How Long Can a Marriage Go Without Sex?


Some marriages go decades without sex, so the question of “can” doesn’t really get at the heart of the matter.

A better question is, “What happens when a marriage goes a long time without sex… for no justifiable reason?”

I always have to add that disclaimer in there, because there are some marriages plagued by chronic illnesses and injuries that make any kind of sexual intimacy impossible.

But most marriages?  Yeah, in most marriages, sex IS an option. My guess is if you are reading this right now, sex IS an option in your marriage — yet it never or rarely occurs.

What does happen when a marriage goes a long time — maybe even years or decades — without sex?

Here are 10 things I think can happen (in no particular order).

Ongoing lack of sexual intimacy in a marriage…

1.  Stirs resentment.

Sex is never just about sex.  It’s about soul mingling, which is a vital aspect of marriage that is found in no other human relationship.  When I wrote the post “I like him better after we have sex,” I meant it.

Consistent and mutually-enjoyable sexual intimacy in a marriage equips us to extend grace, to be kinder toward one another, to do life together.

So it’s no wonder, that when you take sex out, resentment is eager to arrive on the scene.

2.  Fosters distance.

I think we intuitively recognize when there is distance between us and our spouse.  Distance is different than resentment, but still equally damaging.

Sex is a vivid reminder in a marriage that we are “in this together.”  It’s not surprising that when couples report going long stretches without making love, they feel “distant” from one another.

And that distance begins to chip away at all the things that give marriage richness and strength — vulnerability, friendship, shared joys, common ground.

3.  Reduces your marriage to roommate status.

Sure, the two of you pay the bills and run the house. You share the chores. You raise the kids.  You mow the lawn. You decorate the Christmas tree.  And you run the carpool.

BUT… without physical and emotional intimacy… all of that roommatish stuff barely qualifies as a high and holy definition of marriage.

I would be a wealthy woman if I had a dollar every time I heard someone express to me that their marriage exists, but it never thrives — in large part because of the lack of sex.

Roommate status in a marriage sucks.  It just does.

4.  Dishonors God.

God designed marriage and sex — and He designed them to go together.

He implores husbands and wives to make love often. He places a fundamental command on sex being exclusive to marriage.  He created women and men both to be able to experience orgasm.

Sex is God’s deal — His arena — in a very big way.

So, suffice to say, when we marry, we are saying “yes” to sex being part of that covenant.  We are saying “yes” to God.   Take sex out of the covenant? How can we think that doesn’t dishonor Him?

5.  Makes it easier to rationalize infidelity.

If we tried to count the number of Christian men and women who want to step out on their sexually unavailable spouse, we would be counting for awhile.

And that’s just counting the ones who want to, but don’t.

Let’s not even start counting the ones who actually do give into that temptation.

I’ve never been a fan of the phrase “affair proof” your marriage, because a spouse could go above and beyond their responsibility in the marriage, including being sexually available — and their spouse could still choose to cheat.

But I do think there are ways we can guard our marriages. Making love is one of those ways.  When sex is non-existent, the spouse who hungers for it may be more tempted to loosen the reins on their marriage vows.

To not see some cause and effect in that whole scenario is careless.

Yes, adultery is a sin and there is no way to rationalize it.

But listen to the raw feelings of refused spouses, and it’s not too hard to see how they convince themselves that sexual indiscretion doesn’t matter at this point.

6.  Sets a horrible example for kids.

Don’t kid yourself on this one (no pun intended).  Your kids are learning about marriage from watching you.   You may say, “Well, they don’t know anything about our sexual intimacy.”

You’re right that they aren’t privy to the details of what happens behind your closed bedroom door, but I guarantee you this.   If nothing is happening behind that bedroom door, the collateral damage from that spills out into the rest of your life — you know, the life where your kids are present and paying attention.

See points 1, 2 and 3 for further insight.

7.  Invites the enemy into your home and bedroom.

Satan is all about division, and he doesn’t really care how he goes about doing it.  He is crafty and clever and will work with what we hand him.

When you willingly decide to take sex out of the marriage, the enemy is delighted.  Why?   Because he knows that anything designed by God — in this case, sex — is powerful. And holy. And worthy.

When a married couple stops having sex, Satan has gained a huge foothold.  Division is so much easier when unity is no longer mutually valued.

8.  Increases reliance upon masturbation as the only form of sexual fulfillment.

I don’t think masturbation in marriage is always a bad thing, and I’ve blogged about that here and here.

BUT…  if it is happening often and only because someone’s spouse has arbitrarily removed sex from the marriage, then the negative impact starts to add up quickly.

When a husband and wife could be having sex, but aren’t — and one or both of them resort to masturbation — are we really that surprised?

If anything, it just confirms the power of sexual desire.

Even more heartbreaking is when the refusing spouse gives “permission” or “encouragement” to their spouse to “just take care of things themselves.”

How can we possibly think that’s God vision (or even your vision) for sex in a marriage?

9.  Makes pornography look more enticing.

No, I am not justifying any sin, including the sin of pornography.

But we are a naive people if we believe for one moment that pornography doesn’t look more alluring to some people who are consistently sexually rejected within their marriage.

I know that pornography addiction is complex.  I also know that I hear from many people who struggle greatly with pornography and are trying to stop looking at it.  To feel as if there is no other option but pornography only compounds the problem.

Many couples, usually through the assistance of counselors and ministries, have overcome the betrayal of pornography. Without a doubt, a husband and wife eventually resuming healthy and active sexual intimacy is a part of that healing.

Again.  A lot of this goes back to, “What are we doing to guard our marriage and our hearts?”

10. Damages your ability to serve in the body of Christ.

If you are gung ho about serving in countless ways at your church — yet you know you are blatantly refusing your spouse sexually — then your Christian witness is hampered.  I have no doubt about that.

There’s nothing wrong with using your talents and heart to serve the Lord outside your home, but if you are doing it at the expense of priorities in your home and in your marriage, then I encourage you to step back.

Take a good hard look. Be humble. And admit that this may be a blind spot for you.

The Lord is willing to meet you in that place of struggle — and in all the others I’ve listed to this point.

How long can a marriage go without sex?

Well. Like I already said…  I don’t think that question really gets at the heart of the matter.

Do you?

For more reading on this, check out one of my favorite posts: Extraordinary Sex in Your Ordinary Life.

Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.

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258 thoughts on “How Long Can a Marriage Go Without Sex?

  1. Arc Negutti says:

    I have words. If couple is not sick, why they not accomplish sexual relationships promised when the covenant they did when start living together. Fake news, fake Christians promises, fake respect, I’m tired this roommates relationship! I really appreciate sincere couples. Before internet people get cheated, now porn addictive. If you don’t like sex, give free way for you partner. My wife don’t like sex . Why she lie for me this years? I am a Christian husband and handling this ridiculously situation. Sex will bring sin alone or with other people. Now I understand law of concubine. Wife was free to bring joy to husband not by sex. “Married is good, hang up yourself is better “ zzz tired this roommate life.

  2. Cat says:

    Wow this is a interesting article. I am posting because my marriage went for over 12 years at least with no sex. Yes we ended up in roommate status. We finally were able to turn this around after that long. Regrets? Yes but we choose to not look back but to move forward. There were many things that caused this. At first I felt it was all my fault because I became the refuser but after a lot of heart to heart talks and some counseling on my end a lot if things contributed to it. I felt like my husband put his job a head of our relationship over and over until I created a life that revolved around my. children and my own job and a mother that was very sick for many years. When the kids moved away it all came crashing down and I was ready to bail. We are doing well now so believe it or not things can improve.

  3. tom says:

    I am new to this forum and need advice. My fiancé and I have been together for 12 years. 11 of them have been sexless, largely because she has a stressful job and eats and drinks a lot to kill the pain and I have enabled this. I love her very much but with the eat/drink came the excess weight to a point where she is obese by every definition in every medical journal. I am not attracted to her like this and cannot communicate to her how unhealthy she has become as I become the judge. But I am right..she has become unhealthy…physically , emotionally and sexually.. I don’t know what to do or say to help or us.

  4. DeCaf says:

    Been on this site before and its always very interesting to return and read the comments.
    My situation hasn’t changed married 53 years, coming up on 54. Hadn’t had any intimacy, sex or touching in right at 40 years.

  5. Broken Spirit says:

    What if your spouse just stopped altogether and gave No reason as to why? I think ladies you just keep it moving, where as if one won’t do another will! I know its not right, but its not right to try to control things either. Its ok for him to have sex with another female, and not for U to get your situation handled, please!!

  6. Carolyn Smith says:

    Before my husband and I got married, We wrote letters to each other. What we needed to be our happiest. I said sex 2x’s week. I don’t know if there was ever a time when that happened. Not on our wedding day or anniversary since then. We have sex maybe 2x’s a year. I have confronted him on numerous occasions and it’s not what I can live with. I love my husband, however, this is not what I signed up.

  7. Bob says:

    After a few blissful years, she is suddenly not interested. Falls asleep in front of TV every night till early hours of morning (3:00 am) otherwise excuses like tiredness, headaches, etc. puts our relationship on back burner – more engaged/interested in details of other people’s lives, faults husband on many issues, takes side of her children, doesn’t like to discuss the situation, indifferent to the relationship or feelings of husband. Excuses galore: “you only touch when you want sex”; “sex is not intimacy”; “you don’t hug me”; “you only hug me because of sex”, etc

  8. Cindy says:

    How disheartning to read another Christians opinion on sex in the marriage. Must have been written by a male. I married at 40 to a man with mild but challenging, autism. Sex is robotic and I have NEVER enjoyed it with him. I was sexually molested at age 4 and no, I haven’t been able to separate that from the meaningless, one sided pleasure of sex with my husband who gets off EVERY time or the few guys before I met him. Is it really biblical for me to lay there and gratify him whenever he feels the urge to pro-create despite me never enjoying it? Really? God AND the church expects me to stay in a loveless marriage and just endure it? Really? Cuz I’m NOT down with that and I really don’t believe that 90% of my happiness will only come if I spread eagle for an ungrateful husband. I stay because we have kids and literally NO other reason. This article is infuriating for those of us who HAVE tried it all and still, we’re only good for one thing. I’ve invited my husband to seek sexual pleasure outside of our marriage because I am tired of only being needed, wanted or appreciated if my panties are down.

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