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How to Fix a Sexless Marriage

Three causes of a sexless marriage and practical steps you can take to bring back sexual intimacy.

You can fix a sexless marriage. You don’t need to give up on it or your marriage.

Sex and emotional connection are closely connected in marriage. Sex remains important throughout marriage as does emotional connection. Taking them for granted or having one without the other can make both of them disappear.

Three reasons for a sexless marriage

If you can figure out the reason you have a sexless marriage, it can help you to streamline your approach to fixing things. Otherwise, you will start with a general approach and then later focus on the main issue. This is true for all relationship problems. You do not need to take months to figure out or talk about causes.

The time spent figuring out and talking about causes is usually better used to actually work on making relationships better. Just like a firefighter, it is best to put out the fire before looking for the reason for the fire.

Knowing the causes of problems is most helpful for preventing problems before they happen or before they get worse.

For sexual problems, there are three main causes:

  1. Physical problems,
  2. Psychological problems, and/or
  3. Relationship problems.

A lack of sex can be the result of any one of these reasons or a combination of them. Also, each spouse can have one or more of these problems. For example, one spouse may have physical problems. The other spouse may have relational issues or psychological problems. Some men, for example, find that even when they overcome an erectile dysfunction issue, sex still does not improve because of other issues their wives have.

Let’s take a look at each of these problem areas in more detail.

1. Physical problems

Fatigue is the number one cause of sexual problems

If you and your spouse enjoy sex on days off or on vacation, but not at other times, fatigue would be the number one suspect. Having sex when you do not have enough sleep is like going to the gym and working out when you are tired. You may be able to do it out of discipline, but you are not going to do so well and you won’t enjoy the experience.

Getting enough sleep is a discipline we do not only to stay healthy, but also for the sake of our spouses. Justifying why you sleep less will not change the outcome of a damaged marriage. Justifications make us feel like we are not responsible, but still lead to the same problems.

Everyone has a reason for what they do. However, having a reason to do something does not mean it’s a good thing to do.

Having good reasons won’t prevent bad consequences. Prioritize what you want to keep and achieve and behave accordingly–even if you have good reasons to do other things. You may have good reasons to work a different shift from your spouse, or to take a second job. But either of these actions can create fatigue and emotional disconnection which will end your marriage.

Let’s look at another common issue.

Erectile dysfunction and sexless marriages

Erectile dysfunction is an obvious physical obstacle. It not only prevents sex and orgasm for men, it also can be a source of fear and shame. There are various medical reasons for erectile dysfunction as well as psychological reasons. If you or your spouse have this problem, then the place to start is eliminating any physical causes. Do your research and see a physician.

For many men, that is all they need to do to get things working again. Others may need to first address physical problems, and then to address emotional issues. Getting enough sleep comes first. Addressing physical issues comes next.

Remember that the key to success at anything is doing the right steps in the right order.

Selective erectile dysfunction

What many women are unaware of is that it is possible to have selective erectile dysfunction. That is, your husband may have erectile dysfunction only with you. He may still be able to achieve an erection and orgasm via masturbation or by having sex with other women. Many women have the mistaken belief that erectile dysfunction prevents sexual affairs.

Erectile dysfunction can be one side effect of a pornography addiction or an affair.

Of course the same thing can happen with women. Women can be stimulated by an affair partner even though they are not stimulated by their husbands.

Feigning erectile dysfunction is a common reason men give to “prove” they are not cheating. I would be suspicious of any man who tried to prove his faithfulness by lack of an erection with his wife.

Inhibited orgasm and sexless marriages

Hormonal imbalances, medications, and drugs may all cause inhibited orgasm, frustration, and dissatisfaction with sex. Although there is more to sex than orgasm, it is an important component. Failure for one partner to orgasm can result in frustration for both partners. It can also cause physical discomfort that can last for hours.

Failure of a partner to achieve orgasm can also result in feelings of inadequacy. Either or both spouses may blame themselves or one another. Blaming others makes things worse. Blaming ourselves is also harmful unless it leads us to taking positive actions to change.

What you can do

Many times these effects are only temporary, though the fear of them happening can maintain sexual avoidance. Share information with your partner about how these are common occurrences for everyone, young and old, occasionally. Don’t be orgasm focused and help your partner to enjoy physical intimacy without expectations.

If the problems persists, then seek medical evaluation and go to see the doctor together. If you have this problem with your spouse, but not otherwise, then stop your otherwise activities. Pornography, especially, has been associated with erectile dysfunction in young men in committed relationships.

Medical conditions unnecessarily contribute to sexless marriages

According to the National Institutes of health, several medical conditions have been found to be associated with decreased sexual desire. They are diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease, Cushing’s disease, temporal lobe lesions, menopause, coronary artery disease, heart failure, renal failure, stroke, and HIV. 

Some medications inhibit orgasm, decrease sexual desire, and performance. Recreational drugs and alcohol can do the same thing. Sometimes, to fix a sexless marriage we need to do an intervention to stop our spouse from abusing drugs or alcohol.

Decreased sexual desire does not mean total lack of desire or an inability to have sex.

It is not the physical conditions themselves, but how we deal with them that can lead to a sexless marriage.

What you can do even when there is a chronic medical condition

You do not need to give up sex even if you or your spouse has a chronic medical condition that may contribute to less desire for sex. You can still improve the experience by getting more sleep and by scheduling sex at a time of day when you will be at your best. We don’t have to have a 100% great experience or to have a sexual buffet in order to enjoy sex. Sometimes we just need a little more variety or a little less pain to make things much better.

Ageing and sexless marriages do not go hand in hand

Due to changing hormonal levels, sexual desire naturally decreases with age. This does not mean that elderly cannot enjoy sex. It just means they are not going to be as driven to it as young adults. As long as a couple don’t have a large discrepancy in their sexual desire, they can be satisfied even with less sexual activity.

Older adults may actually enjoy more sexual satisfaction than young adults who may be more orgasm focused, and less emotionally focused. Stereotypes about elderly not being supposed to have sex can also needlessly lead to a sexless marriage.

FYI: The Bible has many examples of sexually active elderly couples and talks about sex as a good thing–as long as people are married when they do it.

2. Psychological problems and sexless marriages

Depression and Schizophrenia have both been associated with a marked decrease in sexual desire.

What you can do

If you have one of these conditions, be sure that you are treated for it and using good skills to cope with it. If your spouse has one of these conditions, do not be codependent for the disorder. Be prepared to use boundaries as an intervention to get your spouse to seek treatment if he or she will not do that voluntarily. It does no good to be patient and understanding for a disorder that can be treated and, left unchecked, is going to cause misery for both of you.

Love requires us to take effective action to help the person we love, even if they don’t like it. That never includes criticizing, arguing, or complaining. These are not loving and just do more damage.

You will never fix any problem, including a sexless marriage, by criticizing, arguing, or complaining.

3. Emotional distance–the number one contributor to sexless marriages

Emotional distance often occurs when a couple no longer makes the daily and weekly time to be with each other, as they did when they were engaged. This is the number one contributor to failed marriages, affairs, and sexless marriages. People do not lose the need for interactive, romantic relationships when they get married.

Putting emotional needs and physical desires on hold until the kids are grown or the business is built is not a viable option. A weekly date, daily time together, and an enjoyable sex life are all part of maintaining an emotional connection. Sometimes relationships get shortened down to just sex. When that happens, the emotional connection cannot be maintained and then the sex goes, too.

Many men I work with thought their marriages were fine because they were having sex, although they had no other quality time with their wives. Women need to be aware that men often have this perception and stop having sex if the emotional connection stops. Unless the sex stops, some men will not be motivated to spend more time with their wives.

What you can do

Sex should not be withheld as a punishment. But, it should be withheld until the relationship has developed emotional intimacy. When physical intimacy comes before emotional intimacy, emotional intimacy tends to be weak or nonexistent.

You should not consider your relationship problem to be sexual unless both of you are emotionally satisfied. A sexless marriage is usually a symptom, rather than a cause, of emotional connection deficiencies.

Men who want more sex need to help their wives to enjoy nonsexual time together and nonsexual touch. Being critical or demanding never increases a woman’s sexual desire.

Spontaneity is impractical for maintaining an emotional connection in marriage, especially when one or both partners are busy. Date nights, sex, and daily time together need to be made a regular part of the schedule. 

Change should be made gradually

If you don’t typically spend much time together and then suddenly start spending time together every day, you will soon stop. Big changes require big effort, and big efforts feel unnatural and are hard to maintain.

If you go from a few dates a year to one date a month, you will have quadrupled your dating. If you go from spending one on one time together once a week to twice a week, you will have doubled your one on one time. More important than getting to daily time together or weekly dating right away is making sure the time you do have together is enjoyable.

If your one on one times or dates feel like a job, you don’t look forward to them, and you or your spouse are glad when they are over, then you need to make them more enjoyable and decrease their duration.

Good, short interactions lead to longer, good interactions. Bad long interactions lead to no more interaction. Relationships build best with brief and enjoyable interactions which gradually increase as the relationship improves.

Many people I work with have failed to improve on their own because they were trying to spend too much time with their spouses. This created more distance. Instead, they needed to learn how to be more enjoyable while decreasing time with their spouse. This creates desire.

Just spending time together will not build a relationship. It must be quality time.

Quality time is interactive. Watching TV or using your phone is not quality time.

Bonus tip: Make sure you are a skilled sexual partner

Many people don’t like to have sex with their spouse simply because their spouse is not good at it. Even if that is not a main reason, it can contribute to the other reasons.

If you want to have a good sexual relationship, it is important that you be a skilled sexual partner. Getting pregnant does not take skill. Satisfying a spouse emotionally and physically does. Most men and women are only mediocre in their sexual skills. Your spouse may not get much physical or emotional enjoyment having sex with you.

Don’t consider your spouse having an orgasm to be proof that you are a good lover.

Learning how to please the other gender sexually can only add to your value as a spouse. Both men and women value more a partner who is good in bed. Although your partner may not complain about your performance, like in all areas of your marriage, you should strive to give your spouse a better experience than he or she could have with someone else. (I don’t teach this skill–you will need to use other resources and there are many). 

Just make sure you don’t try to learn from pornography. Good sex is never like that.

The bottom line: A sexless marriage is a symptom of an underlying problem

It could be medical, psychological, relational, or some combination. You can either try to pinpoint the cause and work on that or just work to enhance all three. If you can get 25% more improvement by sleeping more, 25% more improvement by working on psychological issues, 25% more improvement by being more of a boyfriend or girlfriend for your spouse, and 25% more improvement by learning to be a little more skillful sexually, you will have improved your sexual relationship by 100%, and made your health and happiness better at the same time.

People who succeed do so not by single step solutions, but by step-by-step solutions.

You can be the one to fix your sexless marriage for both of you

Working on your own, making good changes, is typically more effective than trying to get a spouse to work with you. This is why I don’t work with couples for dealing with relationship problems.

One person can create change more quickly and easily than working with a reluctant spouse.

If you would like to work with me to learn how to help your spouse enjoy you more and desire you more, I would be happy to help.

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