When To Walk Away From A Sexless Marriage: 11 Signs It’s Time To Move On

Lately, sex talk is making you squirm. 

Not because your sensibilities are offended, but because you haven’t “gotten busy” in a long, long time — and you’re married!

First, understand that you’re not alone. 

One study concluded that about 15% of marriages are sexless; others put it as high as 30%. 

Moreover, research suggests that the older we get, the higher that number climbs.

Sometimes, it’s the normal progression of a relationship.

But other times, it’s a sign to move on — and that’s what we’re breaking down below.

[Side Note: You might consider the Couples Communication Course. In this online course, learn healthy communication skills and build the intimacy you’ve always wanted in your relationship.)

What Is a Sexless Marriage? 

What is considered a sexless marriage?

Researchers use different parameters when conducting sexless marriage studies. Sometimes, it’s defined as no intercourse within a year or six months; other studies put the benchmark at “less than 10 times a year.” 

But when determining what constitutes a sexless marriage, the primary consideration is how both parties feel about the intimacy drought. 

Ultimately, it’s only a problem if there’s a mismatch. As gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter explained in a New York Times article, there’s no “‘right number’ of times to have sex a month. The answer is that there isn’t one. If both people are truly happy, then it’s a healthy sex life.” 

couple sitting on opposite side of bed When To Walk Away From A Sexless Marriage

Moreover, libidos aren’t a “set it and forget it” proposition. 

Instead, they’re like roller coasters, going up and down depending on contributing factors. So a stint of low activity doesn’t necessarily qualify as a sexless marriage.

All that said, if a wet dream is the most action your marital bed has seen in over eight months, and you’re unhappy with the situation, it may be time to confront the issue and make some tough decisions. 

What Are the Causes of a Marriage Without Sex?

A multitude of factors can impact a relationship, and countless things can lower one's libido, including:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Medications
  • Health
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Stress
  • Sexual Trauma
  • Relationship dissatisfaction
  • History of infidelity
  • Sexual pain or anxiety
  • Exhaustion
  • Unaddressed sexual preferences

The situation can become particularly fraught when several things are working “against” the relationship. 

The key is to acknowledge challenges and address them. But doing so takes courage and patience, which requires stable mental health. 

So start there. Once you have the wherewithal to examine life objectively, you'll have the power to make positive changes and live your best life.

11 Signs It's Time To Walk Away From A Sexless Marriage

Can a sexless marriage work?

Yes, if both parties are fine with the situation.

But every relationship is unique. Maybe you still love your partner but are fed up with the lack of sex. Or perhaps the union has been heading south for a while, and you're finally facing the absence of intimacy — in all its forms. 

Whatever the case, how do you know the time has come to walk away from a sexless marriage? Let’s look at several common red flags. 

1. Sex Is Being Used as a Punishment Weapon

Sure, everyone has preferences about what feels good, but ultimately, physical intimacy is supposed to be enjoyable.

But once a partner starts leveraging it as an instrument to exact punishment or control, sex turns into something negative. 

If your relationship reaches this stage, it may be time to think about either going to therapy or separating.

2. Other Things Are Falling Apart

If you’re being honest, the lack of sex isn't the only thing plaguing your marriage. Maybe your communication has waned over the past several months, or your goals have suddenly taken flight in different directions. 

When several aspects of your partnership are crumbling simultaneously, it may be the Universe telling you that your journey together is coming to an end. 

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3. You Like Each Other, But the Love Is Waning

Not every relationship ends in a blaze of resentment and frustration. Sometimes, people simply and slowly fall out of love. In other words, you fundamentally “like” and respect each other, but that elusive and inexplicable thing called “love” has faded. 

Relationships are a journey of peaks and valleys. But if one of you can't find your way back to “the love,” it may be time to end things.

4. Efforts To Turn Things Around Have Failed

You've been to one or more therapists. You've read articles, consumed books, and tried to implement the advice — but nothing seems to work. Everything you’ve tried fails. 

As they say, doing the same thing repeatedly and getting the same results is a form of delusion or insanity. So if you've exhausted nearly every option and nothing is bringing you back to the bedroom, perhaps the time has come to say, “It was great while it lasted, but it's over.” 

5. One or Both of You Are Flirting With Others

Back in the day, you two couldn't take your eyes — or hands — off one another, whether alone or out and about with others. Friends were constantly imploring you to “get a room.”

But these days, one or both of you has developed a wandering eye, and flirting with others has increased.

couple sitting on sofa When To Walk Away From A Sexless Marriage

While flirting isn't necessarily terrible — (some folks are naturally gregarious) — it may be a red flag.

6. There's a Lot of Distance (Emotional and Physical)

Not only are you not having sex, but you're not cuddling, sharing your feelings, or spending quality time together. Settling in for an evening involves sitting on opposite ends of the couch, and you cannot remember the last time you shared a hug or kiss.

Additionally, you and your partner no longer have deep conversations, and it's reached a point where you feel more like roommates than lovers. 

7. Your Partner Doesn't Want To Work on the Issue

You've clearly communicated that you're dissatisfied with the lack of sex you're having. Perhaps you've even discussed ways to turn things around. But no matter what you say or do, your partner rebuffs every advance and shows no interest in changing their habits.

Relationships take effort. So if one of you is unwilling to give it the “ole college try,” then the partnership may be all out of steam.

8. The Lack Is Consuming You

Objectively speaking, most everything else in your life is going well. You're happy with your professional life, your friendships are thriving, and you've never been healthier. 

Yet, you can't stop thinking about your lack of “nookie.” The well is dry, and you are parched!

If this describes your situation, there's a chance it's time to decide about the future of your relationship. After all, you don't want to spend the rest of your days fretting about your sex life or, more specifically, the lack of one. Moreover, sexual rumination indicates that intimacy is important to you, and a relationship without it doesn't fill your “love tank.”

9. You Crave Sex (With Other People)

Consider it a giant red flag if you or your partner craves intimacy with other people. At the risk of being too blunt, when you reach that point, it's probably time to throw in the towel — especially if you've worked on the issue and nothing is changing.

10. Your Sex Drives Are Wildly Mismatched

As mentioned, sex drive isn't stagnant. And sometimes, people who were previously well-matched in that regard find themselves in different places several months or years down the line — and that's fine. People and situations change. 

But don't try to force a square peg into a round hole. Doing so will just make you miserable. Instead, think about cutting your losses and moving on. No rule says you can't remain friends, but you should seriously consider ending the romance.

11. Infidelity Is a Factor

If you're enduring a sexless marriage, but you or your partner have stepped out and slept with other people, ending things is likely the right move. If you don't have an “open relationship,” cheating is relationship poison. While it's possible to reconcile, it may be impossible if you're no longer mutually attracted to one another. 

How Does a Sexless Marriage Impact a Couple? 

Again, not all sexless marriages are flawed or unworkable. Some people simply lose their libidos over time. If both parties are fine with that but still enjoy their partnership, great! Sex isn't a requirement for everyone. 

But if it's a problem, sexless marriages have their drawbacks. A lack of intimacy can lead to:

  • Resentment
  • Confusion
  • A lack of emotional intimacy
  • Frustration
  • Diminishing self-confidence
  • Anger

None of these are positive things, and all have the power to erode your bond. So, ultimately, a sexless marriage can lead to divorce, and according to statistics, it's a leading cause of dissolution. 

couple sitting on end of bed When To Walk Away From A Sexless Marriage

What Can You Do To Improve a Sexless Marriage? 

Is it possible to turn your sexless marriage around? In a word: YES! It takes effort, but if both parties are willing, there are ways to find your way back to the bedroom. Let's explore a few options. 

1. Address Past Trauma

A lack of sex may be rooted in past pains — especially sexual trauma. Getting over it requires acknowledging the issue head-on and doing what it takes to move past the experience. The most effective method is working with a therapist who can help pinpoint patterns and develop coping tools.

Don't have the budget for a psychologist? Consider giving online therapy a shot. It's less expensive. Reading books written by credible therapists may also help. 

2. Take a Break

Taking a break isn’t the same as breaking up. In fact, spending time apart is quite common and gives people the space to get their heads straight outside the daily framework of coupledom.

However, if you go this route, make sure the parameters are clear. Will you live together during the separation? If so, what will that look like? Can you go out on dates with other people? Have sex with other people? 

If you feel uncomfortable having this conversation, it may be time to say sayonara to the partnership. After all, communication is the backbone of healthy relationships, and if you can't talk things through, what's the point? 

3. Explore Medical Options

Fixing a sexless marriage may be as simple as getting a prescription for the “little blue pill” — or something similar. It's also worth getting a full checkup and blood work done. Another ailment — like diabetes, high blood pressure, or even low iron counts — may be to blame. Furthermore, many people find that their sex drive increases dramatically when they lose weight. 

So work with your doctor. Be explicit about the situation. Don't be embarrassed. Medical professionals are trained to address these issues, and they won't judge you! (If they do, it may be time to find another doctor, not another spouse.)

4. Try New Things

Is your sexless marriage simply a matter of boredom? If so, why not try to spice things up in the boudoir? Buy a copy of the Kama Sutra and give some new positions a try. Have you ever considered role-playing? For many couples, trying on a new persona is the thing that gets them back in the proverbial saddle.

However, don't ever do something that makes you uncomfortable. If your partner suggests going to a sex club, a threesome, or opening up your marriage, and those options aren't in your intimacy wheelhouse, don't feel pressure to comply. Forcing a partner into uncomfortable intimacy is a form of abuse, not love.

5. Go on a Trip

It may sound silly or unlikely to work, but getting away from the hustle, bustle, and stress of everyday life can “stiffen” a “limp” relationship. 

Interestingly, research shows that vacationing with a loved one builds stronger bonds. Getting away infuses the relationship with a hefty dose of zest, as it allows both parties to take a break and remember their more sentimental sides. Moreover, traveling to unknown environs releases feel-good hormones that bring you closer together. 

6. Get a Divorce

Okay, maybe divorce isn't a way to improve a sexless partnership — but it is an option if you've exhausted all other avenues. Although challenging, try to remember that divorce isn't a failure. Life is complicated, and people change. So if sex is a priority for you, finding a relationship that works on that level is your right. 

Final Thoughts

Relationships take work – and ignoring an issue won't make it better or disappear the problems. 

Moreover, don't shy away from sharing your situation with your closest friends and family (if they're supportive). They may have a perspective or advice that helps you see things from a different and helpful angle.

In the long run, you only have this one life, and you deserve to be happy.