How to Deal with a Sexless Relationship

Are you in a sexless relationship?

A reader shares his dilemma of a sexless relationship with the woman he loves, and we look at some options to fix the situation.

Dear Holly,

I’m with a woman I love, so I feel bad complaining or reaching out to a stranger for advice on my relationship. We’ve been together for four years, but we’ve never had a great sex life. She just has never been that interested. Looking back, I feel that she did it more for my benefit in the beginning, and it wasn’t bad, just not mind blowing.

Somehow life got in the way, dealing with school and career stuff, then loss and grief. One day I just realized we don’t have sex anymore, at all. We don’t talk about it, but I think we should. And I want sex to be a part of my life but don’t want to bother her. I’m not sure I can be in relationship forever with someone who doesn’t want sex. What can I do? – Jared

Hi Jared,

What you describe is more common in long-term relationships than you think. In fact, many of my friends admit to not having sex at all or just once in a blue moon, to mark a special occasion. But just because this is a common occurrence, it does not mean that it’s okay or healthy for both partners.

I see sex as one of the healthiest ways to connect with someone. When things feel off to me in my relationship, I make a move, even if I’m not necessarily in the mood, and it usually gets us back on track.

And I get it, life certainly has a way of getting in the way of what’s most important in relationships—connection. There is work, school, kids, parents, and many unexpected things that take precedence over sex and can’t be ignored.

But that’s why we have to sometimes make sure sex happens (even if it feels like going through the motions until it’s part our routine, however often that may be). Sounds simple, but it’s not—there are two people involved and both feelings and opinions on the situation matter. One of you may think there’s no problem while the other is feeling constantly stressed out and insecure about the lack or absence of sex.

There are many different ways to cope with a sexless relationship, so let’s discuss some approaches.

5 Ways to Deal with a Sexless Relationship

1. Discuss the Issue

Even the closest of couples can find talking about sex difficult. It’s not something we’re taught how to do, and we have to find our own way of sharing what we need and desire in the bedroom. If you let things fester, resentment can build that will make it harder to talk about what you need to talk about. If you are with someone who doesn’t care if they ever have sex again, then figure out if that’s something you can live with.

Zero sex often happens because there are other issues that need addressing in the relationship. Give your partner space and time while creating an opening for dialogue. You might not like what they will say, but if you want things to change this is where you start.

Read: 7 Reasons Why She Doesn’t Want Sex

2. Acceptance

Sometimes it’s only one partner who has no interest in sex anymore, but the other may be willing to give up on it. This happens more in relationships between older adults, but can happen at any age. One person may be okay with masturbating and not feel tempted to look outside the relationship for sexual satisfaction.

Does this solution happen often? No, but it’s a possibility. If you can’t see a relationship sans sex, seek a solution before you do something rash like cheating.


sexless relationship
Together, in a sexless relationship.

3. Open Up the Relationship

Many couples who find themselves in this situation, discuss having an open relationship or trying the polyamory lifestyle. I know many couples who have great love for one another, but sex became stale. They didn’t want to break up, but something had to give. You can discuss the idea of secondary partners and how that might look—moving beyond traditional monogamy is something more and more couples are exploring.

Read: 5 Benefits of Non-Monogamous Relationships

Sometimes sex stops because someone finds it boring, because they crave something outside the box. They might have a fetish or kink they want to explore. They might want to watch you with someone else, or try different positions. Welcome your partner’s fantasies, and don’t be shy to share your own.

4. Seek Counselling

There can be deeper issues that cause one person in a relationship to not want sex, whether at the beginning or later on, that have nothing to do with the relationship. And if you don’t have great communication, you may not know the answer unless you ask. There may be past trauma, something physical or psychological that is impeding their ability to enjoy intercourse or even affection.

Sometimes a third party can help couples express themselves to one another, get to the root of what’s going on, and heal relationship woes. If you’re with someone you love and don’t want to give up, this might be the answer.

Read: 4 Things that Affect a Woman’s Sex Drive

5. Move On

What you choose to do about your sexless relationship will depend on how long you’ve been with this person and how you feel. If you’re still pining for your first intimate experience six months in, and it doesn’t look like it’s happening any time soon, you may want to get out. But if you’ve invested years and love your partner, it’s going to be harder to pull the plug because the sex dried up.

Our relationship to sex is so intimate and personal. How often and what kind of sex we have changes throughout our lives—libidos don’t always match up. Follow your heart with this one.

Hookup Help is a Q&A series. If you want advice or a woman’s perspective on hooking up, online dating, relationships, or sex, we want to hear from you. SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION, and who knows, you may appear in the next Hookup Land newsletter.

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