Can a Sexless Marriage Survive?
If sex was made for marriage, can a a couple really survive a sexless marriage?
My wife Ashley and I have received thousands of marriage-related questions online, at live events, and through The Naked Marriage Podcast. These questions cover a myriad of marriage-related topics, but some of the most frustrated and desperate questions have centered around the issue related to sex. These questions usually come from a spouse with a healthy sex drive who is trying to survive in a sexless (or almost sexless) marriage. Different scenarios can create this complicated marriage dynamic.
Some who are in a "sexless marriage" are there for unavoidable and temporary reasons like a military deployment or long-term work scenarios. This may force one spouse to be physically separated from the other spouse for a time. Knowing the situation is temporary can give these marriages the strength to keep moving forward and to look for creative ways to keep intimacy alive, even with the physical distance between them.
In a rare set of circumstances, there may be a permanent disability, medical condition, or some other set of circumstances that make sexual intercourse impossible. In these tragic cases, a couple must put in enormous effort to connect in different ways. It requires ongoing, focused effort and empathy from both spouses for the marriage to survive.
The scenario I'm going to focus on in this article seems to be the most common. It's not the result of a temporary separation or the result of a permanent condition. It's often difficult to diagnose what causes it in the first place, which adds an extra layer of frustration. I'm also choosing to focus on it because it's the scenario with the most practical options for help and healing. It occurs when one spouse has a strong sex drive, and the other spouse seems completely uninterested in sex.
The disinterested spouse might have lost interest for reasons outside their control like a medical and/or hormonal issue, a struggle with anxiety/and or depression, physical exhaustion from the demands of raising young kids or other needs, insecurity from body image issues, an adverse reaction to stress, emotional scars from past sexual abuse, etc. These causes are not the fault of the spouse who has lost libido, but both spouses still bear the burden of identifying the issue and finding solutions. These struggles can't become a permanent excuse to live in a sexless marriage.
In some cases, the husband or wife's lack of sex drive can be because that spouse is meeting his or her sexual needs in some other way. This can be from a sexual affair or from escaping into the cycle of sexual fantasy, which might include porn and masturbation. These types of behaviors are way out-of-bounds and represent a new set of marital issues that must be addressed specifically for the marriage to have hope for surviving. If any of these are happening, confession, repentance, and a path to rebuilding trust must begin immediately.
Regardless of the root cause of the problem, there are solutions available. Ashley and I have written and spoken extensively on the various issues that can cause the loss of sex drive in one or both spouses. Since there are so many causes, it's difficult to prescribe one-size-fits-all advice. But, here are a few practical tips that we strongly believe could help nearly every married couple struggling in a sexless existence.
1. Diligently work to diagnose the source of the sexless marriage and then work together to find solutions.
If you are the spouse without the sex drive right now, you can't condemn your spouse to a sexless existence simply because you're never in the mood. You need to lead the way in finding solutions as a way of showing real love and compassion to your spouse. If the issue might be medical, then get tested and get blood work done. You might have a hormonal imbalance (which I've had, and it can kill a sex drive). If the issue is psychological, then please see a counselor; not just for the sake of your marriage but for your mental health as well. There are solutions to 99% of sex drive issues if you're willing to do the work to find the answers. Be ready to do the work.
2. Make it your mission to meet your spouse's needs inside and outside the bedroom.
For the spouse who is desiring more sex, fight the urge to grow bitter and resentful toward your spouse. Tenderly serve his/her needs. Work to make your home the safest place on earth for them. For the spouse who is withholding sex, be willing to strive to meet your spouse's sexual needs even when you're not "in the mood." By doing so, you'll be helping to jumpstart your libido, and you'll be making a transformative investment into your marriage. This isn't just my advice. This one about meeting your spouse's sexual needs comes straight from the timeless wisdom of the Bible:
"The husband should fulfill his wife's sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband's needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won't be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control." (1 Corinthians 7:3-5 NLT)
3. Don't let your frustration lead you into immoral "solutions."
When your sexual needs aren't being met, you must safeguard yourself from temptation, because you're more susceptible. Never trade temporary pleasure for permanent regret. Don't allow your frustration to lead you down the dark road to selfishly meeting your needs through adultery, pornography, or anything else. Take your frustrations to God and use this time to grow in your faith. Keep doing all you can do for your marriage and trusting God to do the rest. In His perfect timing, He has a way of bringing resolution to all our struggles. You might not think God cares about your sex life, but He created sex, and He created marriage, and He cares about it even more than you do. Trust Him.
For more tips and tools to help you build a rock-solid relationship, check out The Naked Marriage Podcast and our new book, The Naked Marriage. You can also get unlimited access to the best on-demand marriage media content on the planet at xomarriage.com/now.