What about marriages where there is no longer physical intimacy? Can these relationships be saved?
It is estimated that 15%-20% of married couples in the United States have not had sex in the past 6 months to a year. This does not include the over 50% of unions that end in divorce.
A sexless marriage is not merely not having intercourse, but rather it is not experiencing intimate activity at all.
Lack of physical intimacy can lead to decreased feelings of satisfaction within the relationship. It fosters feelings of loneliness and resentment towards a partner. For many, physical intimacy is necessary for the marriage to survive and work. However, physical or sexual interactions are not the only way to achieve intimacy and connection. Emotional intimacy is a necessity for couples to remain connected and happy. Emotional connection is often a conduit to physical connection and sexual satisfaction.
While some marriages can function without physical or sexual intimacy, marriages without emotional connection do not.
It is very common to struggle with sex at some point over the course of a long, committed relationship. Sex can stop as a result of many things. Depending on the culprit, the issues can be worked on or resolved. There are instances where intercourse never returns, and couples find creative ways to remain physically and emotionally connected.
The key factor is the willingness to work together. Intimacy can be achieved and attained when two people work together to have it. When partners don’t line up, or agree on the rules and the roles of the relationship, it creates a disconnect. It is especially challenging when one partner is unhappy with the status quo of the relationship, and the other is perfectly content. When there is disagreement about how to manage sexual needs, therein lies the conflict.
First, partners need to agree on whether or not they want a sexless relationship. If they both agree to that, as there are a plethora of reasons sexual priorities shift, then they must also agree about how they will maintain their emotional intimacy.
If they disagree, and they wish to bring sex back into their relationship there are a few ways to do that:
1. Talk openly and candidly about what each partner needs: expressing desire can be awkward and difficult, but it is a necessary part of communication that builds intimacy. This requires getting a sense of one’s own needs by developing a healthy relationship with your body.
2. Make time on your schedule: this sounds obvious and unnecessary. However, couples lack the time to discuss sex. They make less time to have sex. Busy lives can lead to disconnection. Prioritize connecting on your schedule.
3. Explore: experimenting and discovering can add excitement and newness to couples. Focus on the journey and not the destination: pay attention to the non-intercourse activities and interactions.
These three steps can be helpful to couples that simply have fallen away from one another.
If a lack of sex is the result of stress or trauma, those issues must be resolved with a professional. It can be very helpful to engage with a therapist who can help guide and assist with resolution of those underlying issues. Since emotional intimacy can be linked to sexual intimacy, a therapist can also assist with getting couples back on track with their communication, their emotional bids, and building trust.