Relationships can be wonderful and fulfilling parts of our lives. They also, however, can be very, very challenging. They are a constant balancing act between your needs and those of your partner. On top of that, you are trying to navigate your two separate lives, together. Different careers, daily routines, other personal obligations like friends and family – it’s really tough. One of the hardest things to manage and maintain is a sex life that meets both person’s needs and expectations. If your relationship is lacking intercourse, is this something worth ending it over? This is what the experts are saying.
Is A Sexless Relationship Worth Staying In?
Robert Epstein, PhD, a San Diego-based research psychologist and founder and director emeritus of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies in Beverly, Massachusetts, says that research shows 10%-20% of romantic relationships in the United States are without sex. This is defined as couples who have sex less than once a month, or less than 10 times per year. That is about 40 million people and is likely an understatement due to the shame surrounding a lackluster sex life. (1)
Epstein says that it isn’t necessarily that a lack of sex is problematic, it’s when one or both partners are lacking in sexual satisfaction that is. He says that he once had a professor who said “When sex is good, it’s 5 percent of the marriage, but when it’s bad, it’s 95 percent of the marriage.”. The hard part is defining what “good” and “bad” mean for each couple and each individual in that couple. Epstein says that good means that each person’s needs are being met. Bad means that one or both are not.
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Sexless Relationships Don’t Lack Love
It is important to note that just because a couple isn’t having sex, doesn’t mean that there is no love in their relationship. There are many ways to be intimate with someone that don’t include intercourse. There are also many reasons why a couple might not be having sex.
For example, a couple may be made up of two people who both have a low sex drive. In this instance, they will both be content without having much sex. A couple’s sex life also may have slowed due to life circumstances: Pregnancy, a new baby, a health issue, or even just naturally over time due to aging. Again, couples can be intimate in ways that don’t involve sex, such as cuddling, hand-holding, back rubs, etc. (2)
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Imbalance Is Where The Problem Lies
Where couples run into issues is when there is an imbalance between each persons’ needs and whether or not they’re being properly met. Unfortunately, this is where many couples struggle. Often they don’t start out imbalanced, but then something changes for one or both of them. This can be short-term, such as a stressful work deadline leaving a partner completely exhausted, but it can also be more long-term. (3)
According to Archives of Sexual Behavior, American adults are having less sex than they used to. It brings to light the reality that many people struggle with low sex drive. This can be caused by a number of triggers:
- Hormone imbalances
- Chronic illness
- Genital pain
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low self esteem
Again, what is a normal amount of intimacy will be different for every couple. A couple that has sex once a month may be just as sexually fulfilled as one that has sex every day, as long as it’s what each person wants. Often what happens is one person loses interest in it more than another, causing tension.
Read: What Happens When You Have Sex Daily? Good Things
Is It Worth Ending The Relationship Over?
As always, the answer is: It depends. Are you both willing to talk about it and work on making changes to ensure each person is satisfied? If so, then no, it’s not worth packing your bags for. Communication is truthfully the key here. You and your partner need to talk about why you are not having sex and how that makes each of you feel. Both of you also need to figure out why your sex life has fizzled off.
Is it because of stress, or perhaps your body has changed and you’re feeling self-conscious about it? Or is it actually because the relationship itself has run its course and one or both of you are no longer as emotionally invested? If the latter is the reason, then the lack of intimacy may just be the final red flag that this relationship has reached its ending point.
Regardless, if you choose to stay and try and make it work, then as always seeking professional help is suggested. Couples therapy can help to bring many underlying issues to light and provide you with a space and the tools to work on those problems. That way, regardless of what happens, you can at least say that you tried.
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- “Are Sexless Marriages and Relationships Normal?” Everyday Health. Marie Suszynski. September 8, 2011.
- “What to Do If Your Partner Has Lost Interest in Sex.” Very Well Mind. Sheri Stritof . December 10, 2020.
- “10 Reasons Why Some Couples Stop Having Sex.” Pschology Today. Barbara Greenberg Ph.D. October 3, 2021