A sexless relationship: doomed to failure?


Sex has become so incredibly important within a relationship that some think the absence of sex is sounding its death knell. A relationship without sex seems to be the worst thing that could happen to a couple. But is that really true?

It’s easy to speculate about the reasons why sex is absent in other people’s relationship, but when it’s your own relationship, it’s often complicated – or maybe not complicated at all. For some, the almost total lack of sex has a direct cause, while, in other relationships, the change happens gradually. Some are fine with it; others are anything but fine. Moreover, for some couples, it’s a temporary dry spell, while for others it’s a long-term situation.

For now, it’s important to focus on those of us who are completely fine with it: those who have hardly any sexual relationship to speak of, but do truly enjoy being together.

A sexless relationship

When can you actually speak of a sexless relationship? This varies from person to person. For some people, this means there isn’t any form of sexual contact. For others, this applies when there is never any intercourse. But people can also experience a sexless relationship even when there is functional intercourse, but when a partner is out of touch with their sexuality. There’s sex, but it lacks that sense of abandonment, of surrender. There’s no real excitement. The intent behind the sex can then be seen as essential – and is therefore considered ‘sexless’ – when it arises more out of a sense of duty than any real desire. Or when you have sex ‘only’ once a month. When there’s a strong difference between sexual needs and the frequency of sexual contact, someone can feel that their relationship is sexless. A sexless relationship can therefore have different meanings, varying from how often you have sex to the extent to which partners are in touch with their sexuality.

An unhealthy relationship?

The absence of sex doesn’t necessarily reflect the health of your relationship is; there are very unhealthy relationships out there that involve plenty of sex. And there are healthy relationships that have hardly any or no sexual contact, but are incredibly loving and safe. A comfortable sexual relationship can give immense meaning and added value to a relationship, but there are enough people out there who are barely interested in sex or not at all and are looking for other ways to connect within their relationship. Sexuality may not be very high on their priority list, but intimacy most certainly is.

Thinking about the future

As long as the absence of sex doesn’t give rise to tension, it doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship. But it’s crucial that both partners are on the same page. As soon as one of them has trouble accepting this, it can lead to dissatisfaction and frustration, if not in the short term, then definitely in the long term. Accepting the absence of sex because your partner doesn’t have the same urges as you do may not be enough in the end. Neither is accepting that ‘that’s just the way it is.’ Resigning yourself to the situation, or even accepting it, doesn’t automatically mean that your own sexual urges have diminished. They won’t be as strong within the relationship and won’t take the upper hand, but they may be triggered in the long term, for instance, when confronted with an unexpected, tempting situation. This doesn’t have to happen, but it can. So, it is important to distinguish between resigning yourself to the absence of sex and to having both partners mutually consent to a sexless relationship.

What matters the most

It doesn’t matter whether your relationship involves sex or not, as long as you make sure there is enough intimacy between you and your partner. Because intimacy is what ultimately connects two lovers. And sex is a form of intimacy that can connect two people, but intimacy comes in many more forms than just sex.

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