Should you stay in a sexless relationship?

Some low-libido couples happily decide to take sex off the table but the majority of us value regular sex and the intimacy that comes with it.

If you’re not having sex and the problem isn’t looking like it’s going to be fixed any time soon, decisions need to be made.

Whether to leave or stay depends on what else is happening in the relationship, how important sex is to you and whether your partner intends on doing something about it.

It also depends on how long you’ve gone without regular sex and if there’s a good reason why.

If you’ve just had a child and haven’t had sex for a few months, you’re panicking unnecessarily.

If you’re both young and healthy but you’ve spent three of your five-year relationship reaching into your bedside drawer, you’re more than justified in feeling peeved.

Here are three common scenarios to explain why your relationship is sexless – and some options to consider.

You don’t fancy your partner

Sadly, marriage itself is sometimes to blame for a sorry sex life – especially if you’re female. Women often don’t marry the people they click with sexually.

We’ll happily attach our lips and hips to that pretty-but-pretty-thick guy for a five-week flingette but choose long-term lovers for different reasons. Factors like kindness, stability, intelligence and emotional intelligence take precedence.

Which is all terribly sensible but sexual attraction is fundamental: if it’s not there, it’s not there.

The best you can do in this situation is acknowledge it and decide whether you can live with it.

If your partner is a good friend and/or brilliant father, you might consider having little or no sex a fair trade. A rich fantasy life and lots of masturbatory sessions might be enough for you.

You might decide to ‘take a lover’, as they do in some European countries, and have your sexual needs satisfied outside the marriage. Or you might decide it’s more honest to leave and find someone who does it for both ends: heart and groin.

You used to have great sex but now it’s all disappeared

The first thing to examine before packing your bags is your relationship outside the bedroom.

Sex is often used as a bargaining tool: could be you’re being denied it because your partner is angry with you. (Women, especially, are much more likely to lose interest in sex if they’re annoyed with their partner.)

Your relationship’s just fine? The first thing to do is admit there’s a problem – though there are lots of reasons why you haven’t done that.

Saying it out loud – ‘Honey, I’m concerned because we haven’t had sex for 18 months’ – makes the problem real.

You’re both then forced to face up to it and (shock horror) do something about it, maybe even get (ohmigod, surely not!) help!

It’s not a sign your marriage is failing to take yourselves off to see a sex therapist or counsellor, it’s a sign you love each other and want your relationship to be as good as it can possibly be. Find one here or here.

Your partner has no interest in sex – or solving the situation

Once you start talking, it will become (often painfully) obvious what your future holds. This is the bit when you find out if your partner is willing to work with you to build a satisfying sex life – or has no interest in trying to solve the situation.

If it’s the former, it’s great news! You’ve taken the first, huge step towards solving the problem.

If it’s the latter, even the most faithful, supportive partner is forgiven for thinking about leaving – or having a bit on the side.

As one therapist friend of mine puts it: there’s something very wrong with the picture if your partner is saying ‘I know you’re desperately unhappy but I don’t plan on doing anything about it and still expect you to be faithful’.

Ever thought, ‘How come that couple are breaking up? They were perfect together.’ Lack of sex is often to blame.

It’s what you don’t see – a marital bed which has become a private hell of avoidance or rejection – which was their undoing.

It’s rare for lustless lovers to live happily ever after in platonic bliss. Invariably, one person isn’t happy in a sexless marriage and ends up either leaving or having an affair.

A relationship stripped of the intimacy and physical closeness which sex provides feels hollow: the person who is supposed to find you attractive, sexy and desirable doesn’t. Who wants to live with that?