In every relationship, intercourse can play a very different role. Perceptions on sex vary from person to person, so determining a “healthy sex life” can look very different depending on whose involved. So how can you tell if a lack of intercourse is harming your relationship?
There are myriad factors that can contribute to a dwindle in sex overtime. Depending on the reason, a sexless relationship may not be indicative of an underlying issue: some couples naturally become less sexually active over time, others opt for infrequent intercourse from the get-go.
“Some people agree to live without sex, others are happy with physical proximity and, very occasionally, couples agree sex is not an issue from the start,” wrote Mariella Frostrup, an advice columnist for The Guardian.
If you find yourself wondering whether it’s worth it to stay in a sexless romance, read on to learn what experts had to say on this topic.
Isadora Alman, a California-based sex therapist, and licensed marriage and relationship therapist, explained to Brides.com that sometimes, a decline in intercourse can be as simple as falling out of the habit.
“This happens more often than you might think. Some event like an illness or a new baby will interrupt the couple’s normal sexual schedule, supposedly temporarily, but sexual relations just don’t resume,” Alman explained.
“What typically happens is that couples get into the business of ‘being in a relationship’ versus cultivating a connection,” Dr. Dana McNeil, a licensed marriage and family therapist, told Bustle. “For some, sex can begin to feel like another box to check on their to-do list. The thought of having to get their mojo on and ‘perform’ sexually loses its shine when they just worked a 10-hour shift.”
When this situation becomes the case, it’s important to prioritize time for intimacy, so that intercourse doesn’t feel so much like an obligation but exciting and spontaneous. Because at the end of the day, intercourse is an important part of connecting with your significant other.
In other cases, a lack of intercourse can be the result of demise in attraction or sexual desire.
“A person can learn to love the partner again by focusing on what is loveable, what originally turned them on, or what might be changed that might reawaken love and desire,” advises Alman.
In some instances, couples may be fine with a sexless relationship, preferring companionship over sexual intimacy. Especially in asexual relationships, where individuals do not feel sexually attracted to their partners, intercourse does not play a foundational role in building intimacy.
Pamela Supple from Sex Therapy told Take 5, “There are many different aspects to a fulfilling relationship. Sex does not need to be the cherry on the cake.”
Ultimately, whatever the cause, maintaining open communication is key to navigating the peaks and pitfalls of upholding a healthy sex life. If one partner is unhappy with their sex life, it’s important to be able to talk about this issue, openly and honestly.
“Unresolved emotions build if they aren’t addressed, so communication is critical,” Susan Zinn, a licensed therapist and certified trauma specialist, told Bustle.
But if you’ve tried having open conversations with your significant other about problems impacting your sexual dynamic with little to no change, this could be a red flag and indicate underlying issues in your relationship. Especially if your partner gets defensive or lashes out at you, these responses could signal that there are other problems hindering your love life.
“A person who doesn’t show empathy, concern, compassion, or interest in taking their partner’s needs into consideration has deeper intimacy issues than just not having sex,” McNeil said.
In cases where couples learn they are sexually incompatible, it’s important to weigh how essential intercourse is for you, personally, in a romantic relationship. If your needs aren’t being met, especially after trying to discuss the issue in an honest and direct way, then there is no harm in leaving a relationship. Chances are, you will find another partner who is a better fit for you.