How a Sexual Lull Can Morph into a Sexless Marriage

The pain of a sexless marriage

There’s no way around it, boredom is an inevitable part of being human. Even the aspects of your life that once sparked interest and excitement can start to dull around the edges at some point. Certain things in life are repetitive, and repetition can breed boredom. And sex is no different. Even if you make the argument that you could never tire of having an orgasm, it’s the sex leading up to a climax that can start to feel ho-hum (and for some, it may not even feel like the sex is worth the orgasm).

If you can identify with this experience, you’re not alone. Many couples in long-term marriages/ relationships can attest to the reality of a lackluster sex life. But while dwindling sexual intimacy may be a common occurrence for many of us, this fact doesn’t make it any less painful (especially for those who still yearn for greater sexual intimacy and its close cousin, emotional intimacy).

The central question for anyone dealing with this painful reality is:

When you face diminished sex (or sexual desire), what do you do about it?

Why Sexual Lulls Can Morph into Bigger Marriage/Relationship Issues

Without the right mindset and information, the natural lulls of a couple’s sex life can morph into bigger marital or relationship problems (such as a sexless marriage or relationship). I’ve seen this happen many times with the couples I work with in couples counseling. Understanding why something so common as waning sexual desire and interest can pull couples apart is an essential step in turning the tides of sexual vacancy and hurt feelings.

Let’s examine five ways in which a diminished sexual landscape can go awry and pull couples apart.

1) Feeling Helpless to Bring about Change

In these instances, the couple struggles to accept the painful fate of a passionless or sexless marriage/relationship because they erroneously believe there is nothing they can do to change the situation (this belief might be based upon failed attempts to fix the problem). So rather than look for ways to compromise and find pathways to greater sexual fulfillment, the couple stays stuck without any glimmer of hope.

2) Evaluating Themselves Using the Sexual Standards of Others

Under these conditions, the couple has very different perspectives about what their sex life should look like. For instance, they may think they should be having more sex when in fact they are both pretty satisfied with the overall frequency and quality of their of love-making. In other words, they’re not feeling like they’re in a sexual lull, but when they compare the specifics of their sex life to their friends’ or some ideal of what they think a sex life should look like, they identify themselves as lacking (they think their way into a lull).

3) Relying Upon Unrealistic Sexual Expectations

Here one or both partners may jump to the conclusion that since they’re not having fiery, rip-off-your-clothes sex, they must be with the wrong person. This damaging belief erodes the foundation of commitment that a marriage/relationship must securely rest upon; this may lead one or both individuals to becoming affair-prone (susceptible to having an emotional or physical affair).

4) Nurturing the Sexual Rut

Here sexual complacency is the cancer that invades the relationship. When couples fall victim to sexual complacency, they repeatedly fail to give their sex lives the attention and effort this important part of their relationship deserves. The result is that the couple goes from having sporadic sex to no sex at all (even if one or both partners still feel sexual and want sex).

5) Making It Personal (When It’s Not)

There are the lucky few who are sexually compatible (they have similar sexual desire and sexual interests)—and then there’s the rest of us. For the many couples who are sexually incompatible, one partner may misinterpret this sexual incompatibility as a personal rejection (“you don’t want me!”; “you’re not attracted to me anymore”) rather then viewing these differences as a simple reflection of differing sexual energies (usually based upon hormone levels).

As you can see from the above list, how couples view and understand a decline in sexual interest and activity can make a significant difference in whether the decline is handled effectively as a team or the sexual lull snowballs into a more serious relationship struggle. Keep in mind that over the life of your relationship, sexual intimacy will wax and wane depending on the circumstances of your marriage or relationship.

Use the above list to help keep perspective and stay emotionally grounded as you and your partner work toward rekindling and maintaining a more rewarding and passionate sex life.

Featured (top) image  “couple standing back to back” courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/