MARRIAGE is honourable and the bed is undefiled. What this suggests is that sex is and should be a natural and regular staple in the marriage. But there are many married couples who have sexless marriages. They sleep with their backs to each other, some to the point where pillows are used to create a wall between them. For others who have the luxury of extra rooms in the house, they sleep in separate bedrooms.
What is a sexless marriage? In such a marriage the couple engages in sex once per month or ten times or less for the year. In some cases, it may be several years, and this behaviour is not limited to older couples.
What explains why one or both partners might not be interested in sex? According to Dr Dough Weiss, President of the American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy, there are eight reasons for sexless marriages. Space will not allow for details, so I will briefly mention each with his suggestion for help.
1. Sexual anorexia
This can cause a sexless marriage because one or both partners withhold sexual, emotional or spiritual intimacy from their spouse, so they will do everything to avoid any form of intimacy. Socialisation could be a factor here — if your partner grew up in an environment where sex was regularly discussed as a sinful, dirty act, then the sexual act would be more of a duty than pleasure. If this is the issue, seek professional help or get some self-help books or videos.
2. Sexual addiction
This is where either partner is addicted to porn and may act out these fantasies on themselves or others outside the marriage. Addiction to pornography sabotages the addicted partner's capacity to enjoy normal sex. If this is the issue, seek professional help.
3. Sexual abuse
Either partner may have been sexually abused, and this causes withdrawal from sexual intimacy. Memories of the traumatic experience will haunt someone during those intimate moments and will make it difficult to enjoy sexual encounters. If this is the issue, seek professional help, or research and use self-help books, videos and other resources for your healing.
This is a common mental health issue which affect a person's energy level, mood and interest in activities they once enjoyed, hence the lack of interest in sexual contact with their partner. If this is the issue, seek therapy. Self-help resources can also be useful.
5. Schizoid personality disorder
This is another mental health issue that results in the individual being emotionally detached, un-interested in close relationships which include sexual intimacy, unmoved by either praise or criticism, very cold, so sex would not give them pleasure. If you have these symptoms, be willing to admit that there is an issue, seek professional help and be open to treatment.
6. Low thyroid function
Symptoms include low sex drive, low energy, difficulty concentrating, hair loss, weight gain, constipation, and muscle soreness. If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention or see a naturopathic doctor.
7. Low testosterone
This can affect both men and women. Similar to low thyroid, symptoms include low sex drive, weight gain, low energy, anxiety, hair loss, weakness, and sleep disturbance. In men it could result in erectile dysfunction, and women may have vaginal dryness and the inability to reach a climax. If you suspect this to be the case, seek confirmation from your doctor.
8. Sex language mishap
Dr Weiss explains the five sex languages — fun, desire, pleasure, patience and acceptance. Understanding what sex means to your partner can help you to better meet your partner's sexual needs. If this could be the issue, research the information and start the conversation with your partner. If after exploring and talking it still is not working out, seek professional help.
Some married partners suffer in silence because the issue of sex is still a taboo subject. However, if a sexless marriage was not a decision taken by both of you, and you feel frustrated, cheated, rejected, or are wondering if you are not attractive enough, do something about it. Once you and your partner are willing to do the work, you can get the sex back into your marriage.
Venese Madden, PhD, is a licensed associate counselling psychologist and an assistant professor in the Behavioural & Social Sciences Department at the Northern Caribbean University in Manchester.