A 'sexless' relationship is defined as one where sex happens 10 times or fewer per year. However, research shows that many couples aren’t even achieving that.
Studies repeatedly show that married couples of all ages who are happy with their sex lives also report higher levels of relationship satisfaction. Most relationship therapists agree that not having sex when you want to makes people unhappy, causing feelings of frustration, depression, rejection, self-doubt, difficulty concentrating, and low self-esteem.
When psychotherapist Brett Kahr carried out a sex survey of 19,000 people in the UK in 2007, he found that 32% of people have sex less than once a month and that 21% of women and 15% of men do not have sex at all.
Research from the sociology department at Georgia State University suggests that about 15% of married couples have not had sex for around six months to a year. Denise Donnelly, who led the study, answered the following question:
"Can people in a marriage (or in a long-term relationship) that has become sexless rekindle their sex lives?"
Some do. But once a marriage has been sexless for a long time, it’s very hard. One or both may be extremely afraid of hurt or rejection, or just entirely apathetic to their partner. They may not have been communicating about sex for a very long time (if ever) and have trouble talking about it. Couples who talk over their sex lives (as well as other aspects of their marriages) tend to have healthier marriages, but it’s hard to get a couple talking once they’ve established a pattern of non-communication.
There are mixed opinions about what to do to rekindle marital sex. For some couples, it may be as simple as a weekend away from the kids, taking a vacation or cruise, or just having some time off, alone. Others may need help in re-establishing communication and may seek professional assistance.
Some of the most common reasons for decline in sex in long-term relationships are:
There are various health problems that can affect your sex life, ranging from back pain, insomnia, arthritis, migraine and asthma. However, with a third of British couples spending only 30 minutes of quality time together each day and a culture of longer working hours, tiredness, household chores and childcare can all make it easy to fall out of the habit of having sex.
If you’re in a sexless relationship and want to try to get the ball rolling again, the following tips may help:
Donnelly, D., and Burgess, E. (2008). The decision to remain in an involuntarily celibate relationship. Journal of Marriage and Family 70(2):519-535
Kahr, Brett (2007). Sex and the Psyche: The Truth About Our Most Secret Fantasies. Penguin, London.
Suzi Godson: www.suzigodson.com