Feel trapped in a sexless marriage? Here’s how to change that!

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

What if you could transform your sexless marriage into one where you “make love” all the time?

“Not possible, Chuck!”

But it IS possible, when you understand what it means to truly make love.

Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt wrote a book entitled…

I love this title!

It’s brimming with hope, isn’t it?

(Click on the link below to get this ebook free.)

The title implies what we all know intuitively. That there’s more to making love than having sex.

Sex is the “icing on the cake” (the cake being emotional connection).  

I can hear you saying, “What’s a cake without the icing?

Right! But then again, what’s the icing without the cake? 

Unfortunately, in a sexless marriage you’re probably not getting the cake or the icing. 🙁

Are you in a sexless marriage?

Experts define a sexless marriage as having sex no more than 10 times in any given year, or less than once per month.

That includes 20% of couples married today.

However, 40% of couples report being unsatisfied with their sex life.

I don’t see how they can define it that way because everyone is different. Some experts stretch the definition a bit. 
Take a look and see if you fit.

For example, if you want sex daily and you get it less than once a week, some experts say you fit the “sexless marriage” category. I guess it’s all relative.

What’s so bad about a sexless marriage?

1. A sexless marriage is a painful disappointment.

“This certainly was NOT what I was expecting in my marriage. And it hurts to think about all I’m missing.”

Sometimes the disappointment is so painful the marriage doesn’t survive. 

In one study 50% of men surveyed said that they would not have married their partner had they known their marriage would have been sexless.

My bet is, if you asked the wives of those men, you’d get the same answer.

2. A sexless marriage misses out on many wonderful health benefits.

Medical studies show that frequent sex helps us maintain youth, because it triggers more human growth hormone.

It also reduces the risk of prostate cancer, burns calories, boosts immune and cardiovascular systems, and relieves stress.

“That’s great. But if I’m not getting it, this just adds to the pain of all I’m missing.”

3. A sexless marriage misses out on the closeness that makes us feel fully alive.

Sex promotes the flow of oxytocin, the chemical that promotes the feeling of bonding.

And that bonding is what helps us feel fully alive.

When sex is regularly experienced as a special activity shared only with each other, this bonding enhances the relationship, keeping it monogamous, loving and strong.

4. A sexless marriage may make your marriage vulnerable.

When you’re not experiencing intimacy, you may become vulnerable to substitutes that aren’t so healthy.

There are plenty of “illusions of intimacy” we can fall prey to. Anger and disappointment over a sexless marriage can drive us into cheating, pornography, and other unhealthy exits we use to try and fill that huge vacuum that exists.

One husband said that after years of being rejected on a regular basis, and after begging his wife to change with no result, he started signing up on dating sites online. 

He said, “I no longer feel anything for her, and I don’t even care if she finds out.”

It can be really painful living in a sexless marriage.

What can I do to change my sexless marriage?

Here are three steps that can help you learn to “make love all time” in a way that can reignite your sexual passion for each other.

1. Create safety in your relationship.

The biggest reason for a sexless marriage is probably not your plumbing or some kind of sexual dysfunction.

Sexless marriages happen because you don’t feel safe in your relationship.

I’m talking not just physical safety but emotional safety.

Talking is the most dangerous thing we do. We jeopardize safety when we criticize each other with words like…

“Why are you so cold and resistant to sex?”
“Why is it that every time we cuddle you have to have sex?”
“I feel like you only need me when you want sex. It makes me feel used.”
“I’m tired of you rejecting me.”

These kinds of put downs create walls of fear between you.

With walls of fear you can’t be vulnerable emotionally. It follows that you won’t want to give your body to a partner you’re walking on eggshells with.

When I don’t trust you with my emotions, how can I give my heart to you. If I can’t give my heart to you, how can I give my body to you?

The Couples Dialogue is a powerful tool that can help you create safety and rekindle sexual desire.

Use the Couples Dialogue to MIRROR – VALIDATE – and EMPATHIZE with your partner’s feelings about where you are in your sex life.

Empathy dissolves criticism and enables you to connect emotionally. You can’t be empathetic and scary at the same time. So use the Couples Dialogue to create safety in your relationship.

2. Flood your partner with tangible acts of non-sexual love.

Use the Caring Behaviors exercise to identify things that make your partner feel loved and cared about.

Then start with those non-sexual items (like “I feel loved and cared about when you make me coffee in the morning.” or “I feel loved and cared about when you watch the kids and give me a break to go shopping.”).

Flood your partner with 3 or 4 of these caring behaviors every day for a month with out expecting anything sexual in return.

When you consistently do things that make your partner feel loved and connected with you, your partner’s sexual desires can be awakened. The key is patience. Do these tangible acts of love unconditionally until the ice melts and sexual desires rekindle.

3. Ask for what you want sexually.

Often one partner has needs and expectations that the other partner knows nothing about.

Sometimes we’re angry because we’re not getting what we want, and yet we’ve never even asked for it.

We’re all different.

Some partners need to feel an emotional connection before they can be open to sex.

For some partners sex is the way they get to that emotional connection.

For some sex is an event. For others sex is an experience that includes an event.

A breakthrough comes when you stop expecting your partner to be like you. It’s time to give up those romantic projections and expectations that have nothing to do with who your partner really is, and start asking for what you want.

Use the Caring Behaviors exercise to list even your most private sexual fantasies. Allow your partner to put an X by those he or she is not ready to give. Be patient and focus on the first two steps (1) building safety and (2) flooding your partner with non-sexual acts of love.

Then, as things change, and sexual desires in your partner start to be rekindled, use your dialogue skills to share those private fantasies, going deeper into why those things make you feel loved and cared about.

This kind of emotional connection and communication prepares the way for the best sex possible.

I hope you can imagine what effect that could have in your bedroom!

Here’s to making love all the time – and enjoying sex too!

Click here for Harville and Helen’s book offer: How To Make Love All The Time and Enjoy Sex Too (and two other great books as well).

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Author: Chuck Starnes

Chuck Starnes is a relationship coach who is passionate about helping couples find the safety, connection, passion and full-aliveness they are looking for together. He also helps organizations become more productive by improving relationship and communication skills.

2 thoughts on “Feel trapped in a sexless marriage? Here’s how to change that!”

  1. Married 51 years and actually enjoy being sexless! Its been that way about 40 years and I don’t have to talk to her, be with her, sleep with her i have no interest in my boring old wife. I eat and sleep in a different little cottage on our property, the only time I go in the main house is to fix something. I make sure she is gone doing what ever it is she does then I’ll fix stuff.
    I’m sure everyone thinks I’m gay or have some one on the side, first of all I’m 74 now and couldn’t get it up if I tried. Never in my life have I cheated, with male or female nor do I want to. I’ve had erection problems since I was about 30 years old, and I never told my wife before we were married, that was my secret. Finally I just told her she was boring and decided that was the end and moved my things out to my little 3 room cottage.

    1. Thank you John for your honest perspective. Sounds like you enjoy being sexless, and that you’re not interested in your partner at this point. I was thinking that it may mean a lot to her that you never cheated on her, and that you’re still dedicated to fixing stuff in her house. Perhaps those are expressions of love you still have for her deep in your heart. I hope she can see that and appreciate you for that. There are many ways to express love. As humans our deepest need is for connection. And as the article says, connection is about a whole lot more than just sex. What if you were to take the first step mentioned in the article and share anything you appreciate about her that you can think of? It could be that you appreciate her giving you space to live in your cottage. I don’t know, but I’d bet if you looked in your heart you’d find something you appreciate about how she looks, what she does, or something about her character you appreciate. Think back to when you first got married, what you liked about her most, and start there. Just a thought. What do you think?

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