When stopping sex isn’t the answer

A lack of sex isn’t always a sign of trouble and last week’s blog looked at the scenarios where NOT having sex isn’t usually an issue.

Now let’s look at when it is.

Deciding to stop having sex in a committed relationship is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make.

If sex stops and neither of you acknowledge – or care – it means your relationship is in a bad state, or about to end.

Sexless relationships are only ever functional and happy with BOTH parties are happy to make the decision.

They certainly don’t work under these circumstances.


Your partner wants to have sex with you, but you don’t want to

Sex stops in relationships for all sorts of reasons.

Sometimes it’s a natural decline in your libido that makes you both not fancy sex anymore – and you’re both perfectly happy to wave it farewell.

Other times, one hangs up their skates and the other is still very much wanting to whiz around the ice rink.

Mismatched libidos – when one of you wants sex much more than the other – plays hell with the best relationships. But if you want to see true chaos, try telling a partner who thoroughly enjoys sex that it will never be on offer again.

If your partner is still very much a fan and you’re in a monogamous relationship, it’s not fair to withdraw sex.

Being sexually satisfied is all part of the agreement couples make when they commit to monogamy.

If your idea of sexual satisfaction is to have no sex and your partner’s idea is to have lots of it, this is a problem.

If you want the relationship to survive, it’s time for an honest chat about why sex isn’t working and possibly a visit to a good sex therapist.

You do want sex – just not with your partner

All couples experience loss of desire for each other over time – it’s normal. Even if you love each other, even if you used to have excellent sex, desire for sex falls the longer you’re together and the older you get.

There’s lots you can do to combat this (and umpteen books, podcasts and blogs to help you: you’ll find details of mine on traceycox.com.)

If that doesn’t work, you might consider asking for permission to have sex outside of your relationship. Or go down the old-fashioned route of having an affair, with all the disastrous complications and catastrophe that usually results. Some are happy staying anyway, satisfying their desire solo with porn and masturbation; others take the first exit left and leave.

You’ve outgrown your partner

You got married young with the same aspirations but while they plod a predicable path, your career soared. Ten years on, you’re horribly mismatched in achievements, incomes, lifestyle – and your new ‘ideal partner’ is someone completely different than the one you’re with.

If this is you, you need a serious discussion about the future of your relationship rather than a ban on sex.

You don’t find your partner attractive – on any level

I often ask couples, ‘If you met your partner now, would you fancy them or want to date them?’. If the answer is an immediate and vehement, ‘God no!’, it’s obvious the marriage is limping toward the finish line and sex is the least of your problems.

You’ve replaced sex with affection from your kids One reason why children rob us of desire is that we get a lot of needs met by a baby. Unconditional love, cuddles, company, amusement. Babies provide a lot of entertainment and satisfy a lot of emotional needs. If you weren’t that into your partner to begin with, he’s easily replaced. Fine for you, not so great for Dad, who may heartily disagree that a hug from little James is just as satisfying as sex with you.


If you’re going to take sex off the table, you need to be extra mindful of intimacy elsewhere in your relationship.

Don’t withdraw rather than have that difficult conversation. Some couples who want to stop having sex, do just that. There’s no kissing, no flirting or touching, no sexy lingerie or even sexy outfits. They avert their eyes when couples have sex on television and avoid any conversation that involves sex. You don’t want to have sex, so you avoid anything and everything that might lead to it. Not only does this kill any desire you might have been able to resurrect, it ruins your relationship. Take away touch and affection and you are effectively separating while living together.

Instead, you need to…

Acknowledge what’s happening. Some extremely close couples say ‘the chat’ doesn’t even have to be traumatic or long. “We looked at each other in bed one night and I said, ‘Do you mind that we don’t have sex anymore?’. He replied, ‘Not at all. So long as we cuddle, that’s fine with me’. And that was that.”

Double the affection. Once you both know that a touch isn’t a prelude to wanting sex, you can relax. Hold hands, cuddle, give each other kisses, and do it often.

Keep being playful. Not having sex doesn’t mean you can’t sleep naked, cuddled up. Have fun. Your sexual hotspots aren’t contaminated just because you don’t want to take it further. Slap him on the bottom. Love that he gives your bottom a squeeze or admires your cleavage. Give his penis a friendly yank now and then.

Keep the discussion going. Check in to make sure you’re both still happy with the situation. You might just find, having taken the pressure off, the idea of sex becomes quite appealing again.

Separate beds can work. It’s not a sexy concept but there are many reasons why couples sleep apart. A recent study found up to 200,000 Australian couples now sleep in separate beds because of their partner’s snoring, restlessness and blanket stealing. The ‘sleep divorce’ strengthened relationships rather than harmed them.