Samantha De Bono Counselling Bromley

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Is a sexless relationship a road to failure?

by Samantha De Bono 


Sex is the perfect way to keep the spark in a romantic relationship alive. 

So it won’t come as a surprise to hear that when there’s nothing happening in the bedroom but sleep or reading, the relationship turns into a friendship, rather like house mates. 

But what do you do about it? Do you just accept it? or should you look for a new partner who keeps you happy in the bedroom?

Is a sexless relationship a road to failure? 

From what I’ve seen over the years, it’s important to make the distinction between a sexless relationship and a loveless relationship. They’re two very different things. 

A sexless relationship isn’t necessarily doomed, as long as the couple agree that they feel a strong connection and bond in other ways. 

The operative word here though is “agree”. Both partners must be on the same page.  They must both feel strongly that their connection and love can remain strong in a relationship that is ultimately more of a friendship.  This would mean that their sexual intimacy is replaced by emotional intimacy and compatibility. 

There are various reasons why people end up in a sexless relationship. There might be physical ailments for one or both partners, or neither of them have a strong sex drive.  Some couples feel sexual intimacy is no longer important after having their children. They could even be ‘asexual’. 

But what ever their reason for eliminating sex from their relationship, it is vital that it is a mutual understanding and agreement. 

Just deciding that you no longer want sex with your partner and swerving his/her advances is disrespectful, hurtful and undermining.

From working with couples, I see that very many affairs start due to one partner still wanting sex and not understanding why their other half no longer wants it.  Understandably they feel neglected and rejected and eventually find sexual contact elsewhere.

You don’t have to be a therapist to get that having an affair is never a solution. It just takes the neglect and rejection to another level and brings everything that was good in the relationship into question. Try getting your partner to believe you love her/him when you’ve been getting on with someone else. 

A discussion about why one, or the other, no longer wants sex is absolutely crucial.  But unless you are a couple who have already acknowledged and accepted this together, it can feel terrifying to address these feelings and start that conversation. 

First off, check-out that there aren’t other reasons why you no longer want sex, such as depression, stress, medication side effects, physical pain or injury, menopause. If one or more of these might be the case, then talk to your gp about it to see if there’s a way around it. 

Once you’ve eliminated other possible causes for not wanting sex and you feel sure about your decision, the conversation with you partner is your next port of call. 

Timing is important. Start the conversation when you both have time to talk without interruption. Preferably when things are feeling good between you and you’re relaxed. 

Don’t steam straight in. Instead start with the positives in your relationship, highlight the interests you share, your similarities, the sense of humour you share, the qualities you appreciate in the other.

Then explain that your feelings about sex have changed.

Be prepared for your partner to feel hurt and rejected despite your best efforts to avoid this.

Many people, and your partner may well be one of them, believe that it isn’t healthy or “normal” to be in a relationship without sex unless you’re in your 80’s or incapable of having sex. 

Sexual intimacy can be the thing that binds a couple together, helps them de-stress, feel closer and bonded and if it’s not there, it can erode the relationship and push the couple apart. Without sex, all the irritations bob to the surface and cause tension and resentment. 

Nobody expects their sex drive or their sexual desires to remain the same as they were at the beginning, but unless both people are ok with a sexless relationship, not having sex can create a void. 

Discussing together other ways to fulfil the relationship intimacy might help. Find a middle ground. It’s not all about penetration, there are other ways to have fun in the bedroom and maintain intimacy. 

But here’s the thing. If you have decided you don’t want sex or to be intimate with your partner, and you expect him/her to just accept this without ever discussing it or giving him/her the option of making an informed decision about what to do about it. You are both going to get hurt!

If you reject your partner every time they come to you for intimacy, ultimately they are likely to go elsewhere.

It is imperative that you communicate with each other to find a happy medium or come to an informed decision.