Below, This Morning Agony Aunt, Lucy Beresford tells us her top tips for living in a sexless marriage …..
Sex is a form of communication, usually conveying desire, adoration and a deep level of connection. Over time, couples have to work at their sex life just as much as any other part of their relationship. Some couples actually use sex and the withdrawal of it to act out problems or resentments.
If both partners in the couple are happy with the amount of intimacy in their relationship as they age, this is brilliant. I am always happy to learn that couples make their individual situation work for them and that they are both fulfilled.
But if you are routinely being rebuffed in the bedroom, it’s important to work out what is going on. Why is yours a sexless marriage? Are both parties on the same page about it? And what can you do to improve things.
Does Sex Matter?
Sex makes us feel closer to our partner. The chemicals released at orgasm help us feel connected and satisfied. Studies have also shown they improve heart functioning and also the quality of sleep. Problems in a relationship arise when one person longs for the closeness and comfort that a healthy sex life brings, and the other is either disinterested or actively hostile about the whole idea. The physical, emotional and psychological changes can make both men and women impacted by it feel terribly alone, unloved, unheard or simply unfulfilled.
The first thing to do if you’ve realised you’re in a sexless marriage is to work out the root cause. Is it due to bodily changes down to age? Are there any upspoken resentments being acted out by withholding sex? Or has your relationship reached a crossroads?
Are You Communicating Your Desires?
Now that you have confronted the reality of the situation, your next step is figuring out how to communicate with your partner about your needs. Sex is a difficult and awkward topic to bring up no matter your age and the longer you go without discussing it, the harder it becomes to initiate a conversation. Nonetheless, it’s important that you make the time. Relationship coach Laura Doyle recommends you say what you want, instead of complaining or criticizing your partner for not wanting sex.
“If you tell your husband that you feel alone and abandoned in your marriage, you’re more likely to repel his attraction than attract his love. If what you want is to feel close to him again, tell him that,” Laura keenly recommends. She adds, “No amount of complaining will make your husband desire you. Men need respect as much as they need oxygen and nothing will kill intimacy quicker than criticism.”
It is important to keep an emotionally safe environment where you both feel confident sharing your thoughts and feelings. A sexless marriage hurts both of you and tackling it together is essential to the health of your relationship. Of course, this means you need to know what each of you require, as far as a healthy sex life is concerned.
The Menopause & Manopause
Every woman on the planet will go through the menopause, which is when reductions of oestrogen and testosterone lead to changes not only in a woman’s body but also often, her sexual drive. Some women famously ‘sail through’ this time in their life, a phrase I dislike because it makes the rest of women sound like they’re just being drama queens for having a different experience. As well as the well-known symptom of hot flushes or weight changes, some women notice that they don’t feel aroused easily. Or perhaps sex is now more painful. This is due to a loss of blood to, or collagen in, the vagina, and the discomfort can contribute to less interest in sex.
And even if you are having a relatively easy menopause or you are receiving treatment for it, you might be starting to doubt your desirability due to feeling you look older or being unhappy in your body.
Men too, can start to feel negative about their body as they age, or they may find that their erectile performance declines, leading to insecurities or self-loathing. This situation has led some to comment that men can suffer from the Manopause just as much as some women.
All of this information about the natural process going on physically for men and women is incredibly important because many relationships and marriages face a huge challenge when one party or the other appears to go off sex.
Top Tips For A Sexless Marriage
- Make sure you are aware of the potential bodily and hormonal changes possible for your partner as you age. That way, you can be compassionate and understanding about the symptoms, which is a loving way to treat your partner. Life gets difficult when we fail to adapt. Ageing forces us to switch our mindsets and make new plans.
- Encourage your partner to talk about their desires, fantasies and libido levels, so they can feel genuinely heard by you. It’s hard enough to feel lost and perhaps abandoned in your relationship without also feeling that your partner refuses to either listen to you or talk about the situation. By talking about how you feel, you open up the chance for improvement and growth.
- Open up conversations about seeking medical help if required for physical changes. Your GP or local well-man or well-woman clinics will be able to advise on options for things like the menopause, erectile problems or issues around weight gain.
- On which note, keep yourself in good shape. Annoyingly, most people gain a bit of weight as they age, so you owe it to yourself to take care of your health. And we would all love to believe our partner must love us no matter what, but it’s not fair to be complacent. Controversial as this sounds, many people feel that if their partner lets themselves go, it’s as though they no longer care about the relationship. I’m not suggesting you have to go out looking like you did in your teens (that would be weird), but focus on maintaining a healthy mind and body.
Intimacy Doesn’t Have To Mean Sex
- Make sure any intimacy you initiate doesn’t always have to lead to sex or orgasm, otherwise your partner will feel you only ever have one thing on your mind. We are more likely to want to be intimate with our partner if there are other signs of intimacy during the day, like a nice kiss when you part for work, sending loving texts during the day, or doing something romantic like buying flowers or cooking a simple meal.
- If the lack of sex is due to physical changes, work as a couple to switch your mindset away from the idea that great sex is only about vaginal penetration, orgasms or an erect penis.
- Make sure that not all your conversations are about the lack of sex. This only leads to resentment or feeling trapped. No-one should be forced into having sex.
- Try to work out however whether the lack of sex is due to any unspoken resentments. Your partner may be holding a grudge about how few chores you do, how much time you spend on your phone, or the fact that you only flirt with other people. This angle will require careful handling because if sex is being withheld as a punishment, it means the resentments are hard or painful to articulate. Show that you are able to listen carefully and attend to things that need changing.
By Lucy Beresford
Lucy Beresford is a psychotherapist, Agony Aunt for ITV’s This Morning and author of “Happy Relationships: At Home , Work & Play“