Updated: Sep 17
My Sexless Marriage is Killing Me is a 3-part series that explores the anatomy of the sexless marriage. The ideal audience is married or committed couples who want to take their sex lives from dead to divine! Understand your sexless marriage and fix it for good!
WHAT'S IN THIS SERIES:
Part 1: Our Sexual Development & Health
Part 2: Building Sexual Confidence
Part 3: What To Do About It
My Sexless Marriage Is Killing Me
If you're in a sexless marriage, you're not alone. Research suggests that about 15% of men and 35% of women go through extended periods without having sex. And while a lack of sexual intimacy can be frustrating and even painful, it doesn't have to be the end of your relationship. There are ways to reignite the connection and bring the passion back into your marriage. If you want to get those feelings back for your spouse or inspire your spouse to get those feelings back for you, then this post is for you! In this series, I’ll walk you through how we develop as sexual beings starting in utero, through where you are right this minute. We’ll discuss what sex means to you and why; we’ll plug that into your relationship. I’ll also explore the damage a sexless relationship can have on a marriage. Lastly, I’ll help you create a plan to FIX your status and create a healthy sexual bond with your spouse and, most importantly, yourself.
🤔THINK ABOUT IT! Do you want to fix the sexual connection between you and your spouse? Sexless relationships work very well for some couples. If that’s you, I applaud you! Whether you’re the pursuer or the one who turns your spouse down if sex is something you want to fix, this is the right place for you! The most important question is - do you want to change how you relate to your spouse so that you can find pleasure in sex? If the answer is YES, read on!
Our Sexual Development
How we learn about sex, where we learn it, and with whom we learn about it shape our relationship with our sexuality. For example, a woman who was sexually abused by her stepfather starting at age 13 is likely to have a very different lens through which she experiences sex versus that of her husband. Raised in a loving environment, he grew to see sex as a healthy dynamic between a couple. If her husband pushes for more sex, she may feel triggered and shut down, leaving both spouses frustrated. Often, as in this example, sex ends up being a point of conflict between the couple.
A common issue that surprises me the most in counseling couples is how poorly people tend to communicate about sex with their spouses. Sheer incompetence at raising sexual needs has driven many a wedge into the foundations of our marriages. Some of us see sex as “dirty” and find talking about it very uncomfortable. Some of us think we’re dirty for thinking about it or looking at porn, so we hide it. Some of us find it easier to sext with a random person than to ask our partner to work with us to help improve our sexual connection. Some of us are sexually charged, and others are entirely disinterested. Many of us believe if we can’t have intercourse (due to medical or other issues), then there’s no sense in giving affection because it won’t lead to sex. Some of us believe sex IS intercourse.
Whatever your situation, from being on fire with desire to feeling like a sexual dud, we all have a relationship with our sexuality based on our life experiences. If you and your spouse have competing sex drives, you’re two different people with different brains. We experience life through our senses, and our brain tells us how to interpret what we’re experiencing. First, our emotions tell us how to respond to what’s happening. Our thinking makes sense of what’s happening and how to problem solve. A man who abuses pornography and gets his sexual satisfaction from it versus turning to his wife may have come from a super religious background where sex was sinful and discussed as demonic. His identity as a sexual being is highly flawed because of the way he learned about it.
A Healthy Sex Life
Sex between a loving couple is a normal, healthy, and essential dynamic. Research shows that relationship satisfaction positively correlates with the quality of intimacy in the relationship. In other words, couples who report healthy intimacy also say they’re highly satisfied in their relationship. I must say that it’s 100% true that sexless marriages work for some couples. And if you’re in a sexless marriage and happy, then I applaud you! This article is not written for couples who are happy without sex! However, if you have no libido or a low sex drive or feel unappreciated, or you need it daily, or whatever position you’re in, I hope you stay with me through this series on how to FIX a sexless relationship for good!
Let’s talk about SEX!
I’d like us to remove all the societal and religious noise about sex and shift the lens to help you see it from a purely human perspective. We’re all sexual beings because sex leads to procreation. The great drawing below from page 24 of the book “Come As You Are” by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., shows that men and women start with the same genitalia in utero. Twelve weeks after conception, DNA determines whether a fetus’s genital tubercle develops into a clitoris or a penis; females have two X chromosomes, and males have one X and one Y.
Most human bodies evolve pretty straightforwardly, and their genitalia is clearly distinguishable. Other bodies develop unclearly, and a person can be born with male and female parts. Some humans develop sexual organs of one gender, and their brain develops as the opposite gender; this experience is called “transgender.” This explains why young kids will clearly state they identify as the opposite gender of their bodies. Society has dictated our genetic norms over time; a human with a penis develops into a male in body and brain, and a human with a clitoris develops into a female body and brain.
Society historically says it’s “normal” for a boy and a girl to be attracted to the opposite sex, and any other experience is “sinful” or “wrong.” As scientific discoveries evolve, we learn that a female with high testosterone levels can have enlarged clitorises, balding hair, and other masculine traits. We see women who identify as lesbians (female and homosexual) look and sound masculine. We see men who seem feminine. Are these people monsters of society? Hell no! And if you believe they are, I encourage you to learn the facts. Heterosexual, homosexual, transsexual - all products of our genetics. It’s all engrained in our brains. Our gender identity and sexuality are the inner identification of a male or female, both or neither - which is a conversation for another day. How we RELATE to ourselves drives how we RELATE to our spouse.
By the time we’re about ten years old, we’re firmly planted in our gender identity, and our sexuality starts to develop. Sexual orientation is embedded in our brains. Puberty hits, and our hormones start to create the curiosity about sex that takes us into our teen years. Kids deal with their curiosity about sex differently; some of us became sexually active, remained celibate, or watched pornography. Some of us were abused on our first sexual encounter; some were exposed to sex and pornography at a wildly inappropriate age. Some of us were raised in healthy households where love was frequently shown, and some saw dysfunction, such as a mother who frequently had men coming in and out of the home or a completely absent father. We develop a foundation of our sexual experience well before we become adults.
🤔THINK ABOUT IT! What factors feed into your sexual experience? What did you know about sex as a kid? When did you become aware of sex, and how? How old were you when you became sexually active? What did your caretakers teach you about sex? How do you relate to yourself - gender and sexual identity?
By now, you should have a sense of your own sexual development. If you’re a partner with no libido, perhaps you can identify where the lack of sexual interest comes from. A client diagnosed with sex addiction told me that a trusted neighbor molested them as a kid. It started as watching porn “for fun,” and then it evolved into touching, rape, and the threat of harm if the client told. By the time the client was a young adult, they had many partners. When they married, sex was withheld because it was seen as “dirty” and “wrong.” This partner had a hard time being sexually connected with their spouse - not because of the spouse but because of the partner’s perspective and experience with sex.
Part 1: Sex and YOU
According to the World Health Organization (2006), SEXUALITY is “a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identities, roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy, and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors, practices, roles, and relationships. While sexuality can include these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.”
That last sentence is important because it influences the quality of our sex lives.
Our sexual health is feeling physical, emotionally, mentally, and socially confident in how we relate to our sexuality. Being sexually healthy doesn’t just mean we’re absent of illness. It requires us to approach sex positively and respectfully to experience safe and pleasurable sex with a partner who respects, protects, and fulfills our mission. It’s a feeling of confidence, control, and insight.
What is “sex” in a relationship, and what does it mean?
Sex in a marriage or committed relationship is an intimate experience between two consenting adults with the primary purpose of mutual pleasure. The “intimate” experience doesn’t always create a bond of intimacy. Married sex is part of the secure bond between spouses because it creates emotional closeness; the physical act of sex is an expression of that experience and provides the couple with emotional and physical pleasure.
Not all forms of intimacy are created equal; there's an array of passionate and fulfilling ways to explore each other sexually. There are many reasons why people have sex; reproduction, attention seeking, boredom, autoeroticism, connection, and coercion.
🤔THINK ABOUT IT! How would you rate your sexual health? Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent? How would you rate the frequency of sex with your partner? Sexless, Sometimes, Often, Daily? How would you rate the pleasure factor with your partner? None, Some, Plenty, Amazing? Does your partner complain about your sex life? Do you complain about it?
The primary purpose of sex is pleasure, so what does your sexual health look like when you compare it to a sexual relationship with your spouse? How often do you feel sexual pleasure, and how often does your spouse feel it?
If your partner complains that there is not enough sex, they’re probably feeling frustrated and rejected. If your partner turns you down frequently when you make a bid for sex, they’re probably feeling down on themselves or stressed. If there is no sex talk or activity between you and your partner, you’re probably in a sexless marriage.
Questions to consider:
What is your understanding of other people enjoying sex with their spouse? What kind of things do you see (media) or hear?
How does a couple create a good sex life? What is included?
When was the last time you and your partner discussed sex? Was it productive? In that case you’ve experienced success! If not, what do you need to do to change how you talk about it?
How would you describe your sex life currently? What needs to change?
Hang on to your answers for Part 2!