Help with the Sexless Marriage

Many readers have shared stories of their sexless marriage. For most, one spouse has stopped having the desire to have sex, and the other is left full of desire and wondering what went wrong. Is he no longer attracted to me? Is she having an affair? Is our marriage over?

These are just some of the questions those in a sexless marriage are asking. The other spouse often does not have an answer, or at

least he or she is reluctant to share. And let’s face it. Sex is a difficult subject to discuss when things are going well, never mind when there’s a problem.

The good news is that you can get help, and you don’t necessarily have to end your relationship. Lonnie Barbach, a clinical social psychologist in the San Francisco area, recently offered up tips on how to deal with the sexless marriage. Author of For Each Other: Sharing Sexual Intimacy (Anchor, 1983), Barbach offers refreshing and unexpected advice. Take a gander here:

Understand why your partner no longer wants sex.

People have a hard time talking about sex at, especially if they have lost desire. Many times couples never even talk about why they have stopped having sex. The first step should be to communicate. “Most people are not talking to their partner,” says Barbach.

Consider possible medical problems.

Once you and your spouse talk it out, you might discover that there are physical symptoms preventing him or her from performing sexually.

For example, your wife might be entering menopause, which causes fluctuations in her hormones, which could affect her libido. In that case, says Barbach, supplemental testosterone might help. If you suspect any medical problem, then you should see your physician – and be honest about what’s going on. Lack of erections and painful intercourse could all be caused by a medical issue that you might be able to resolve. It behooves you to get over your embarrassment because it could improve your marriage and sex life.

Analyze the status of your relationship.

If a medical condition is not the culprit, then there probably is a relationship problem standing in the way of your sex life. Has your spouse lost desire because you’ve been arguing about something lately? Does he or she feel anger or resentment? Have one of you had an affair? Has it just been a particularly stressful time for him or her? Again, you’ll have to talk to your spouse about what he or she is feeling. Remember to actively listen – that means to pay attention to exactly what your spouse is saying – rather than just talking over him or her or repeating how you want to sex now. That won’t get you anywhere.

Address discrepancies in desire.

Often, one partner simply wants more sex than the other. There are other ways to get past desire differences. Fulfilling fantasies or focusing on foreplay might help one spouse increase his or her desire. Or the spouse who wants more sex can supplement with masturbation. Finally, the more reluctant partner might give oral or manual stimulation to his or her partner. “It can be a gift from one partner to another,” says Barbach.

Go to therapy.

When all the other steps have been fruitless or if there is still an issue eating away at your relationship, you should consider therapy. It can be a healthy exercise for couples. “Therapy is a good way for couples to find out their differences without one person being right and the other person being wrong,” says Barbach. “Couples might still split up but much more amicably because it’s about not being a good fit.”

Think outside the box.

This last option is extreme and won’t work for every couple. But Barbach says that when one person wants to keep the marriage intact but won’t have sex anymore, he or she sometimes gives the other permission to have affairs. Often, spouses who do this say that they just don’t want to know about it. Some couples can’t go through with this. The reluctant spouses feel betrayed still, and the spouses, who want sex, still feel as though their spouses find them unattractive or that there is a lack of intimacy and caring in the relationship. Few couples, in fact, can make this work, so if you’re even willing to consider this option, seriously think about the consequences.