other and are happy together but are not very interested in sex. Consequently, it is not an essential part of their relationship. Others live for sex. For some, sex is a deal-breaker.
There is no right or wrong. If both people are happy with their sex or lack of sex lives, there is not a problem. It is 100% okay to be in a sexless marriage if both partners are happy with the situation.
But what if one or both are not? What if restoring sexual intimacy is you or your partner’s goal? Then digging deeper into what is going on is needed. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
Can you easily communicate about sex?
Communication about sex can help your sexual relationship. We all have sexual histories that have influenced our sexuality. Sharing them can help us know each other better and understand more about ourselves and our partners.
What is your sexual story?
What is your partner’s?
What is each of your fantasies?
Are you able to talk about them with each other?
What is your sexual history?
Has anything happened to either of you in the past that has impacted your feelings about sex? Many individuals have histories that affect their experience of sex. For example, if someone had been molested as a child, that could impact their sense of safety in a relationship, with the opposite gender, and during sex. Understanding how our sexual histories have impacted ourselves, and our partners can help us navigate through sexual differences.
Do you feel safe in your relationship? Or perhaps you feel angry, afraid, or have resentment towards your partner?
Having a happy connection with our partner tends to make a sexual connection better for many people. Resentment, for example, will tend to make sex be more about sex and less about connecting.
Sex is not an isolated activity, but a highly connective and meaning-making act with a history that impacts each person’s experience of sex and desire or lack of desire to have sex.
Has an illness or stress decreased your sexual desire?
Work stress, illness, or other stressors can cause a person not to have enough libido to want sex. If you feel sick, you probably aren’t that interested in having sex. If you are dealing with a long-term stressor or illness, you may want to find ways to be sexual that feel nourishing and are not taxing.
How do you navigate your sexual differences?
Most couples do not have identical sexual desires. Some couples may have enormous differences in their sexual desires. This is due to many factors, including physical chemistry, a sense of safety, sexual incompatibilities, physical illnesses, shame, and more.
It is crucial to find ways to help each partner feel that their partner cares about them sexually and respects their needs, even when they are different. Partners often trigger each other when they don’t know how to navigate through their sexual differences. For example, if one partner pursues heavily, the other may feel overwhelmed and pull away. Sometimes sexual desire is an attempt to find a connection that could also be met differently.
Are you able to enjoy sex as connection and intimacy rather than orgasming?
Some people are addicted to porn, which impacts a person’s ideas about sex and tends to make sex more of an activity to ‘get off’ rather than an activity to enhance connection. Are there two people in this sexual relationship, or is one person projecting a fantasy on the other?
Are you bored with sex?
Bring play into your sex lives can help you rekindle your desire. What feels playful to you about fantasy, sex, and bodies? There are a lot of sex games available if you need help with this!
Restoring Sexual Intimacy or Sexless?
There is nothing wrong with a sexless marriage if both partners are okay with it. Sometimes, however, working through the blocks to sex can enrich the relationship, restore sexual intimacy by bringing in the added dimension of sex.
If you want to work on your relationship – including your sexual relationships, give WeConcile a try. It is only a $60 investment to get started.
For more on relating, read The Real Relationship, Working It Out.