Psychological Effects of a Sexless Marriage

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While the root causes for a celibate relationship can be varied and complex, the psychological effects of a sexless marriage can be equally numerous – and quite devastating. Often people even think it’s ok to cheat in a sexless marriage.

Severely negative psychological outcomes are not uncommon with people who don’t have sex as part of their lives and marriages. Here are some of the most common psychological effects of a sexless marriage (and don’t worry – there is help!):

  1. Shame: Sometimes, when one individual still wants to have sex and the other does not, their partner will shame them for being overly sexual. They may think themselves to be overly sexual too, feel like something is wrong with them – and have added shame about that.
  2. Lower self-esteem: When one partner stops having sex, the other often experiences  lowered self-esteem, or an overall lack of sexual and overall life confidence. Losing that feeling of being desired can be devastating.
  3. A feeling of failure: Many couples perceive that marriage is supposed to include an active sex life – and when it doesn’t, they feel the relationship isn’t complete and they have somehow failed. What they fail to recognize is the option to have a non-sexual  marriage – as long as both people are comfortable with this choice.
  4. Feelings of deprivation and isolation: When sex vanishes in a marriage, overall affection, intimacy and connection can fade as well. Touch, physical connection and sex helps people feel like they are part of a couple or family – and the lack of it makes them feel deprived and isolated.
  5. Loss of relationship: Sometimes, sexless marriages can lead to the ultimate negative outcome: divorce. Nearly 50 percent of couples say lack of sex is not a deal breaker, but 33 percent admit they do think about leaving.
  6. Anger or depression: If sex feels like an essential part of life for you, and you are stuck in a one-way sexless marriage, your life likely doesn’t feel fulfilling. Outwardly, this can express itself by being angry with your partner or in life in general – but internally, suffering can turn into depression.
  7. Lower hormones: Sex releases the hormones oxytocin and endorphins into the brain –  which keep a couple feeling connected and emotionally balanced. Lower hormones can also leave you feeling disconnected and depressed.

Is it OK to Cheat in a Sexless Marriage?

People cheat for many different reasons – but sexless marriage is definitely a major one. Quite often, cheaters are still in love with their partner, or don’t want to miss out on time with their children, so divorce is frequently not a consideration. But they take the risk of cheating anyway because they don’t want to live their lives without sex.

Experts are often asked if it’s ok to cheat in a sexless marriage. However, it is more important to look at the why of cheating and its potential consequences. Cheating creates  huge potential risks for the relationship – most commonly the loss of trust. While some couples recover from their affairs, for others, cheating is the deal breaker that ends the relationship for good.

Types of Non-Sexual Marriages: Platonic, Celibate, Asexual

Some couples choose to get married even though they are not interested in having sex with their partner. Others decide to consciously end the sexual part of their relationship, but stay together. There are three categories of intentional non-sexual marriages:

  1. Platonic marriage – This type of non-sexual marriage usually is negotiated from the very beginning of the relationship. The partners feel they make good companions for each other and may even want to raise children together – but are not sexually attracted to one another.
  2. Celibate marriage – This relationship configuration is most often chosen when one or both partners decide they want to be celibate, or they are no longer interested in sex. In a celibate marriage, both partners agree they want to stay together but are no longer going to have sex with one another.
  3. Asexual marriage – Some people simply are asexual. Asexuality can have many different definitions and practices, but a person is basically asexual if they define themselves as such. An asexual marriage is when one or both of the partners identify as asexual and, as a result, the couple makes the choice not to have sex. It is important to note that some asexual people still do have sex with their partners – but more to satisfy their partner than out of a personal need of their own.

Sexless Marriage Help

Luckily, the help of a trained professional sex coach is generally only a phone call away.

They not only help you understand the reasons for why you ended up in a sexless marriage – they can also work with you in a hands-on, experiential way. A Somatica sex coach in particular can teach you to become a skillful lover – both in terms of actual physical skills, as well as creating a safe space to discuss and explore what makes you and your partner tick. If you don’t know what your turn-ons are, your sex coach helps you discover them by teaching you what’s on the menu.

Some people choose to work with a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) on their relationship and communication issues. However, MFTs often fall short when it comes to helping with sex because they have very little training in this area. Usually, they approach sexless marriages with the premise that making the relationship more emotionally close will facilitate the couple having sex again. This is only a solution if the lack of sex is bound to emotional challenges in the relationship. And even then, sometimes the sexual connection does not return.

Mostly, it’s important to remember that the psychological effects of a sexless marriage can be helped through open communication and a combined effort by you, your partner and your sex coach to find a relationship configuration that is acceptable for the both of you.

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Danielle Harel
Danielle Harel
Dr. Danielle Harel is the the co-creator of the Somatica® Method and the co-founder of the Somatica® Institute. She has a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality (DHS), a graduate degree in Clinical Social Work (MSW), and a Bachelors (BA) degree in Psychology and Educational Counseling.

As a somatic sexologist, professor, and author, Danielle has devoted the last 20 years to resolving her client’s sexual challenges, training sex & relationship coaches, and empowering people. Harnessing her extensive training in sexology, psychology, and body-based modalities like Hakomi, attachment theory, character theory, and neuro-patterning, she guides people in reaching their fullest personal, professional, and sexual potential.

In addition to being faculty at Esalen and teaching the Advanced Somatica Training and Mastery Classes, Danielle has most recently embraced the adventure of co-producing the TV series Here She Comes – an episodic based on the Somatica Method (currently in production).

Before that, she published original research on Orgasmic Birth, and co-authored 3 books with Celeste Hirschman: Cockfidence, Making Love Real, and Coming Together.

She has also written extensively on sex, relationships, and dating, and is frequently quoted as an expert resource in publications.

To everything she does, Danielle brings her unparalleled passion, depth, intuition, and magnetizing personality.

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