When you feel the waning of intimacy acutely, the question of sexless relationship effects on your partnership looms large. Is it the first sign that your relationship is doomed to fail? Or is it already failing? Is it possible to bounce back from a sexless relationship and reinstate intimacy?
All of these questions are legitimate, and the answers are often tied to the root cause of sexlessness. Unless withering intimacy is a result of natural biological factors such as decreased libido or advancing age, consequences of a sexless relationship can be felt deeply.
We consulted with psychotherapist and relationship counselor Aman Bhonsle to understand some of the lesser-known sexless relationship effects that couples must brace for.
7 Most Common Sexless Relationship Causes
Sexless relationship definition is that a couple in a romantic partnership reports having sex just once or twice or not at all in over a year. Given that sex is such a key part of closeness between romantic partners, intimacy decreased to such an extent is bound to have some impact on the relationship.
To understand the sexless relationship effects on a romantic partnership, you first have to look into what is triggering this tendency. More often than not, these underlying causes determine whether or not lack of intimacy will threaten a couple’s future together.
Here are 7 top sexless relationship causes that douse the fire of carnal pleasures:
- Mental state: Stress, anxiety, financial worries can all impact the libido adversely
- Unresolved conflict: Couples who are dealing with unresolved issues are less likely to engage in sex
- Reduced libido: One or both partners is asexual or has lost their sex drive
- Relationship setbacks: Betrayal in the form of sexual, emotional or financial infidelity is also among the sexless relationship causes
- Major biological changes: Pregnancy, childbirth, perimenopause, menopause, hormonal imbalances, erectile dysfunction and advancing age are some common biological factors that affect sex drive
- Life situations: Sex can take a backseat when one or both partners are grieving the loss of a loved one. Likewise, disability, trauma or accidents can negatively impact your sex life
- Addictions: Addiction of any kind, be it to alcohol, drugs or even pornography, can interfere with sexual performance
These factors have a direct bearing on sexless relationship effects that you may experience as a couple. Sexologist Dr Rajan Bhonsle says, “The experience of being in a sexless relationship at 30 is very different from being in one at 60. If a couple has had a fulfilling sex life for more than a decade or two, they can easily come to terms with declining intimacy. Even more so, if it due to unavoidable biological reasons.
“However, if the reasons are unresolved relationship issues and one partner still craves sex but the other doesn’t, that’s when the consequences of a sexless relationship can be dire.”
Related Reading: When To Walk Away From A Sexless Marriage – Know These 11 Signs
9 Sexless Relationship Effects No One Talks About
Sexless relationships are more common than we think. A study based on a General Social Survey in the US in which 19% of couples reported being in sexless relationships directly tied sexual engagement to happiness levels. In this light, it becomes even more pertinent to decode what a sexless relationship feels like.
Dr Aman says, “Infidelity and cheating are one of the most common consequences of a sexless relationship. The partner whose sexual needs are not satisfied often feels it is justified for them to seek gratification outside the marriage.
“However, this is not the only sexless relations effect that couples need to be concerned about. There are several others that are often brushed under the carpet until they begin to take a toll on the relationship.”
Here is a lowdown on 9 such lesser-known sexless relationship effects that no one talks about:
1. Increased irritability in men
Dr Aman says, “One of the most common effects of a sexless relationship on men is irritability. For men, sex is more a physical need than an emotional one. Something akin to having an itch. Imagine not being able to scratch that itch. It’d leave anyone feeling frustrated and irritable.
“So when men don’t get enough sex in a relationship, they begin lashing out at their partners. This manifests in taunts and hurtful comments such as ‘oh, you’re too old now’ or ‘you are not just good enough’, often in public.
“Women, in turn, argue that how can they feel attracted to or turned on by a partner who has nothing good to say about them.”
Dr Aman’s sexless marriage advice for men is to seek professional help to find ways to open channels of communication on this often touchy issue.
Related Reading: How To Survive A Sexless Marriage Without Cheating
2. Sexless relationship and depression
Having been caught in a sexless relationship owing to mismatched sex drives, Mathew has not been feeling and acting like himself of late. His partner, Sofie, noticed that he was spending more and more time in his bed, withdrawn and detached from the world around him.
After months of trying, she was able to convince him to seek therapy, where the counselor established that his sexless relationship and depression were corelated.
A sense of helplessness, pessimistic thoughts, and feeling unmotivated are all tell-tale indicators of depression that can be a result of a sexless relationship.
3. Stunted communication
Communication problems in a marriage or long-term partnership can also be among the direct sexless relationship effects. When you are no longer sexually intimate with your partner, talking to each other becomes that much more difficult.
As a result, your communication is reduced to discussing the bare essentials such as bills, utilities, groceries, social plans or other mundane nitty-gritties of everyday life.
4. Reduced emotional intimacy
With sexual intimacy and honest communication compromised, your emotional intimacy as a couple also takes a hit. You feel uncomfortable opening up to each other or showing your vulnerabilities to your partner.
Different types of intimacy in a relationship are interlinked. When one takes a hit, it creates a domino effect, bringing down others in its spate. Before you know it, your relationship can seem to be standing on shaky ground.
5. App-based flings
Dr Aman says, “One of the recent sexless relationship effects that I have been seeing more and more commonly in couples who reach out for help are app-based flings. Two people who have never met may connect on social media and start chatting. Or old flames, acquaintances or co-workers may strike a chord in the virtual world.
“What begins as frequent text exchanges graduates to sharing photos and sweet nothings, and eventually, engaging in sexting. It can seem like a ‘harmless’ way to channelize all that pent-up sexual energy and desire. This other person can make you feel desired and wanted in ways your partner hasn’t in a long time.
“While many remain in denial about what these interactions mean or lead to, there is no disputing the fact that these app-based flings are a form of emotional cheating.”
6. Seeking refuge in pornography
Drew lost her sex drive after the birth of her daughter. At first, her husband, Nick, was extremely supportive, as the couple thought to be a temporary blip in their sex life. However, with juggling work, parenting and domestic responsibilities, Drew’s desire for sex never did make a comeback.
Being in a sexless relationship at 30 drove Nick to become withdrawn from his wife. He started to take refuge in porn to satiate his urges. His reliance on pornography continued to grow with time, turning into a full-blown addiction. The addiction killed whatever little sexual engagement the two indulged in, making a bad situation worse.
They, ultimately, went into couple’s therapy and Nick sought help for his porn addiction separately to salvage their marriage.
7. Low self-esteem
When one partner’s sexual advances are constantly turned down by the other, sexless relationship effects can translate into diminished and dented self-esteem. This is especially true if the partner with a low sex drive mocks the other for their need for sex or makes them feel guilty about trying to initiate intimacy.
In such situations, the consequences of a sexless relationship can snowball into anger, frustration and resentment between partners. If left unaddressed, these issues can prove fatal for your relationship.
Related Reading: Our marriage wasn’t loveless, just sexless
8. Vengefulness in women
It is not always the man who is left wanting in a sexless relationship. The equation can just as easily be reversed. If men react to lack of sex with irritability, women display a tendency for vengefulness.
“Another lesser-known and fairly recent sexless relationship effect that I’ve been seeing as a counselor is a tendency among women to vent about their sex lives on social networking groups such as WhatsApp groups for parents from the same school, society residents, workplace and so on.
“Women not only share their sex lives – or the lack thereof – in surprising detail but also create memes and crack jokes at the expense of their or others’ husbands. In many cases, due to an argument or falling out, these memes or personal details are made public or shared with the husband.
“Once again, it’s a classic example of not handling a delicate situation maturely. Just like sexless marriage advice for men, my advice to women also is to talk about it to the one who can make a difference – that is your partner – rather than airing dirty laundry in public,” says Dr Aman.
9. Inability to address the elephant in the room
With communication and emotional intimacy broken down, couples trapped in sexless relationships find it hard to address the problem pragmatically and earnestly. Over time, sex becomes such a touchy topic that they cannot broach it without getting caught in blame-game, accusations and low-blows.
They drift so far away from candidly sharing their respective expectations, desires and likes and dislikes in bed – which is the right way to address the issues – that bouncing back from a sexless relationship seems impossible.
Sexless relationship effects can be devastating for you, both individually and as a couple, if the issue is not resolved in time. Seeking professional help is strongly recommended if you’re dealing with the loss of intimacy with your partner. Our panel of expert counselors is only a click away.
It depends on the reasons why your relationship has become sexless. If you’re both asexual or have lost the desire for sex but still love each other, then a sexless relationship can be healthy.
Yes, as long as lack of intimacy is not the result of unresolved issues or doesn’t cause resentment and frustration is one of the partners, a relationship can survive without sex.
If you’ve exhausted all your options for resolving the issue but made no headway, and the lack of sex is taking a toll on your mental health, it’s better to walk away.
Some of the sexless relationship effects are the risk of affair and emotional cheating, frustration, resentment, irritability, vengefulness, broken communication and weakened emotional connection.