Sexless Marriage? 10 Questions to Ask Before You Leave

conflict

Are you thinking of leaving your sexless marriage?

You are not alone, even among Christians.

Some of you won’t do it, but the thought still hangs out there.

Should have…  could have…  would have…

… echoes of regret over years invested in a relationship that is starved of the very sexual intimacy that is a hallmark exclusive to marriage.

The one place sex should happen often is commonly the place it happens least — or not at all. I hear from men and women in sexless marriages, and many of them are hungry for a way out.

Their pleas generally look like this…

“I am going to leave after our youngest graduates from high school.”

“There is someone at work who actually wants me, and I can’t even get that kind of attention from the person I married.”

“I’m so done.”

“My wife thinks there is nothing wrong with our marriage, but she has no idea.”

“My husband never wants to make love to me, even though I constantly show him I want to be with him sexually.”

“Our friends and family think we have a great marriage.  If they only knew.”

“I stopped sleeping in our bed because it was too difficult to be that close to the one person who could give me sex but won’t.”

“I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve had sex in the last decade.”

“I figure I’ll just get a divorce and ask for forgiveness later.”

This is a searingly painful topic to address, and no matter what I say, there are no real winners.

Are you thinking of leaving your sexless marriage?

Before you do that, I encourage you to look at your situation and ask yourself these 10 questions:

1. Is your marriage truly “sexless”?

I imagine this question stings a bit, because you wouldn’t even be entertaining a post like this if you didn’t feel discouraged — maybe even desperate — about sex and your marriage.

If you and your spouse are struggling with whether once a week or once a month is enough sex, then I think you may have a frequency battle — rather than a sexless marriage battle.

Many marriages face disagreements about sexual frequency. Many.

I’m not minimizing the frustrations with frequency battles.  They are real and mighty and present in countless marriages.  But having sex once a month when you really want it 2 times a week can hardly be considered a “sexless” marriage.

When I say “sexless,” I mean outright refusal for months and years on end, with no willingness from the refusing spouse to address the matter or make healthy changes. One person has arbitrarily taken sex out of the marriage and even gone so far as to try to make the refused spouse feel guilty or selfish for even wanting sex in the first place.

I couldn’t put a number on what counts as sexless, but I implore you to discern if what is going on in your marriage is a frequency disagreement or a barren wasteland of no sex at all.

2.  Is the refusing spouse struggling with depression or other mental health issues?

Depression (and a host of other mental health struggles) are real.  When they take a toll on a person’s ability to function and interact in healthy ways in their relationships, then the person needs help.

There is no shame in mental illness or in getting help for it (sadly, our society and the church have not always acknowledged mental health struggles as authentic or as serious as they actually are).

If a refusing spouse is mentally sick, you as their spouse owe it to them to do a courageous thing — strongly advise them to see someone (a doctor, a counselor, etc.) who can help equip them to better function in life.  If they are hesitant about that, offer to go with them or to help make the appointment.  Emphasize that you love them and want to support them in not just coping, but in thriving.

A married couple committed to working closely with doctors and counselors can nurture intimacy amidst such struggles, so that the relationship is not irretrievably damaged.

3. Is the refusing spouse physically unable to do anything sexual?

I know this should go without saying, but if your spouse is permanently injured or suffering from chronic illness that makes sexual activity impossible or extremely limited, then I really don’t think you can classify your marriage as “sexless” in the truest sense.

I’m not saying your road isn’t excruciatingly challenging.  But the words “in sickness and in health” have got to stand for something.

I remember a man I knew whose wife was dying of cancer.  He shared with me that she had admitted to him that it grieved her greatly that she couldn’t be available to him sexually.  You know what he did? He reassured her and loved her and lived his vows until the day she died.

Though challenging, it also can be extremely rewarding and edifying to stand by a spouse who would have sex if they could. But they can’t.  Sometimes couples in such situations demonstrate a better understanding of authentic intimacy than couples who have not faced such challenges.

4.  Have you really exhausted every attempt to make your frustrations and pain known?

A sexless marriage usually doesn’t happen over a short period of time.  It is the result of an unhealthy pattern perpetuated long enough that it has become the “normal” in the marriage.

If the lack of sexual intimacy in your marriage has persisted, don’t assume that “hinting” or being passive aggressive or yelling is going to enlighten your spouse to make different choices.  If anything, that approach will likely just get you more of what you have been getting — no sex.

You have to make your concerns and needs and pain and frustration known.  One way to think of it is this: “What do I need to say to my spouse so that there is absolutely no doubt that they know I am hurt and our marriage is suffering from the lack of sexual intimacy?”

Answering that question probably means you’re going to have to be brutally honest.  Speak in the I.  Speak your pain verbally and write it all down as well. Do it with firmness, but not harshness.  Let your pain show.

Risky?  Hell yes.

BUT it’s also risky to try to sustain a facade of marital harmony.  At some point, you have to lay all your cards on the table and let the pieces fall where they may.

After making your pain known, express that you want things to get better and you want the two of you to work on that together, no matter what it takes.  Counseling (individual and as a couple).  Marriage seminars.  Exploring physical reasons (such as hormonal imbalances) for diminished sex drive.  Reading marriage books together. Making changes in your schedule so you can spend more time together.

Whatever it takes.

If your spouse won’t go with you to counseling, go on your own.  Not only will you gain valuable insights from someone trained in helping marriages, you also will demonstrate to your spouse that you are committed to exhausting all possible avenues to make the marriage stronger.

5.  Is the marriage trying to heal from a deep betrayal?

If one or both people in a marriage are actively in the process of healing from a past pain, particularly past sexual abuse and/or adultery or porn addiction, then I personally think it’s understandable that sexual intimacy may be slowed or delayed in the midst of such journey.

Key is that both people are committed to the marriage being healed.

Hopefully, if you find yourself in this situation, you and your spouse see the value in resuming sexual intimacy within a reasonable amount of time.  This is a realistic expectation, because sex is part of marriage.   If the betrayed spouse has decided sex will never happen again, I question whether that person is genuinely committed to the marriage being healed.

6.  Have you looked closely at your own heart and asked the Lord to reveal where you have been careless with the marriage?

Do I think it is okay for a spouse to indefinitely withhold sex?  No.  In the same regard, though, I think we each individually carry a responsibility for the relationship.  God even goes so far as to outline the responsibilities of a wife and a husband in His Word.

Are you at peace with God that you truly are doing what He has called you to do in your role in the marriage?  If not, I urge you to humble yourself before the Lord and seek first His commands instead of pouring so much energy into what you hate about your marriage.

7. Have you sought the counsel of other mature Christians?

Bailing on a marriage, for any reason, is a big deal.  Our society makes it out to seem like it really isn’t, but practical experience and a boatload of research and buckets of tears tell us otherwise.

When two people are knit together in what they thought was a “forever” commitment, especially a covenant commitment of marriage, and then the bond is dissolved, the fallout is often tragic.

Before you leave, take your pain and frustration to 2-3 mature Christians you trust.  Men should confide in men, and women in women.  Choose mature Christians who will listen non-judgmentally, pray with you and for your marriage, not bash your spouse, study God’s Word with you and keep all conversations in confidence.

Be specific and transparent with these mature Christians about what is happening in your marriage.  “We haven’t had sex in three years and this is the pain it has caused me.  I’m not sure I want to be married anymore.”

Ask those Christians to pray for you, with you and for your marriage.

These kind of relationships are priceless when you are contemplating the state of your marriage, especially if you are thinking of ending it.  They can often offer a more objective view and suggestions that you had not considered because of your deep pain.

8. Have you prayed?

Here’s the thing. I can’t answer the question for you of whether you should leave your sexless marriage.  That is something you and God have to wrestle about.

Ending a marriage is not a light decision at all.  As such, I would encourage you to spend tremendous time and vulnerability pressing into the heart of God and His Word.   I’m talking about your personal time with the Lord, not the time you spend at church or in your group Bible study.

9. Have you followed biblical teaching and confronted your spouse about his or her sin of sexual refusal?

1 Corinthians 7 is clear.   God tells husbands and wives:  Do not withhold your body from your spouse.  If your spouse is withholding their body from you sexually and you have tried to address this with them privately to no avail, I do think you are  biblically supported in going to your spouse with at least a couple other mature Christians and shedding light on the sin.

Is this easy?  Well, of course not.  Rarely are accountability issues easy.  They are wrought with our human nature to defend and justify, rather than walk in humility and welcome the opportunity for repentance.  But if you are at a point of ending your marriage, then first follow the biblical model of accountability.

10.  Have you made it clear to your spouse that you are thinking about divorce?

If you have made repeated attempts to address the issue in a variety of ways and your spouse has not responded, and you are thinking divorce is where you are headed, you should tell your spouse this.

Don’t dance around it.  Don’t say it in a tone that is threatening, but rather in a humble tone that expresses your deep pain.  Clearly express and outline your repeated attempts for the two of you to address and heal this area of sexual intimacy in your marriage.

And if you are feeling things are at a breaking point, don’t rule out first legally separating.  Sometimes this distance can be a catalyst toward incredible healing and restoration within the relationship.

Are you thinking of leaving your sexless marriage?

It’s abundantly clear in God’s Word that He fully intended and designed marriage to include sex.  It is a “given” in His commands and Word that husbands and wives, as long as they are able, should not only have sex, but have it often.

Any believing Christian who would try to argue otherwise is clearly walking outside of God’s will.  While each marriage is unique, I do think that a refusing spouse who has consistently withheld sexual intimacy from their spouse for no justifiable reason has in a sense already left the marriage.  Is divorce always the right choice in those circumstances?

Honestly, I’m not sure.

What I do know is the above questions will help you dig deeper.  And I do know that God is a faithful God, well aware of your pain and heartache and deep need for reliance upon Him.

Are you thinking of leaving your sexless marriage?

What are you going to do with those thoughts?

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

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120 thoughts on “Sexless Marriage? 10 Questions to Ask Before You Leave

  1. Amy says:

    I married him to enjoy intimacy under Gods law. We rarely do and when we do he leaves me unfulfilled. I feel like he doesn’t care and it messes with my hormones, leaving me cranky. I’ve asked him to go to counseling, viagra, speak to a doctor, he doesn’t see a problem. I tell him how hurt I am and he gives me an excuse and then refuses me for weeks or months. I want to leave him but I’m scared That I just need to accept that he will only be my “roommate” that uses me every now and then.

  2. Megan Bloomfield says:

    I’m on the same page excpt it’s been 5 years since we had sex . I love my spouse but I can’t continue suffering with unhappiness . I even love our close friendship . It’s very hard to leave because the reason is he can’t stay hard and wants to have it with me and we tried everything you can think of excpt counseling which we can’t afford . This is my first marriage . Your not alone

  3. Pingback: 4 Reasons People Don’t Initiate Sex in Their Marriage – Intimacy in Marriage

  4. DANIEL says:

    I have been married for 40 years this month. There hasn’t been one single month where I have been sexually satisfied. As a matter of fact, I can remember the good times during 40 years on two hands, these are times she initiated. She is extremely gifted at touching me in the exact opposite way that I would have wanted to be touched. I do not feel love when she is trying to pleasure me, she only aggravates me more. I took 40 mg of Viagra, when it normally only takes me 20 mg for me to be turgid for hours, and during peak time she touched my member, and after a couple of minutes, it looked like I had just gotten out of the cold pool. I have contemplated divorce thousands of times, she is my very best friend, but makes a horrible partner in bed. I am beside myself. I have wanted to commit suicide, kill her when the frustration peaks, and all other things in-between. I was beyond frustrated 39 years ago.

  5. G. Livingston says:

    I have been married for 40 years, my wife is a wonderful person ,and a great mom, but during those 40 years, we have only had sex 39 times. Now a lot of people think they are in a sexless marriage, but I have not had sex, in lar 15 years. I have discussed it, with her, and she is no longer interested in any kind of hugging, kissing, or touching of any type. We are just roommates. We share household chores, I do all grocery shopping , and cooking, she does the dishes, the rest we help each other. We talk, but sex is off the table completely. I’m frustrated to say the least, but I don’t believe in divorce. She has said, any number of times, if I don’t like it, then leave, and get a divorce. To top it all off, I asked her if she even loved me, she just commented, I used to. What can I say about that ???

  6. Tod says:

    I’m so over it, and I’m tired of all of the overly simplified Christian suggestions to correct this problem. My marriage has been sexless from the very beginning. My wife just laid in bed and cried on our wedding night, so we didn’t have sex. Six years later when trying to figure out what was wrong in our relationship, she simply said, “I don’t desire you that way.” 26 years later, multiple attempts – Intimate Issues (Focus on the Family), Simply Romantic Nights (Family Life), and yes Passion Pursuit, with wasted time money and effort in marriage counseling – nothing has changed.

    “As married couples] we must make a choice regarding sexual expression. We will either utilize it as a deviant, destructive power or we will harness its potential to keep love alive and vibrant in our marriage relationships.” (Bill and Pam Farrel)

    I’m done with 26 years of deviant, destruction. I just want out.

    My wife knows this behavior is disobedient to God’s word, but justifies it by comparing herself to David. After all, David was a terrible father and husband, but was still a man after God’s own heart. She truly believes she is a woman after God’s own heart, so the destruction it has caused in my life is irrelevant (deep, dark depression, loneliness, desperate for intimacy and affection).

    Although I still hold strong to my Christian faith, my marriage has been the greatest challenge to my faith. How sad is that?

  7. Michelle says:

    Seven years, seven years of no sex, touching, hugging, hand holding, date nights, or just sitting and talking. I have tried everything. I even lost 100 pounds and wore sexier clothes and nothing. There have been no birthday gifts, Christmas gifts or anniversary gift from him in 9 years. I get angrier by the day. I feel like a glorified nanny/housekeeper. No matter what is say, or how I beg, nothing. He comes home, grabs his plate of dinner and disappears to the basement to watch tv or videos on the computer. I want out so badly that I started making plans to leave him when our daughter graduates 8th grade. I can’t do it anymore and counseling has been a joke. I want to be loved again.

  8. Jan says:

    Not all sexless marriages are as a result of one spouse refusing. There are so many, reasons, every reason you can think of. Then these habits become entrenched and ingrained. Sometimes, it’s just like that. Ours was a sexless marriage for more years than I care to mention (in fact I’m embarrassed to think about how long it was). There was always love though, and to cut a long story short, we managed to start communicating about things we hadn’t talked about for a long time and after that, it was like a door suddenly unlocked. We are intimate now, we are working on things. It’s not how it would have been if we’d continued to have regular sex for the whole of our marriage, but there is intimacy, communication and orgasms now, all three of which would have seemed impossible even one year ago.

  9. STEVE says:

    I have given up………I am fed up of trying to initiate sex and have rudely treated!I have never sex out of marriage and had an affair to which I owned up to but could have remained quiet!! Sex before this was awful…. I wanted straight normal stuff to try but I was told I was oversexed.I have endured verbal abuse and treated like an animal. Of late I loath the sight of the person and just want to away from her all the time.
    Im biding my time as my child grows and when fully grown up I will leave as this life as will know it is HELL ON EARTH!!
    Aren’t there dating sites for victims who live in sexless ,marriages?If nothing else, to have a person inthe same boat to confide in.
    I love to make love….. but this has only served to be a point for attack!I hate the insinuations made as I am referred to as a sex addict! IT HURTS DEEPLY!!

  10. Ed says:

    Im giving up as well. We are both born again Christians who met in church, dated and got married. We did not fool around before marriage so on wedding nite She finally says I dont like being touched so be patient. 30 yrs has passed and she still tightens up and blocks my hands when I try to touch her privates. For decades I have pleaded and chased her for sex and a couple times a month she would reluctantly give in to do her Godly duty but would only lie there motionless while I do my thing. I have begged her for counseling, have purchased Christian books on intimacy in marriage, she read o e of the books disagreeing with much of it and has not read the other books. She refuses counseling so this year I gave up trying and now there is no intimacy at all. I have talked about divorce, it scares her, she doesn’t want that but she is basically a room mate and not a wife. We do get along together well outside the bedroom but we are somewhat distant each doing their own thing anymore

  11. Jane Smith says:

    My bf is not a Christian. We do not have the same values. I used to be so in love with him bc he made me want to be a better person. I thought he was wholesome and sweet, in a sexy nerd kinda way but I’m afraid it was all a facade to pull me in. I stay out of fear not love. I’m only 28 and think he wants someone much younger. I am not what he wants sexually but he won’t let me go. Just being able to say it somewhere helps. We have a beautiful daughter and I fear what she will become seeing me treated so poorly. If you read this, please pray for my family.

  12. Andy says:

    Several years ago she was planning to run off with her ex. We had sex four times last year and only twice this year. She shames and humiliates me for trying. On top of this I have been struggling at work. I was passed up for one promotion, strung along for seven months on another before I took a job elsewhere, then I was fired two months later. Both my aunt and father passed away this year. Where my wife should be more available, she is more distant. I can’t even hug her when we sleep. She blames me for letting things happen to me. It feels like we are heading for a divorce. To be honest, suicide might be easier. I keep thinking about when, where, and how. It isn’t healthy to think like this, but neither is living like this. I’m ashamed that I’m supposed to only have feelings for a wife that doesn’t want me in return. I’m sick of excuses and shame. She doesn’t seem to want to work on it and I’m sick of a one sided commitment.

  13. Jerry Williamson says:

    All of these tragedies and I am in the same boat. I will probably lose my immortal soul over this and right now I am not even sure I care about that.

    To hell with her and ultimately to hell with me. God’s immeasurable delight would be to confine the both of us in the same 1000-degree furnace for all eternity.

  14. Cheryl says:

    I have always been more interested in sex than my husband. We both are born-again, love the Lord and believe that He brought us together. Before we got married, we almost gave in to our desires but never went all the way. But even on our honeymoon, I was the one that wanted sex more than he did. Things improved for the first 10-15 years but we haven’t had sex for several years and even though I have talked to him many times, he doesn’t seem very interested. Part of it is his very conservative upbringing I think and he complains about having rashes but won’t go to the doctor and won’t touch me at all. I can’t remember the last time he even kissed me passionately. He is a very good husband in just about every other way and there is no doubt that he’s never been unfaithful. I’m tired of being the one always having to bring the subject up – he knows how I feel but he doesn’t do or say anything to give me hope that this will change. I love him and I have been praying about this for a long time but I’m getting very discouraged and it is hard not to feel bad about myself when he makes no effort to even try and satisfy me. I didn’t get married to be in a sexless marriage and I hate that I am even contemplating divorce but some days I just don’t think I can take the feeling of rejection much longer. I know he loves me and he has supported me in every other way, but somehow that just isn’t enough. I desperately want a fulfilling sex life with my husband. I’m spending too many nights crying over this but I think it is such an important part of marriage – too important to just live without. We’re beginning to seem more like roommates and just occasional hugs and kisses that are just pecks on the lips are not enough for me. I feel selfish in some ways but I also think it isn’t fair to be expected to live without sex in marriage when there is no good reason for abstaining. I am hurt and heartbroken so much of the time and feel all alone in this. I may have to legally separate and hope that that might make him wake up to the importance of reviving our sex life! I don’t know what else to do……

  15. Azelda Joubert says:

    Tomorrow is our 14th wedding anniversary and it is also the 3 month mark since we last had sex. It is also not the first time we have gone loooong stretched of time without sexual intimacy. 3 years ago I wanted so badly to resolve the problem. I asked what the problem was and systematically started addressing his “concerns” with me. Needles to say it changes 2 things:
    1) He became comfortable with his accommodating, understanding wivfe, his behaviour became more and more dismissive and the sex less and less frequent.
    2) I started to seriously evaluate myself and my marriage and saw that in spite of denials and sometimes abusive claims to the contrary, sex is his greatest weapon in our marriage.
    So now I have a really huge problem.
    Overtime and almost unnoticably dependant on him, financially and in live in general. That was never the plan but it happened. If I go, my kids and I are homeless and penniless. If I stay, I sleep in the biggest war zone I have ever encountered and loose birs of my soul. But exposing my kids to divorce? Or giving up on a promise made in front of God? I have no idea if I am capable of that.
    Maybe I should just invest in separate beds?
    Sure there is a whole aspect of my personhood that is denied and neglected, but I remove his ability to further weaponize that aspect of our marriage?
    I honestly think bleeding to death in one great event would be easier than to slowly bleed to death emotionally over the next unhappy 14 years..

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  18. Grant says:

    You could definitely see your skills within the article you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. At all times follow your heart.|

  19. Bill says:

    This is for the other people who commented.
    I feel your pain. It is devastating to be grieving the loss of what should be the most joyous part of your marriage and life in general. It is made even more debilitating when the one person who can make you whole and heal your wounds, who made the commitment before witnesses and god to love honor and cherish you until death do you part does not. Pray, often, God will lead you to the path that will lead you to your salvation.

    For some background I’ married 39 years together 42 to the love of my life but in a sexual desert for over 25 years and no sex for the last 21. No I’m not ok with it, have tried many different avenues and have been greeted with sexual withholding as a weapon, gaslighting, minimization of the damage it has wrought in our marriage and to me emotionally, physically and mentally.

    Pray, I’m in the beginning stages of my last and final attempt to get the marriage of our dreams and it is difficult. It means being completely transparent unearthing every little thing in the past 42 years that has been swept under the rug, building what at this point is Mount Everest separating us from each other and our happiness. It is worth the effort and the risks. It is also fraught with danger as we are both uncovering and discovering ourselves in the process, and a lot of it is ugly when we step into each other’s shoes.
    Here is my best advice: Hope, Forgiveness and Love.
    Hope is the inspiration to keep on keeping on.
    Forgiveness is releasing you and your partner from debts that cannot ever be repaid. It gives you both a way forward.(note;below is an examination of what forgiveness is and simultaneously is not)
    Love , I have never found a way to define love but we know it when we find it.

    You cannot have Hope without Love.

    You cannot give and receive Forgiveness without Hope

    Love has no context without both Hope and Forgiveness.

    If you are Christian: God, the father is Love, Jesus-Hope, the Holy Spirit- forgiveness. You are deserving of all 3.

    A note on forgiveness it is the release from a debt that cannot be repaid. It does not relieve consequences, erase the memory of that debt, or rebuild the violation of trust. Those require grace equally from the forgiver and the forgiven.

    With prayers and love,
    Bill

  20. mick says:

    l was married for 11 years 5 kids both in the Lord l lost a well paid job and we fell on hard times but we always managed to pay all the bills and we ate well.Not good enough for my wife and she left me for another man who was well off got pregnant she woke up from the fog and l took her back took the child on as my own but l lost that intimacy and the thought of another man touching my wife was torment so l served her l spent 22 years on my own it took along time to heal but l made a new life for myself and created a successful business.then l met a lady a we new we were meant for each other weve been for three years nerly want to marry as soon as this scamdemic is over we connect on every level and are incredibly close both of us have been cheated on and know the pain that causesThe last six months she has shown little interest in sex where before we had a great sexlife now its nothing we have talked bout it nothing changes l am at the point now where l feel rejected hurt lonely yet she still wants me to kiss and cuddle her which turns me on and l get frustrated so now l keep my distance and say don’t touch me in a nice way l’m not nasty about it ,Its so sad what we had was great what l have always wanted in a relationship l’m glad for covid in the sense that we would have got married and l would have been like a lot of you on here and felt trapped Heavens knows how some of you on here have put up with it for years and years. Ihave told her l am not getting into a sexless marriage she didn’t like it but at least l am honest and have laid my cards on the table l’ll give it until things return to normal then she is through the door as much as l love her

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