Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
What does it mean to be in a sexless relationship? It can be difficult to put a concrete number on it, but it is usually agreed upon that having little or no sex in a year constitutes a sexless relationship. Every relationship is different and for this reason it’s difficult to quantify what constitutes a sexless relationship.
One thing is for certain, Americans seem to be having less sex. A study published in 2021 found that there is a decline in sex among all age groups. In fact, there are several studies that have discovered similar findings. You may be asking, “what the heck is going on!?!”
Well, this is a complex question as many factors seem to play a part. Relationship dynamics, individual preferences for sexual activity, societal/cultural stressors all play a role. But there are two factors that may give us more clarity.
There are definitely two things we want to look at when conceptualizing sexless relationships – the quality of the relationship and life changes. Sex is more likely to decline when a couple is going through a rough patch. Couples generally have less sex when the communication is off, or when one or both partners are hurt, but are not communicating it.
The opposite is true, when relationship satisfaction is higher, the sex tends to be more frequent and it’s more satisfying.
The other factor to consider is life changes. Sex will fluctuate due to stress, illness, changing schedules, raising children, etc.
Everyone seems busy and preoccupied these days and that will have an impact on sex in a relationship. I’ve written before about desire discrepancies and how that plays a central role in the amount of sex people have.
If you find yourself having less sex than you’d like with your partner, here are some things to consider.
Six tips for coping with sexless relationships
- Acknowledge it. Awareness is everything, how can you improve something that you are not acknowledging? If you think that you are in a sexless relationship, it’s important that you acknowledge it to yourself and to your partner. Usually, the hardest part is acknowledging it to another person.
Take comfort in the fact that if this is on your mind, it’s on your partner’s mind too. Avoidance maintains a dead bed, people don’t like to talk about this and often don’t, until it’s too late. A few things can happen: the problem will go on indefinitely and no one’s needs will be met contributing to relationship dissatisfaction, the relationship will fail, or an infidelity may occur.
- It’s Sex, Not Statistics. People get too hung up and fixated on the numbers. How much sex they’re having or how many orgasms they’re having. This isn’t a numbers game; eroticism cannot be quantified in this way. Sex should be about quality, not quantity. If you feel that you want more sex, then work on having more sex but leave out the “shoulds.”
You should only be having as much sex as feels right for you, your partner, and your relationship. If your buddies or girlfriends are telling you that they are having sex every day, good for them, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be having sex every day to legitimize your relationship. It’s not a competition. Figure out with your partner what you want, then see if it’s attainable and realistic. Some couples are perfectly happy having sex once a week – others less so, others more. At the end of the day, the important part is connecting with your partner.
- Talk less about how much sex you aren’t having. Focus less on what’s not happening and more on what you’d like to happen. Focusing on the shortcomings of our relationships can be damaging. It’s not helpful to start conversations like, “We never have sex anymore” or ending a sex session with “What was that about? That never happens.”
This can be interpreted as critical and put your partner on the defensive. Remember, whatever is punished you get less of; whatever is reinforced, you get more of. Instead, try to move the conversation to problem solving, this is more productive than pointing out the obvious.
- Figure out differences in desire levels. One of the most important factors to consider when thinking about a sexless relationship is what desire looks like for each person. This is more often than not one of the main factors that contribute to a sexless relationship. Typically, it looks like one partner wanting sex more often than the other. We hear all the time in couple’s therapy, “She never wants to have sex anymore” or “He’s insatiable and it’s never enough.” This is an indicator that there is a desire discrepancy.
Once this is identified, it’s possible to work on a solution. The first step is identifying that this is playing a role, check out my blog on this for more detailed information on how to handle this.
- Do what feels right, check in. Once you’ve talked about it with your significant other, and have an idea about what would be acceptable for the relationship, try it out. Again, try not to fixate on how much sex you think you should be having but more on what feels right. Listen to your body, you’ll know when you’re there. Listen to your partner too, continue to have open and honest communication about the topic.
Let your body and your relationship be the guiding force for how much sex you have, not your friends, not society or culture, not social media. This is what I mean when I say every relationship is unique, focus on you and your partner, tune out the rest of the noise.
- Schedule, if needed. I know, I know, scheduling sex sounds so boringgggg. I’m here to say that scheduling sex can be a gamechanger. Remember the question at the beginning about why Americans are having less sex? In my opinion, it might be because people are so busy. When life is hectic, sex takes a backseat for most people.
This is where scheduling sex can be helpful. I’m not talking about pulling out a calendar and saying, “Ok, I have us penciled in for sex at 3 o’clock sharp on Sunday”. What I’m saying is identify days of the week that are more doable (pun intended) and try to make it a point to do it then.
Scheduling sex is especially important for couples that are having little-to-no sex and have been for quite some time. This can help quell some of the anxiety and awkwardness that comes with resetting your sex like. Couples that fall into this category have avoided the issue for a long time and for people that tend to avoid it, scheduling is a wonderful tool. Try it, you’d be surprised how effective scheduling can be.
If you find yourself in a sexless relationship and don’t know what to do, consider the points made above. It seems that most people get stuck due to avoiding the topic. Sometimes it can feel easier to neglect our needs to avoid disrupting the system but beware, this almost always has unintended consequences. If you can get over that hump (LOL) then you can revive your sex life.
Remember Avoidance maintains a dead bed. Vulnerability and honesty help revive it. If you value your relationship and you are unsatisfied with the amount of sex you’re having, you owe it to yourself and your relationship to explore this further. If this seems too daunting of a task for you to take on alone, consider seeing a licensed therapist.
A therapist (especially one with a speciality in sex therapy) can support you and provide a safe space to have these more difficult conversations. They can teach you skills to improve your communication to get your point across effectively. They can also help you confront the avoidance that is standing in your way of having the sex you want.
More Interesting Reads on Sex and Intimacy
Couples who talk about sex, have better sex. Read an LGBTQ+ couples therapist’s 6 tips for how to better talk about sex.
Desire discrepancies are one of the most frequent challenges couples face and it’s a common topic in couples counseling. Learn more about it and how to get in the mood.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to strengthen a relationship is by going on dates. Need ideas? Check out our 13 date night recommendations in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
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