Dealing with sexless relationships

Our sex lives don’t stay the same throughout the lifetime of a relationship, and many couples experience less sex for many reasons.

Do you have enough sex in your relationship? 

Have you stopped having sex for a specific reason?

Let’s talk about a sexless relationship!

Definition of a Sexless Relationship

When little to no intimacy happens between partners, particularly those in a long-term relationship, it may be called a sexless relationship. 

That’s not an official definition. Still, when a couple has infrequent sex (or no sex) for a year or more, the relationship is seen as more spiritual than sexual.

It’s important to note that a shorter or temporary period of no sex is not generally considered “sexless.”

Why Do Couples Stop Having Sex?

A married couple or people in a long-term relationship may stop being sexual for many reasons.

Here are the most common reasons why:

Physical Health Concerns

Physical health concerns can significantly impact a person’s sex drive.

Our ability to experience sexual intimacy is greatly influenced by physiological arousal, and when this process gets disrupted in our bodies, both men and women can be affected. 

If you’re experiencing disruption to your sex life for longer than a few months, and it’s also affecting your partner, it’s a good idea to speak to a specialist or healthcare provider.

Sexual Health Problems

A common sexual health problem in men is erectile dysfunction (ED). 

Erectile Dysfunction

ED occurs when a person has ongoing difficulties getting or maintaining an erection. Many people with ED experience lower confidence and self-esteem while their anxiety levels increase.

If you are concerned about possible ED symptoms, please don’t delay speaking to a specialist or healthcare provider. ED doesn’t just affect sex lives—it may indicate other health problems.

Different Levels of Desire

It’s common for couples to have mismatched libidos.

One partner may desire sex more frequently than the other, and if a couple only has sex when both partners feel like they’re entirely “in the mood,” it can lead to less intimacy and satisfaction.

Communicating Problems 

When a couple doesn’t speak in a way both partners understand, it can lead to conflicts, affecting the desire to get physically intimate.

Side Effects from Prescriptions

Both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can have side effects that inhibit sexual desire. 

High-blood pressure medications, specific antidepressants, and some OTC decongestants or antihistamines are more known to have side effects that can result in sexual dysfunction.

Mental Health Concerns

Our minds play a crucial role in overall health, and mental health issues often affect our ability to have sex and enjoy intimacy.

A common mental health concern is depression. Symptoms may include a loss of energy or focus and social withdrawal. 

Stress levels also impact our mental health in profound ways. For example, experiencing too much stress often leaves people too tired and anxious to feel intimacy.

Our bodies produce a stress hormone called cortisol, and when this hormone gets elevated, studies find that it lowers sex drive. 

Mental health concerns

Past Abuse 

When a person has experienced sexual abuse, the trauma is often long-lasting. 

Shame, fear, and a negative self-perception may impact sex drive and their ability to form positive intimate relationships.

Life Changes 

The only sure thing in life is change—and as we age, life-changing factors can affect how often we have sex or our desire to be intimate.

These factors include:

  • How we view our changing bodies
  • A lack of spontaneity in long-term relationships
  • Financial issues increase worrying
  • Grief over a lost family member 
  • Employment changes or job loss
  • An increase in physical and mental tiredness.

A sexless relationship isn’t necessarily harmful, especially when both partners feel in harmony or express intimacy differently. 

But when a lack of sex affects a couple or one partner, it’s good to seek help.

When a Lack of Sex Causes Problems

Couples may be negatively affected in a sexless relationship.

Here are symptoms to watch out for in one partner or both:

  • Increased loneliness, frustration, and feelings of inadequacy or rejection
  • Guilt if pressuring a partner for sex
  • Decreased connection and a lack of kindness
  • More impatience.

Jessa Zimmerman is a certified American sex therapist. She explains what happens when couples are negatively affected by a lack of intimacy:

“When sex is working well, it feels like 20% of the relationship—just one more aspect that’s working. But when it isn’t, it feels like 80% of the relationship, potentially overshadowing the other parts that may be working just fine.”

Seeking Help for a Sexless Relationship

Couples may want to renew their sex life, and a specialist in sexual health can support you and be an impartial guide in helping you to find solutions.

If you’re not ready to seek help, you can take steps together.

Here are things to do:

Talk About Your Needs and Goals

Talking about erectile dysfunction

It’s important to remember that you’re in this relationship together! That means working as a team and being committed to each other’s needs and goals.

Put aside your opposing views, especially if one partner wants more sex than the other. You can enjoy a sex life that works for both of you, and keeping the conversation going is essential. 

Get Rid of What’s In the Way

Sex can get impacted by the power dynamics in a relationship. For example, one partner may not enjoy a specific type of sex, and the other may get angry about not being fulfilled. 

You can figure out what’s not working and work together on intimacy you enjoy equally.

Refresh Your Sex Life

Resetting how you feel about sex and what outcomes you expect can create better intimacy that fulfills both partners.

Approaching sex with more flexibility and a sense of play can redefine how you view intimacy and result in a stronger connection with your partner.

Make It a Maybe Not Yes or No

Couples can mistakenly view sex as a simple “yes” or “no” situation.

But when you look at sex as an opportunity or a “maybe,” you can enjoy your intimacy with less pressure.

Get started on it together and see what happens!

Prioritize Your Private Time

Schedule intimate moments with your partner and make it a regular part of your days or weeks. 

The point is to create time to be physically intimate in some way without the pressure to “perform.” Keep talking too!

A Word From Oakwood Health Network

Oakwood Health Network is your confidential men’s sexual health specialist in the GTA. We know that great sex can begin again at any age!

We offer this guide to a sexless relationship for couples wanting to renew their intimacy. You can trust OHN to help you find the right solution.

Feel free to contact us about any sexual health issue affecting you. We offer various treatment options; the essential thing is tailoring a program that works best for you!

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Fellizar, K. (2021) The most common reason couples stop having sex, Bustle. Bustle. Available at: (Accessed: November 6, 2022).

Gonsalves, K. (ed.) (2020) What Causes Sexless Relationships & How To Fix One, According To Sex Therapists, Mindbodygreen. Mindbodygreen. Available at: (Accessed: November 4, 2022).

Lloyd, S.L. (2022) Should you stay in a sexless relationship?, Brides. Brides. Available at: (Accessed: November 2, 2022).

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