There is a common situation which can occur in which one person in a relationship is interested in sex and the other is not. Sexless relationships are extremely common and many go years without sexual intimacy. For one reason or another sex fades away until it is no longer happening at all. Often one party is frustrated but feeling helpless. Maybe they tried to take initiative but got rejected, maybe they stopped trying. Perhaps no one is bringing the topic up anymore.
The questions I have received in regards to sexless relationships are formulated along the lines of: ”my partner is no longer interested in sex, is it wrong if I seek this outside of the marriage?” This is no doubt a controversial question and one I am interested in discussing.
Infidelity and the history of marriage
Many people would instinctively say, ”no that would be infidelity, it is not ok.” If your partner is not aware and therefore has not had an opportunity to consent, then this would for most definitely be infidelity. However, on the other hand, is it fair to deny someone the opportunity to fulfil their sexual needs, maybe for the rest of their life? Infidelity is not black or white and means different things for different people. Read my article on what counts as infidelity here.
Marriage used to be something we entered into for social and economic reasons, not for love. It was more accepted to seek love or sexual relationships outside of marriage because marriage was not expected to fulfil these needs. Modern marriage is different. We now tie the knot for love and we expect our needs for passion and desire to be fulfilled within the boundaries set by this relationship.
When you want different things
So, what happens when you no longer have an intimate relationship or find yourself in a sexless marriage? If you are both fine with it there is perhaps no problem. After all, not having sex is perfectly ok and not wanting to have sex is perfectly ok. However what about when one partner has lost interest and the other has not? Here are some of the things I have heard:
”My partner is not interested in sex anymore. It is important to me but every time I try to raise the subject it gets brushed over and we end up not talking about it”
“My partner wants to have sex once a month at the most, I want to have it every day, is it wrong if I seek it elsewhere?”
“My confidence is shattered, my partner hasn’t touched me for six years. I am so hungry for someone to just touch me”
“I have been celibate for two years, my partner isn’t interested anymore. I don’t know if it is important or if maybe I can go without?”
What is fair and what is morally right?
If you are serious about having along term relationship there will be ups and downs. There will be periods with less or no sex. However if it has become a permanent situation I don’t think it is sustainable and nor do I think it is fair.
My opinion is that if you are the one wishing for sex and intimacy I understand if you would seek it elsewhere. However, I believe in honesty and I don’t condone infidelity. That’s what it would be if you went behind your partner’s back. If you are the one not wanting sex you can’t assume this is ok for your partner and just bury your head in the sand. This is as hurtful to them as it is to you that they don’t want sex.
What to do about a sexless relationship?
There is no shame in not wanting sex and there is no shame in wanting it. There is a myriad of possible reasons why you have ended up here. The point is that if you have different needs or desires you have to talk about the situation and find a way forward that can work for both of you. Sometimes the fire can be lit again, and sometimes not and you need to find other solutions.
Communication is key
I have no magic, one-size-fits-all answer that will solve these problems. Each couple should work them through based on their circumstances. There is no shame in seeking help and trying to improve the situation. Unfortunately it is also common to hear that “my partner isn’t interested in talking about it / seeing a therapist / trying to change anything”. There are some things you can do on your own to try and start the dialogue. You have to decide what you are willing to invest and how much the relationship means to you. If you can’t communicate with each other, what relationship do you actually have? This is the thing to get right first. So many problems would never occur, or would be easier to resolve if we could just understand each other better and not be afraid to open up about our feelings. More on that in another article.
I really just wanted to prompt some reflection with this article. Are you in a sexless marriage? How is that for you? Have you successfully found a solution, if so what worked for you? You can comment via my contact form if you would like to share but not openly, or if you wish to be anonymous.
Thanks for topic suggestions to those who sent them through. They are on my list for future articles.