I can’t decide if my headline is a question I’m posing to those of you out there in this situation or if it is me suggesting I have some ideas on how to cope.
Maybe it’s both. Are you in a sexless marriage? If so, my heart breaks for that.
There are countless marriages that are sexless for no other reason than one spouse has unilaterally decided sex is not important to the health of the relationship.
In other words, there are no justifiable reasons that sex isn’t happening. And yet, it is not happening. One spouse is fine with this and the other spouse is not. I hear from people all the time in marriages like this.
Sometimes the marriages are otherwise pretty healthy. People will say things like, “In all other areas, we get along quite well” or “We do love each other and have a good friendship. I just wish sex was a part of it.”
I also hear from many people who have grown understandably angry and resentful and disillusioned about their spouse’s decision to withhold sex and/or not address sexual struggles. They are definitely not okay with a sexless marriage. Frustrated and hurt people in these marriages tend to develop a life that is independent of their spouse (kind of like roommate status… they live under the same roof, but each does their own thing) OR they keep scanning the proverbial horizon for a way out. They wonder how to biblically or logistically or financially get out of the marriage.
Suffice to say, there are various scenarios that show up in sexless marriages. Not sure if you see yourself in one of the above scenarios I mentioned, but possibly you do.
Years ago, I wrote a post titled Sexless Marriage? 10 Questions to Ask Before You Leave. I re-read the post recently and I still believe it has several relevant insights that you might find helpful. If you are in a sexless marriage and even if you aren’t thinking of leaving, I strongly encourage you to read the post.
If there’s no reasonable reason a husband and wife couldn’t be having sex, then they should be having it on a somewhat regular basis.
Sure, we can debate what constitutes as “regular,” but you know what I mean. It has to be consistent enough that both the husband and wife maturely and lovingly believe it is enough. Is there always going to be perfect agreement on frequency? Probably not. But is there enough agreement that there is sexual satisfaction and intimacy in the marriage? That’s a worthy goal.
So what are reasonable reasons a married couple wouldn’t be having sex?
Obvious ones are illness, injury, high-risk or difficult pregnancy, and/or separation due to military or work responsibilities.
Another obvious one is one spouse is engaging in sinful sexual behavior of which they refuse to repent and deal with (such as using pornography, visiting strip clubs, engaging in adultery). In that scenario, the unfaithful spouse has shown so little regard for the marriage that one could easily see why their spouse doesn’t want to have sex with them. Fidelity is not an unrealistic expectation. It’s foundational to the marriage.
Another reason sex may not be happening is that one spouse is actively fueling an addiction that is destroying the relationship. Common addictions would be alcohol, drugs or gambling. These are often volatile marriages marked by instability, especially financial and emotional instability.
Some marriages are physically and/or emotionally abusive, and while sex may be happening in these marriages, it’s likely being forced or coerced. If you are in an abusive marriage, my hope and prayer would be that you can confide in a trusted friend to seek resources and a path out of the abusive marriage. (I know this post is not really about abusive marriages, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this).
A less obvious reason sex may not be happening in a marriage is that it has been put on hold temporarily as a couple seeks to heal from betrayal, such as sinful sexual behavior. The husband and wife desire reconciliation and restoration. Usually in situations like this, a couple is working with a professional counselor to rebuild trust and repair the marriage before re-engaging in sexual intimacy. Certainly the goal has to be to not simply repair the emotional relationship, but also to repair the sexual relationship. Sex is part of marriage. By God’s very intentional design, He set marriage apart from all other human relationships, and sex is a foundational way He set it apart.
Sex and marriage are intricately connected, whereby He never intended for one to exist without the other.
So when we stray from that design—when we start to treat sex in marriage as optional or we get careless with our fidelity or we use sex as a weapon or bartering tool in marriage—it’s no wonder that the marriage overall suffers.
And in some cases, the damage is unfathomable. Deep pain. Horrendous resentment. Colossal division. How do you cope with that?
Some people lean heavily on God and the support and wisdom of mature Christian confidantes.
Some people pour themselves into improving their own wellbeing, through hobbies or physical exercise.
Some people become consumed with their work.
Some people journal or visit counselors or dig into helpful resources.
Some people numb themselves with alcohol or TV or other escapes.
Some people use pornography or have affairs.
Some people volunteer or devote more time to causes.
Some people leave their sexless marriage.
Which of the above are healthy coping mechanisms? Which are unhealthy coping mechanisms?
I don’t want to pass judgment on that as much as I simply want to encourage you that if you are in a sexless marriage, take stock of how you’ve been coping. Could you be coping in healthier ways? I can’t answer that for you. I think you can answer it for yourself, though.
I want to end this post on this note. It grieves me greatly to think of the number of marriages where sex has not been mutually fostered and valued. If you are a spouse who has longed for a marriage where sex is enjoyed and savored and pursued, I’m sorry that has not been your experience.
How are you coping with your sexless marriage? Are those coping mechanisms healthy?
For more reading, you can cruise through my list of past posts.
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