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When and How You Should Walk From a Sexless Marriage?

Michael Tierney
October 27, 2022

Marriage is a partnership between two adults who have agreed to share their lives through any adversity that comes their way. While it's one of the most sacred promises, this union does not change the needs of those involved. As human beings, we have certain psychological and physical needs that must be met to promote a healthy lifestyle. While some needs are more important, certain needs cannot be met without help.

One of these needs is not quite as vital to remaining healthy but does provide undeniable benefits for some. We are referring to sexual intercourse with one's spouse.

Solution While referring to sex as a "need" might be a stretch for some, it is an important part of the human experience. The problem for some is that their marital life has lost the intimacy and the desire for sex. This can leave one or more partners feeling undesired or frustrated.

A sexless marriage is a growing problem for modern American unions, with couples losing the spark as time goes on. Over time, the sex lives of a married couple can experience a natural drop-off. Unfortunately, this drop-off can be a slippery slope to a sexless marriage where neither spouse has their physical needs met. Being in a sexless marriage can be frustrating since one of the couple's main outlets is essentially off the table, but it is not always a reason to leave. Understanding when to end a marriage over a lack of physical intimacy can help prevent unnecessary divorce.

How Much Sex is Normal?

Before you label your marriage as "sexless," you must understand how much sex is considered normal.

Solution This criterion can change depending on the age bracket you and your spouse fall into, but there is an average you can use to measure your sex lives. The typical baseline for a healthy sex life for a married couple is once a week.

However, this baseline can vary depending on certain factors and should not be taken as gospel. While this baseline is used to determine the average sex life of married couples, some factors impact the statistics. Typically, couples between the ages of 40 to 50 are at the once-a-week baseline, but couples older than this might experience lowered libido.

Solution Conversely, couples between the ages of 20 to 30 tend to have sex twice a week due in no small part to their youth improving stamina, health, and free time.

However, these statistics are generalities and might not affect every couple the same way. There have been examples of couples who have sex up to 12 times a week and others who have no sex whatsoever but retain a healthy relationship. The key to determining if you truly have a sexless marriage lies in your personal situation, but it might benefit from comparison to this baseline.

A Couple in Bed

A sexless marriage means having little to no sex with your spouse despite a previously active sex life. The official clinical definition of a sexless marriage is if you and your spouse have sex less than 10 times a year. If you and your spouse previously had sex regularly and now have none, you might have fallen into a sexless marriage.

Often, this situation leads to serious conflicts between spouses since one of you likely retained your sex drive while the other did not. If this is the case for your marriage, it might be tempting to walk away if your needs are not being met. That said, you should not walk away from your marriage until you ascertain the true reason behind your spouse's decreased sex drive. Otherwise, you risk dissolving your marriage over something that might have been corrected.

Understand the Cause

If you are frustrated with the lack of intimacy with your spouse, it is understandable that you might seek a way out. While leaving your spouse over a sexless marriage might be frowned upon in some circles, it is a valid concern to have if they deny sex for the sake of denial. With that in mind, there are causes for decreased libido that you might be able to correct with time and effort.

Correcting these underlying issues can lead to a revival of your marital sex life and restore the relationship to how it was before. Most times, the loss of intimacy with one's spouse can be traced to a specific psychological or physical issue that can be addressed and healed. It is only with significant age that sex becomes unlikely for reasons outside the couple's control.

Solution One of the biggest causes of a decreased sex drive in a marriage is emotional distress, such as stress, loss, or lack of confidence.

These can all impact the willingness or desire for sex due to your spouse being uncomfortable in intimate situations. For example, if your spouse has lost confidence in their physical appearance, they will be more self-conscious about revealing their body to you. This self-conscious state can eliminate any desire they have for sex to preserve the confidence they have remaining. While a lack of confidence can be detrimental, it is not something that has to control your spouse.

Emotionally Distressed Spouse

Trying to help your spouse feel more comfortable in their body can go a long way in helping them feel more open about sex. Unfortunately, lack of confidence is not the only potential cause of your spouse's decreased sex drive. There might also be underlying emotional issues that make your spouse less receptive to sexual advances. This could include trauma from childhood impacting their comfortability in intimate situations or emotional discomfort from more recent situations.

Stress at work can wear away your spouse's willingness to be intimate since emotional strains discourage them from allowing themselves to be vulnerable. Stress also keeps them too wound up to lower their guard enough to enter an intimate headspace willingly. If your spouse works in a high-stress environment or career, their odds of experiencing lowered libido due to stress increase exponentially. Several factors could reduce your spouse's interest in sex that might be resolved with time and effort.

That said, not every instance of a diminished sex life is something that can be resolved. Sometimes, your spouse is no longer intimate with you because they are intimate with someone else.

Infidelity and Lost Sex Drive

One of the most devastating causes of a diminished sex drive in a relationship is finding out your spouse is having an extra-marital affair, whether a physical or emotional affair. When we get married, we expect loyalty and commitment from our spouse, which is natural in a relationship. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing or able to commit to a single person and might seek sexual contact with someone else. In addition to being a betrayal of your relationship, your spouse's interest in you sexually will decrease if their needs are being met elsewhere. Extra-marital affairs are not the only major cause of decreased libido in marriage, but it is considered one of the telltale signs of infidelity.

A Spouse Cheating

Determining if your spouse is cheating on you is another matter that will require resources outside of what this particular article can offer. If you discover that your spouse is having an affair, it can help make the decision to walk away from the relationship easier. Assuming your spouse is unapologetic, or you can no longer trust them, maintaining the marriage will likely only cause more heartache.

When to Walk Away

While we have listed several causes of a sexless marriage, we have not fully covered when it is appropriate to end it. Marriage is supposed to be a lifelong commitment to someone with whom you feel a significant bond. Unfortunately, not every marriage lasts, and over half of all American unions end in divorce for one reason or another.

Leaving a Sexless Marriage

We touched on how a diminished sex drive can result from factors affecting your spouse mentally or physically. However, the key to those issues is that it is something that you can work on together, so they feel more comfortable and satisfied.

Solution The problem is that you cannot help your spouse if they are unwilling to help themselves.

Addressing a sexless marriage requires both spouses to be open to healing and resolving the issues leading to their spouse's trepidation. When one spouse is unwilling to accept their issues and address them, it prevents this healing from taking place and allows the issue to stagnate. This is not to say you should expect your spouse to immediately be prepared to face the underlying issues inhibiting their sex drive. If your spouse refuses to confront their issues after repeated attempts to convince them, you have more cause to leave the relationship than before.

Attempts to resolve the issue are not limited to one-on-one conversations with your spouse but attempts to seek professional assistance. Marriage counseling and other psychological resources might be necessary in more advanced cases of emotional or psychological damage. If your spouse continuously refuses aid and rebukes your efforts to help them recover, it is understandable to walk away. While this might seem harsh, you can only take so much responsibility before it falls to them to seek the help they need.

How to Walk Away

Knowing when to walk away and how to go about walking away are very different concepts. You may have known for some time that the marriage will not last for reasons including a lack of intimacy. The trouble is figuring out the best exit strategy to minimize the pain and suffering on both sides. Leaving one's spouse is never easy, especially if you truly want the relationship to work only to be rebuffed by your spouse. We have discussed what might cause your spouse's sex drive to evaporate, but the first step to leaving is determining which applies to your marriage.

Solution Before leaving your spouse over a defunct sex life, you need to know why they have lost interest in sex.

Immediately leaving your spouse over a diminished sex life when the cause is stress from work is a cruel decision, to say the least. If they have made no effort for some time to correct the stress and allowed your marriage to meet the definition of sexless, you have more of a right to leave. Alternatively, leaving due to age naturally diminishing your spouse's sex drive is equally objectionable since it is something outside their control.

Walking Away From a Marriage

Once you have determined the cause of your spouse's loss of interest in sex, the next step is to resolve the issue if possible. If these attempts fail, leaving starts with the separation process in which you live somewhere other than the marital home. You can complete this step by informing your spouse of your intention to move out after securing new housing. This housing does not have to be a newly purchased property but can be a friend's or relative's home where you can stay temporarily.

Separation is a mandatory step for divorce in some states, but the process can also help show your spouse you are serious about their recovery. If they fail to seek the help they need to reinvigorate the "spark" (where applicable), it might be time to file for divorce. Remember that the divorce process is a more complicated process that will require additional resources to navigate successfully. Though your odds of success are better if it happens that your spouse has been having an extra-marital affair.

Learn the Law

Sex should never define a relationship, but having your spouse inexplicably cut off all sexual contact can cause concern. While you should not employ a knee-jerk response and leave as soon as your marital sex life hits a rough patch, there are situations where it never gets revived. In situations where your spouse's refusal to have sex is something that can be fixed, but they refuse to fix it, your decision to leave holds more validity. The key is to ensure the situation is not something your spouse cannot control.

Learn the Law

If your relationship cannot recover, leaving might lead to divorce proceedings. If this is the case, learning more about divorce might help protect you from unpleasant scenarios that might arise. Fortunately, learning more about divorce is simpler than it has ever been. We recognize this is not a situation you want to be in, but we do hope this article has provided some clarity.

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Written By:
Michael Tierney

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