Like most Mondays, several couples fly in to do a 3 or 5-Day Intensive with me and my team. Many couples I see will inevitably tell me the tale of being in a sexless marriage for months, years, or decades. I smile and tell them not to worry. I have heard that on most Mondays for almost thirty years.
The reality is that many couples, regardless of faith, finances, or culture, go to bed feeling alone next to the one who said they would love, honor, and cherish them. Why is it that so many couples suffer quietly in a sexless marriage? In this blog, I’ll give you eight common reasons I have found that couples are sexless and married.
Two Choices for Those in a Sexless Marriage
When a person is in a sexless marriage, they have two major choices. The first choice is to address the real issues as to why they are sexless in marriage, set boundaries, and seek professional help to resolve the core issues.
The second choice is to medicate their pain with addictions such as porn, affairs, alcohol, work, or drugs. Often they will blame their spouse because they medicate this way. I have counseled individuals with addictions for almost thirty years, and it is never the spouse’s fault if you choose to medicate this way.
For those who want to address the real issues for your sexless marriage, this blog will help you identify some of the most common reasons that lead to sexless marriages. This information is taken directly from our new DVD called “Sexless and Married.”
Reason 1–Intimacy Anorexia
Intimacy anorexia happens more frequently than you might think. It’s when a spouse actively withholds spiritual, emotional, and sexual intimacy. If someone is an intimacy anorexic, they will:
- Stay busy to avoid their spouse
- Blame their spouse for all of the problems in the relationship
- Withhold love from their spouse
- Withhold praise from their spouse
- Withhold sex from their spouse or not be present during sex
- Not talk about their feelings
- Have ongoing or ungrounded criticism of their spouse
- Control or shame around money issues
If one or both spouses have five or more of these characteristics, you are dealing with intimacy anorexia. This is a real and prevalent issue as to why a couple might be sexless and feel like roommates in their marriage. If this applies to you, do some research and get qualified help to restore your marriage.
Reason 2–Sexual Addiction
You’ve probably read stories about how many men and women are turning to pornography and acting out with themselves or others outside their marriage. Yes, this is most likely true even with people you know. This has caused many marriages to separate or divorce. When I speak at men’s conferences on the topic of my book Sex, Men & God, I’ll ask how many men think that they may be addicted to pornography. Typically 50% or more of these men acknowledge having this problem.
A sex addict will have three or more of the below characteristics as it relates to their habit including lust, porn, or behavior with self or others. Their addiction can lead them to becoming sexless in marriage.
- Tried to stop and failed
- Promises to self, others, or God to quit and failed
- Having consequences for their behavior
- Using even after having consequences for their behavior
- Doing more of the same or escalating in behaviors
- Take more or different for same high
- Takes more time in addiction
- Begins to pull away from other activities or relationships
- Withdraw if they can’t access their behavior
There are six types of sex addicts according to AASAT.org (American Assoc. for Sex Addiction Therapy). If sex addiction is the issue for the sexless marriage, the addict will need to seek help, attend support groups, and address core issues to heal. The impact of a sex addiction is huge for the spouse as well. Two good books would be The Final Freedom and Partners: Healing from His Addiction.
Start your journey of putting porn in your past, check out the blogpost “How to Quit Porn: 6 Essential Steps.”
Reason 3–Sexual Abuse
It’s possible that the previous sexual abuse of either spouse could be triggering a sexual shutting down. Sometimes this happens out of the blue. For example, when their child reaches the age that they were when their abuse happened or perhaps seeing a movie that triggers a memory of their abuse.
Sexual abuse can be a journey, but it is necessary to move beyond it to have a thriving life and marriage. I have been sexually abused by both genders, and I took responsibility for my healing and have enjoyed a healthy sex life. The responsibility to heal is ours. If this is the reason for sexlessness in a marriage, I would start your healing journey today. There are plenty of books on this, and if you are not making accelerated progress, then I suggest you see a counselor that specializes in treating one to help move from victim to thriving.
I agree that too many Americans are diagnosed with depression, however it can really be an option for what’s creating a sexless marriage. Let me give you the characteristics of depression other than a lack of interest in sex. A depressed person would have low energy, difficulty with concentration and making decisions, weight gain or loss recently, sleep disturbance, feelings of worthlessness and possible suicidal thoughts, and lastly a sense of not enjoying life. If someone has several of these symptoms, they could be depressed.
Now if the person is so depressed that they aren’t going to their place of work or they have a lack of interest in it, then it may be because of depression. Unfortunately people can be depressed because of unresolved anger, grief, or a lack of serotonin in their brain. See a medical doctor and make sure you talk to the doctor about side effects for the medication they may be giving you because some antidepressants lower your sex drive and that wouldn’t be helpful. If you are seeing a counselor, again, make sure they specialize in depression.
Reason 5–Schizoid Personality Disorder
A person with Schizoid Personality Disorder will have several characteristics. Some of these characteristics include having no close relationships, choosing alone activities, having no desire for sex, getting no real pleasure from activities, indifference to praises or criticism, and appearing emotionally cold or detached. If this is what is going on, he or she can be very resistant to treatment. This person must be motivated if change is to occur.
Reason 6–Low Thyroid
Sexlessness can also be caused by low thyroid. This is totally a medical issue. The symptoms other than less interest in sex would be low energy, difficulty concentrating, hair loss, weight gain, constipation, and muscle soreness. This is very treatable both homeopathically and medically. If this is even close to your symptoms, ask your doctor for a blood test.
Reason 7–Low Testosterone
We see a lot of commercials for men with low testosterone, but it is also a significant issue for women. I’ve had both genders get this checked out and get on a medical regimen. It helped and was the only issue. The symptoms of low testosterone other than a low sex drive are weight gain, low energy, anxiety, hair loss, weakness, and sleep disturbance. Men may have erectile issues, and women may have vaginal dryness and the inability to orgasm.
If you are reading along and think depression, low thyroid, and low testosterone symptoms sound a lot alike, you are very perceptive. I recommend if any of these symptoms sound familiar, get all three checked by a doctor to see what might be causing sexlessness in your marriage.
Reason 8–Sex Language Mishaps
Each one of us has a unique sex language. However we often marry someone with a different sex language than our own. In the book 5 Sex Languages, I share about the sex languages of Fun, Desire, Pleasure, Patience, and Acceptance. Most couples did not have this as part of their preparation for marriage. They fumble through sex trying to make their spouse like themselves. This can set up years of negative experiences and reduce the desire for sex.
This issue is easy to address. Discover your spouse’s sex language. I will never forget one couple that came to my office for an Intensive from another country just to get this area strong. They both guessed wrong about which sex language the other person was. I walked them though each phase of sexuality utilizing the correct sex language, and they had the best week of their entire marriage.
Healing from a Sexless Marriage
Sexless marriages are real and affecting millions. I hope that an intelligent conversation can open the doors to healing and close the doors to any medicating. We are responsible to heal if we know what to heal. Keeping this pain in a marriage can damage or even destroy it.
You are worth having the best marriage, including the best sex ever, however some of us have to work harder to get what we are worthy of. I have seen thousands of couples heal from a sexless marriage and wish you the best on your journey.
Douglas Weiss, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs. He has authored several books on marriage, addiction, and sexuality. You may contact Dr. Weiss by phone at 719-278-3708, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his website at www.drdougweiss.com.