Online Divorce - Sexless Marriage or Divorce: When to Walk Away

Sexless Marriage or Divorce: When to Walk Away

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Mason Henderson

It's been said, "If you never want to have sex again, get married."

If you laugh at that joke bitterly or can’t at all, you are probably on the brink of despair or perpetually frustrated at being unable to get your partner to have sex with you for quite some time. And it is a paradoxical situation because one of the reasons behind a decision to get married is to have sex regularly. But in some cases, married people may end up having no sex at all. When people get married, they intend to satisfy (without even being aware of their intentions) a wide array of needs. In the book Contemplating Divorce, A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go, marriage and relationship expert Susan Pease Gadoua applies Abraham Maslow’s series of progressive needs that motivate us daily to the Marital Hierarchy of Needs.

At the lowest level are Marriage Survival Needs where people simply share a house and have regular contacts. The survival of a marriage simply requires people to be formally married. Marriage Safety Needs come next, where the spouses feel safe, can trust and be honest with each other, stay in a non-abusive relationship, provide comfort to one another, and take care of each other emotionally and physically. Sex is on the third level of the hierarchy – Marriage Love Needs – where the partners can provide intimacy, affection, compassion, companionship, kindness, and love-making. We can see that only after the basic needs are met, love-making can be expected.

At the highest level are Marriage Esteem Needs and Marriage Actualization Needs where the spouses honor commitments, support each other’s goals, and achieve fulfillment to share the fruits of it with their family and the community. Thus, it is useless to expect sex between a couple that has slipped into survival and can hardly even trust each other..

Sexless Marriage as a Norm

Sexless marriage used to be a rather common birth control practice. Prior to the invention of the pill in the late 1950s, there were several birth control practices common amongst the different social groups. The middle-class could afford condoms and caps whereas the working-class had to rely on withdrawal, abortion and various forms of abstinence. A English report on birth control in 1930-60 by Simon Szretera and Kate Fisher reveals that both the middle-class and working-class alike used absolute abstinence or partial abstinence, combining it with other contraceptive methods available at the time.

However, even with the introduction of birth control pills, the situation of a lack of sex in marriage has remained not uncommon. The tendency not to have sex with a partner now occurs earlier in a marriage than it used to be. It was common for long-married couples over the age of 50 to see their sexual function wither over time.

Meanwhile, therapists and sexologists now report consulting couples who have exhausted their sexual drive in the first five years of marriage. Studies report a growing number of asexuals who are eager to enter a marriage with like-minded partners to pursue a happy marriage and accommodate their asexual identity.

Little Sex or No Sex?

The New York Times reports that 15 percent of married couples have a sexual dry spell ranging anywhere from 6 to 12 months. Conversely, a sexless marriage is defined as one where partners have sex less than once a month and no more than 10 times a year.

Society still has a tight grip on monogamous requirements for a marriage. The majority of Americans believe that having affairs is morally wrong. In comparison, the 1980s survey by National Opinion Research Center reports that less than 70% of respondents said they found cheating “always wrong”, whereas Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs survey of 2013 shows that 91% of respondents consider extramarital sex wrong. Only 12 percent of respondents in a HuffPost survey resort to cheating, either emotionally or physically, in a sexless marriage. Research reveals that spouses who have sex rarely more often seek a divorce as compare to spouses who have frequent sex.

A Cause or a Symptom?

A lack of sex can indicate a red flag for a couple to notice that their relationship is breaking apart. However, there are many other things than sex to be busy with in a marriage such as: children and relatives in common, shared household and budget, , real estate, friends, traveling, etc.

On one hand, many people find suitable ways to compensate for a lack of sex. Masturbation and watching porn are the most frequent alternatives for males and females alike.

On the other hand, there are also many many people who acknowledge that if their marriage is threatened, they would make an effort to address the issue of a sexless marriage.

If both partners are too busy and exhausted to even think about sex, a no-sex marriage is acceptable. They can work on the issue together as a team. The problem arises when one person in the relationship wants sex while the other doesn’t.

Before you decide on how to proceed, you need to understand the reasons behind your partner’s refusal, or a reluctance of you both, to have a regular sex life in a marriage.

Appraise the Situation

Whatever affects your partners’ sex drive should be addressed in a multifaceted manner. Upon understanding that sex is not a primary function of a marriage, we can see that there has been a change with the family and human personality on a global scale. The notion of family has been renegotiated in recent time.

Before making a decision on to what to do with your marriage, both parties need to give themselves time to contemplate the situation. Afterwards, you then need to sit down together and discuss the issue from each other’s perspective..

If you value your partner and they are reluctant to have frequent sexual contacts with you not because of an ongoing affair (we cannot exclude this factor as some people prefer to turn a blind eye to it), there are a number of factors pertinent to the situation.

As long as you know for sure that you love your spouse and wish to continue living with them, , and the only thing preventing you from living a fulfilling life is the lack of sex, there are many other ways to deal with the issue without resorting to adultery.

But first, you need to understand the reasons underlying your sexless marriage.

Stress and Life Circumstances

Sex life at its lowest point can occur as a response to some events in your life: you have children under the age 3; one or both of you have a stressful job or work long hours; or someone has been ill. All of these are valid reasons for a decrease in libido levels.

Even if one of you feels perpetually exhausted and thinks libido levels will never get back to what it once was, this is actually the best case scenario for your sex life. This just means that both of you need some time to rest and get back on track. In many cases, if you both find the time to unwind – getaway, vacation, or just some time off alone – you may succeed in rekindling marital sex.

At this point, you need to keep in mind that rest and relaxation are crucially important in maintaining relationship. Children grow up quickly and your sexual dry spell will end soon. If you are too busy maintaining your lifestyle and fretting over your children’s future, just remember that an intimate connection between you and your partner should always come first. Otherwise, you may end up losing the relationship that you diligently maintain your lifestyle for.

Research shows that one of the most important factors in maintaining a happy marriage is sharing chores. In a two-income household, domestic duties are usually referred to as the wife’s ‘second’ or ‘third’ shift after they return home from work. Instead, the husband should be more mindful of this and help around the house by completing the dishes and doing the laundry.

It is a widely known fact that there is an inequality in terms of who has responsibility in completing household chores, as women are traditionally considered to be better caretakers than men.. If you are a husband who is frustrated with your wife constantly being reluctant to have sex with you, see to it that you help her out in completing household chores and taking care of the children.

Man on couch


In some cases, a couple’s sexless status may be a result of poor marital relations. In such cases, spending a weekend away from the family or helping around the house are not enough.

Maintaining a relationship is difficult. Many people erroneously believe that since they put much effort into winning each other over before the marriage that they let their relationship slide afterwards. . However, it is important to keep in mind that after you have settled down together, you need to put in even more effort to keep the relationship going.

As a guest on Femsplainers, clinical psychologist Jordan B. Peterson states, “Couples need to spend at least 90 minutes a week with your partner talking. That means you’re telling each other of your life and you’re staying in touch so you each know what the other is up to. You’re discussing what needs to be done to keep the household running smoothly and you laying down some mutually acceptable vision of who the next week or next month are going to go together. That keeps your narrative locked together, like the strands in a rope. You need that 90 minutes or you drift apart. If you don’t make it a priority, it won’t happen.”

In her TED Talk lecture on the sex-starved marriage, family therapist and author Michele Weiner-Davis explains, “To the spouse yearning for more sex and more touch, it’s a huge deal. Because it really is about feeling wanted, feeling loved, feeling connected, about feeling masculine or feminine and attractive. When this major disconnect happens, what also happens is that intimacy on all levels goes right out the door. They stop sitting next to each other on the couch. They quit laughing at each others’ jokes. They don’t spend time together. They stop being friends.”

If your relationship goes sour, you cannot expect your sex life to thrive as these two are interrelated. If you want your partner to be responsive to your needs, be responsive to theirs too. Listen to what they say, show your understanding and try to be empathic and see things from your their perspective.

If you have had a long period of disagreement and confrontation, it is difficult to resume your sex life without professional help. Most likely, you’ve inflicted much pain on each other and have many unresolved issues. In such a situation of miscommunication, one or both parties are usually angry with each other. In order to unravel this bundle of issues, a mediator can be of great help so that the partners won’t hurt each other even more.

Talking about Sex

Another issue of miscommunication is the fact that many people avoid talking about sex. It is great to develop a habit in talking about what you both like and dislike in sex when your relationship is at it’s early stages. This way, when something goes wrong, it is easier to start a conversation about it.

Sometimes, people stress over stereotypical ideas of gender roles. They prefer to have machos and nymphs as their partners. As long as the partner fits such stereotypes, their relationships are stable. However, having such expectations mask who they really are and the issues and needs that they have. To rid yourself of such fantasies and step into reality, you need to treat what your partner tells you seriously.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you want to be heard, you need to speak your partner’s language. This is because the issue may be deeper than you might think. For example, if a husband, who thinks kinesthetically, hears from his wife, who expresses herself visually, ‘Can’t you see the mess you created by tossing your socks around?’, he cannot relate. He simply responds by saying, ‘Just don’t look at them’ and believes that the problem is solved. However, the therapist provides him a more relatable example, ‘Imagine you go to bed, crawl under the cover, and feel a bed full of crumbs. That’s what your wife feels when she sees your socks thrown on the floor.’ That way, the husband can vividly imagine the situation and feel the crumbs piercing his skin.

This example is crude, but it provides a picture on how each person has their own preferred language of communication. You can notice your partner’s language if you are attentive. If your partner uses many ‘visual’ words such as: look, see, view, picture, show, observe, and "Do you see what I mean?" or "Look at this", they are the visual type. Hearing auditory clues in your partner’s language such as: listen, hear, say, tell, discuss, sound, loud, speechless, and "I hear you loud and clear, clear as a bell" or "Have a word with him", indicates to you that they are the auditory type. Meanwhile, those who use words such as: feel, care, touch, love, sense, soft, hard, and say "How do you feel about that?" or "Did you sense something just there?" belong to the kinesthetic group. If you can single out your partner’s communication style, you can adapt to their way of talking and make your ideas more relatable to them.

Furthermore, people tend to be rather egocentric and apply anything that they hear about other people to themselves. If your partner tells you that she or he does not want to have frequent sex, you should not misinterpret it as ‘Since you don’t want to have sex with me, you must want to do it with somebody else.’

If your impulse is to think ‘You don’t want me any more’ and you start following your partner around and check their messages, you need to stop and consider: ‘What am I doing in this marriage? Why am I here? And If I want this relationship to work, I need to choose a different strategy – as this one is clearly not working.’

Sexual issues are a highly delicate topic. Both the husband and wife should be considerate and sensitive when talking about them. Men should be honest and open, and not be embarrassed to talk about sex with their wives. In turn, women should also be extremely sensitive on the subject and not humiliate their husbands for “not being men.” Even if sex has left your bedroom for the time being, do not separate yourselves. Instead , continue to sleep together in bed and be tender to each other. Apart from vaginal intercourse, there are many other sexual practices that you and your partner can engage in. As long as you both understand that you desire each other, you can overcome many obstacles in life.

Psychological Issues

The brain is our biggest sex organ. It can either help you feel gorgeous and sexy, or plunge you into a depth of despair. Almost anything can be pertinent to sex issues.Even a slight, insignificant thought can develop into a serious, sex-related problem.

Being raised in a strict or religious household may have negative consequences for sexuality later in life, especially for females. Overtly religious women may feel that sex should only be used for procreation and develop an aversion to having sex.

Having an unsatisfactory self-image of the body can also have a negative influence on sex life. People can get disgusted and frustrated at the idea of having sex because they may not feel attractive and loved.

Child abuse traumas can undermine the victims’ social and cognitive development and trust. Child abuse is damaging to their sexual identity and sense of self, which are both linked to having a healthy sexual life.

Depression also has a very suppressive effect on the sex drive. And since depression cannot be ignored or waited to dissolve, it is a medical condition that should be treated seriously. In some cases, you may need to encourage your partner to seek help.

Oftentimes, a psychological issue stems from a biological one. Chemical imbalance in your brain causes biological response. This is turn causes a psychological trauma because because of the way it affects your relationship and the way you think about yourself.

The majority of psychological issues require professional consultation. On your part, you can offer your support and be patient with your spouse, if possible. Whatever the reason may be, psychological issues can and should be addressed.


Let’s not forget that many people have limited knowledge on how their bodies function. They regard sex as something unalienable from their life. And if for some reason they develop issues of getting aroused or having orgasms, they may feel embarrassed to even talk about it and avoid having sex altogether. Without even knowing the underlying reasons, many people just avoid having sex without consulting with a professional.

Meanwhile, biological health is just as important as psychological health.


Changes in the Body:

For women, childbirth can be a life-changing event not only in terms of having a new person in their life, but also in terms of noticing how their bodies have changed. Visual changes to their body shape and size can strongly affect women’s perception of self and libido.

It takes time to get back to prenatal shape. It also takes time and effort for some women to realize that these changes are irreversible and that they need to learn to live with their new bodies. During that time, the husband needs to provide reassurance and support to help the wife feel loved and desired.

Vaginal Dryness:

In a podcast on Sex after 50 from Joe & Terry Graedon of The People's Pharmacy, Dr. Ruth states that ‘losing lubrication’ is a common problem for women after a ‘certain age.’ Vaginal dryness can occur after childbirth, use of birth control pills, and many other medical issues. Cures include over-the-counter lubricants and moisturizers.


Although hormone levels during women’s menstrual cycle affect their sexual desire, they generally do not need correction. If, however, a woman notices that her libido remains constantly low throughout the cycle, she should have her hormones checked at the hospital. Low estrogen and androgen levels are responsible for a low sex drive in women and the inability to reach an orgasm. Low levels of testosterone and dopamine, as well as high levels of prolactin, can also result in low libido levels. The thyroid gland can also notoriously put a sex life to sleep.

Dr. Irwin Goldstein, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, and his wife Sue Goldstein, a sexual medicine educator who co-authored the book When Sex Isn't Good: Stories and Solutions of Women with Sexual Dysfunction, explain that while Viagra has revolutionized the lives of thousands men, women have been left without any treatment for sexual dysfunction.

If you feel that your sex drive has been unusually high or suspiciously low, it is high time to visit an endocrinologist and have your hormones tested.

Furthermore, hormone levels fluctuate with age in both men and women. Women experience menopausal reduction in estrogen and progesterone, whereas about 20 percent of men over the age of 60 experience andropause, or ‘male menopause,’ where there is a decrease in testosterone production responsible for arousal.

Erectile Dysfunction:

In the podcast on Sex after 50, Dr. Ruth states that for men of ‘certain age’ (she was not specific), physical stimulation is required because they are not as easily aroused as they used to be in their 20s. However, erectile difficulties are common in men of all different ages.

Men should not be embarrassed or uncomfortable to talk about their sexual issues with their wives. There are many ways to deal with erection and ejaculation issues. Given that no more than 25% of women orgasm from vaginal penetration, an erected penis is not really an obstacle for a couple to have great sex. Most women require direct clitoral stimulation to experience orgasm. That is where the soft penis techniques will come in handy. If the couple has a desire to have sex, they can always find other ways.

Intensive exercise and dieting:

The way we eat and exercise also correlates with our sex life. Excessive training and excruciating diets can have negative effects on women’s well-being and energy levels. Getting exhausted due to intensive exercise and dieting may cause women to simply have no strength and energy to maintain an active sex life.

Sexual Issues

To reiterate, you need to start talking about your sexual issues through an honest and open conversation. Try to get your reluctant significant other to start talking about theirs to learn what you both can do to solve the issue.

It is important to remember that marital sex has the risk of becoming boring. Years of predictable, monotonous missionary sex can drive the final nail into the coffin of your sex life. However, it is possible to bring the sparkle back to your relationship.

You can get back on track if both parties share a same sexual fantasy or desire. Try visiting an adult shop sometime, as the sex toy market expands every year. Something may pique your interest.

Lack of Attraction

If you notice that your partner avoids having sex with you, don’t just assume that you offended them somehow and now need to make up for it. Men often find themselves in such a position. They think that completing more household chores or giving presents will win back their wife’s good graces (when in fact, you should be helping with the chores in the first place).

In fact, such actions actually put men in a lower position. In a TED Talk lecture, sex therapist Maureen McGrath aptly puts it as follows, “The most common sex position for married couples is doggy style: This is the one where he is on all fours and begs, and she plays dead.”

The point is that when your wife does not want sex, you should not use excuses such as helping with household chores or child care as leverage to get her to have sex with. This is a very unhealthy practice that will damage the relationship in the long term.

Similarly, if the wife notices that her husband gets busier as the night goes by, it is counterproductive for her to think that he stopped loving her and that there is something intrinsically wrong with her. First of all, it’s better to stop making any sexual advances on him and leave him alone for the time being. Let him gather his bearings and initiate sex on his own terms. Second, start communicating: Let him know that you see his reluctance and want you both to address it. Be patient. Issues with sex drive are not quick to resolve.

At a certain point, it makes sense to accept the idea that your partner may no longer be attracted to you for some reasons. Try to deal with your frustration on your own: improve your looks, lose weight, refresh your wardrobe. This is the time for the advice ‘Love Thyself and You’ll be Loved.’ As soon as you find your inner balance, your spouse will start to look at you differently too.

Sex as the Ultimate Measure of Happiness

On the other hand, people have started to see sex as an ultimate measure of happiness due to the influence of social media and pop culture.. Women especially are susceptible to the images of Instagramable happiness: where airbrushed pictures of hot men with six-packs and long-legged divas imply sex.

Many people unconsciously regard sex as a substitute for something else. They want to feel loved and wanted, so they initiate sex. When it’s been a while since their partner lasts professed their love to them,they might hope to satiate the desire for acceptance through sexual intercourse. They seek their partners’ support in the form of sex.

In many cases, providing more words of endearment and tenderness will show your partners that they are loved and cared for. Small gifts and signs of attention will indicate to your partner that you think of them and that you know their wishes are. Next time on the way back from work, buy their favorite jam or cheese. Maybe remember to pick up flowers for your wife if she appreciates them, or remember not to buy flowers and instead a potted plant, if that is her preference.

It is sad to see after many years of marriage people slipping into simple functional communication: buy this, bring that, do this or do that. But remember to keep in mind that before all that,, you are the man and the woman to each other. Thank each other, caress each other, and say nice things to each other.

In this regard, a lack of sex can become an impetus for you to seek other forms of interaction and expand your range of communication.

Not Having to Have Sex

The one thing that everyone needs to keep in mid – sex is a sphere of pure spontaneity. You cannot and should not force yourself on anybody, especially your partner.

If you do push your unwilling partner to have sex with you, you will eventually see the look of disgust and cringe on their face. If you have already done so in the past and now have no sex life, that is probably the reason why.

Likewise, you should not force yourself to have sex if you do not want to, even if you feel obliged to do so. Psychologically, it is better for people to stop referring to marital sex as a duty sex should never be a duty. Allow yourself and/or your spouse the option not to have sex.


What usually happens in long-married couples? When they notice that their sex drive begins to stall, they compare it to what it used to be and push themselves to get in back on the same level. In an attempt to keep up with their once thriving sex life, they instead drive it down even lower.

By forcing yourself or your partner to have sex in order to maintain the relationship, you instead put up obstacles to successful sex life.

In order to get spontaneity back into your marriage, you may try to get back from your spouse’s back through sex demands. It means no hints, requests or questions about sex. If you used to express signs of disappointment by making a sad face or rolling your eyes at your partner’s refusal to have sex, do not even imply that you want to have sex now. Any situation that used to be a lead-up to sex should be left as it is now. Do you buy gifts for your wife in hopes of getting sex back as a form of gratitude? Stop doing that now. Do you run your hands over your husband’s shoulder to seduce him to sex? Don’t do it. Eliminate all sex-inducing situations.

If your spouse attempts to initiate having sex and you realize that they are doing so out of obligation, politely refuse. Simply tell them that you are not in the mood. The aim is not to punish them or to show your indifference, but instead to relieve the pressure of doing it out of duty.

For example, the husband brings home flowers along with some food for dinner. Seeing this, unwilling wife might suspect that he is expecting her to perform her conjugal duties later in return. However, the husband tells her that he is planning to watch a baseball game. This way, they can have dinner together. Afterwards, she could relax, go to sleep early or do anything else she wants. By doing this, the husband relieves the pressure of having sex off his wife. In turn, the wife feels relieved and grateful to her husband for not pushing her to do something she was reluctant of doing.

In another example, the husband gives his wife a pair of lingerie as a gift. At this point, the wife thinks that he is expecting sex in return and asks him whether he wants her to try it on. Instead he responds, ‘No, it is not necessary.’ The wife nevertheless tries it on and walks up to him, expecting him to make a move. This is because she still believes that she owes him sex. However, he just sincerely praises her looks and does not touch her. As she walks up and embraces him, he starts to talk about something else and ignores her advances. By doing this, the husband signals his wife that there is no need to do something that she is reluctant to do.

If you find yourself in such a situation, and it seems to you your wife’s advancements are genuine, go for it. However, if there are any indications that she is doing so out of gratitude, simply show her that it is not necessary and that you did everything to make her happy, and not for sex.

After some time, your spouse will stop associating you with the boring obligation of having sex. A period of sexual rest and the absence of pressure to have sex can help reinvigorate your relationship.

If you see that your partner’s desire to have sex is genuine, make sure to reinforce it with a passionate response back. As soon as you start to have occasional, but genuine and passionate sex, there is a chance of it becoming more frequent.


Every therapists and psychologists state that it is crucially important to view your partner not as a part of you, but as a different person. Remember to keep your boundaries. Your spouse is not an object that you can grab anytime and do whatever you want. They have their own thoughts, desires, needs, dreams and ideas.

Furthermore, your spouse cannot willfully guide and control their sex drive at all times. They may want you, but can’t at the moment for some reason.. It isn’t because you made a mistake; it’s just the way things are at the moment.

Forget about being ‘Siamese twins.’ There shouldn’t be a requirement in a marriage to mirror each other’s desires and actions. Someone may have a lower sex drive than the other. Nowadays, there are so many ways to cherish your sexuality on your own. Spend some time alone from your partner and satisfy yourself for the time being. By being left alone, your partner may feel the urge to get back with you.

Furthermore, it is useful to remember that partners can have mismatched schedules. Even if one of you is an early bird and the other a night owl, you can still compromise on something like the afternoon . Be open to spontaneity and you may find that by syncing your schedules together, you can get your sex life back on track.

Final Word

The first thing you need to contemplate when deciding to file for divorce in response to a sexless marriage is whether your partner is precious to you or not. If they are, you both will eventually find a way of the situation. However, you need to remember that important decisions should not be made without having a series of deep conversation with your spouse.

If your partner refuses to talk or does but it doesn’t really change anything, you can try and work on yourself instead. Psychologists say that it is often enough if at least one person in the relationship is in therapy. If you can at least deal with some of your issues, it will eventually rub off on your partner too. It might even inspire them to start working on their issues too.

The truth is that most issues that couples find jarring can be resolved through talking, counseling, and finding the right help. The most important thing is to address the issues.

Overall, the way you feel is key.

  • If you feel deprived and unhappy,
  • If the lack of sex cannot be compensated by any tender and caring attitudes of your spouse,
  • If you cannot imagine a fulfilled and happy life without sex,
  • If you cannot and do not want to satisfy your libido through masturbation, sex toys and/or with a third party.

Then you are fully entitled to file for a divorce.

In some instances, the absence of sex in a marriage can be a valid ground for divorce as there are laws that regulate it.

Indeed, sometimes the lack of sex is an indication that a marriage cannot be restored. In such a situation, the best way out may be to file for a divorce and find a partner that shares the same values a you regarding sex.

However, you may also consider to fight and give your relationship one last chance. Ultimately, only you know what’s best for you.


According to statistics, people in sexually unsatisfactory marriages wait an average of six years before starting to seek out professional help.

Do not wait for that long and instead, start looking for answers right now. The majority of respondents state that they would make an effort to have more frequent sex if their spouses threatened to end the marriage because of it.

If you desire more frequent sex with your spouse, do not internalize and think that you are unattractive.

Begin by thinking of what you personally want out of your marriage.

Afterwards, initiate conversation with your partner.

Finally, seek professional help.

Many issues can be resolved with the aid of professionals. Seek out psychological assistance and encourage your spouse to do the same.

CATEGORIES: Considering Divorce, Making the Decision, Marriage, Preceding Divorce, Sex Issues

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