How do you define a sexless marriage? Are you living in one, or do you think you are?
In 2003, Newsweek noted that 15% to 20% of couples have sex less than 10 times a year, which is defined as a "sexless" marriage. I recently read that an estimated 15% of marriages become sexless, and making love less than 10 times per year can be the norm for some couples.
I have to wonder though, is it really the "norm" for couples or is one spouse limiting intimate interaction due to their own lack of interest in sex or for some other reason? When one spouse conforms to the sexual standards of the other spouse and the marriage becomes sexless, can it still be called a marriage?
In most situations, the sexual satisfaction in marriage is a measure of the entire relationship. If a once satisfying sex life becomes one in which sex is infrequent or absent, then more than likely there are other aspects of the relationship that a spouse is finding unsatisfying.
But what if the marriage is sexless from the beginning?
I can say this from experience; it is hard to feel as if you are in the throes of conjugal bliss if you're living with someone who feels like a roommate or friend... a friend without benefits!
My ex was everything to me; he was generous, helpful, grateful, respectful, tender and attentive -- and not in the least bit interested in sex with me or anyone else. As he explained to me several years after we married, "I've just never seen what the big deal is about sex." He failed to share this before marriage.
While dating, we had a normal sex life. He was as interested as I, or pretended to be. I know now that this was a special talent of his, making something that is not the case appear true.
His interest in sex came to an end the night we married. We didn't have sex that night and averaged sex every four to six weeks from then on. Being the problem solver that I am, I immediately went to work trying to fix the problem in our marriage.
And like some who experience sexual rejection after marriage, I blamed myself for his lack of interest in sex. I internalized his asexuality and made it all about me. It never occurred to me that I was married to a man who didn't care for sex in general. It was me, my fault. If only I were more sexual, thinner, a better cook, more willing to experiment sexually, then he would come around.
I read a lot of books and magazine articles meant to help those who were less than satisfied with the level of sex in their marriage. I came across a lot of sex tips and seduction techniques which I marvel at now. They seem quite insulting to the intelligence and integrity of a loving spouse who has already done all she can to earn sexual attention from someone who simply isn't interested.
Besides, becoming an amateur porn star for my own husband didn't improve things, and only made me feel worse about myself.
Finally, in our 11th year of marriage, I insisted my husband see an urologist. It was time for him, in my opinion, to become a party to fixing the problem. After tests and blood work, we were told that he had an extremely low testosterone level. I was relieved; we had an answer to the problem, and we could fix it. Or so I thought.
One afternoon, he came in from his third appointment with the urologist. I was sitting in bed reading when I heard him coming up the stairs. He stopped at the bed, pulled a bottle of pills out of his pocket, opened the top drawer of my nightstand and said to me, "This is a bottle of Viagra; from now on when you want sex, all you have to do is ask for it." He dropped the bottle in the drawer and kicked it closed with his foot.
I knew at that moment that my marriage was over. It took another 18 months before a divorce was filed but it was inevitable. I never asked him for sex again and I stopped taking responsibility for a problem only he could fix.
Although I can't tell anyone who has found themselves in a sexless marriage how to solve the problem, I can suggest they not do as I did. Don't turn yourself inside out trying to fix something you didn't cause.
The frustration, shame and hurt that comes from a marriage that is lacking in physical intimacy due to the asexuality of a spouse can do more than hurt your self-esteem; it can bring on depression, self-loathing and anxiety, not to mention dealing with the conflicted emotions that come along with the knowledge that the person you love doesn't want to "make love".
What did I learn from my sexless marriage?
It wasn't about me. The focus should have been on him and his attitudes about sex from the beginning, not on changing who I was to satisfy him. It wasn't that he didn't want me, he just didn't want sex.
My story of a sexless marriage may not be yours. But if it is, whether you are a man or woman being denied sexual contact by your spouse on a regular basis, here is your take-away: If you are a kind, considerate and loving spouse, you are desirable, not in need of change, not doing anything wrong, and most importantly, can't fix a problem if you are not causing the problem.