Intimacy takes work.
Every married person understands this. It takes intentionality to maintain a healthy physical connection, even when other areas of your relationship seem to be going well. But when life gets tough, sex is often the first thing to go.
In fact, Dr. Sue Johnson found that unhealthy couples attribute nearly 70% of their misery to sexual dissatisfaction. This is a big deal!
See, fundamentally, sex is an emotional call—an attempt to connect with your partner or your partner’s attempt to connect with you. When one of you stops responding to this call, it can leave the other feeling not just sexually neglected, but emotionally ignored, as well.
But there’s good news. At Lasting, our mission is to help couples who feel stuck move forward together, so if you find yourself in a sexless marriage, don't lose heart. There are things you can do to improve your intimacy.
First, expectations are paramount.
In a relationship where intimacy is lacking, it’s highly likely that one or both partners is experiencing the disappointment of missed expectations. And if that’s you, you aren’t alone.
The gap between expectations and reality when it comes to married sex is bigger than you think. We surveyed 2,322 couples about how often they desire to have sex, and the results were fascinating:
10% said 1x per week
29% said 1-2x per week
31% said 2-3x per week
17% said 3-4x per week
12% said 4-5x per week
So while most couples on our survey hoped for sex more than once a week, another therapist’s study revealed that in reality, the majority of couples were only having sex twice a month at most.
Even more interestingly, another study revealed that sexual frequency does not directly correlate to general satisfaction. In fact, while married people who had more sex reported feeling happier, the benefit leveled off at once per week. People who had sex 4+ times per week did not report feeling any happier than those who had sex once per week. Basically, there is no benchmark.
Discard the expectation that if you have sex a certain amount of times per week, it will lead to happiness. You and your partner must decide together what works best for you. In the case of a no-sex relationship, start with small steps to open up the dialogue.
Remember that sex is about the greater emotional connection between partners.
This means that working on those emotional connections and setting expectations for better communication—not just sexual frequency—will have a positive impact on your sex life.
According to our data, the factors that most hinder sexual satisfaction are a weak emotional connection, and not having regular conversations about sex.
Only 34% of couples feel they have a healthy emotional connection in their marriage, and 32% feel they regularly engage in discussions about their sex life. In fact, only 9% of couples who say they can’t talk comfortably about sex report sexual (and relational!) satisfaction.
Even more sad is that of the over 217,000 people we surveyed about their core marriage health, only 29% agreed that they made sex a priority, a similar number to the 34% and 32% stats.
So finally, make time to talk.
If you find yourself in a sexless marriage, set aside time for an intentional conversation and work on asking the right questions. Rather than asking, “What’s getting in the way of sex,” the real question should be, “What’s getting in the way of our emotional connection and consistent conversations about sex?”
If you can answer those questions openly and honestly, we believe you will see change in this area of your relationship.
For more on this topic, download Lasting, the no. 1 relationship counseling app, and start the series on Sex.