Well Being

The Celibate Marriage: Living without Sex

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There's a great discussion on About.com regarding celibacy in marriage. I was amazed to read many comments where the commenter seemed quite happy about their sexless or low-sex arrangement. I wanted to see how other people felt about it, so I went to my favorite go-to marriage site, The Marriage Bed, and read this discussion, which seemed to be more in line with reality.

Now, I've heard people say that the reason there's so much similarity in people's responses on the Marriage Bed is that everyone there is the high-drive spouse and thus thinks that same way.  But that isn't true: There are many low-drive spouses there, although certainly not as many as high-drive.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of a sexless marriage is one in which sex occurs less than 10 times per year. By that definition, approximately 20% of marriages are celibate. Doing the math, that's having sex approximately .81 times a month…or once every five weeks. The average couple (whoever they are) has sex two to three times a week, but normal sexual frequency is defined as the amount of sex it takes to keep both spouses content.  This could mean that the high-drive spouse settles for a little less, and the low-drive spouse offers alternatives when he/she isn't “in the mood.”

The reasons for the lack of sex in marriages were the following:

  • Marriages of convenience, tax benefits, acquiring residency, etc.
  • Being too busy
  • Adultery (the adulterous partner losing interest in the other partner)
  • Involvement in porn, for the same reason as above
  • Sexual aversion due to past trauma, or loss of desire toward your spouse
  • Erectile Dysfunction or vaginismus (where the vaginal muscles spasm and make intercourse painful)
  • Mutually agreed upon (are they CRAZY?)
  • Illness
  • Power and control
  • Various combinations of the above

I will add, based on conversations that I've had with other people:

  • Boredom can result in a lowered sex drive.
  • Feeling pressured to have sex is a Catch-22.

It's interesting to me, but not surprising, that men and women handle sexless marriages in different ways. Apparently, men throw themselves into physical activity, work, or hobbies, while women become introverted, depleted of self confidence, depressed, or suicidal. Men may be more likely to become involved with alternatives (porn, excessive masturbation), while women report feeling “dirty,” “slutty,” or “ugly.” Personally, I think this is because society tends to see a man begging for sex as being normal or at least acceptable; a woman who has to beg for sex is either a nymphomaniac or incredibly unattractive — even when neither is true.

My guess is that because sex may be more physically-related for men (and they can  find relief/solace in physcial activity), whereas it may be more emotional/relational for women, which doesn't allow for much variation. In both cases, sexless marriages often result in affairs and divorce.

So, if you're in a low-sex/sexless marriage, for whatever reason, how do you cope?  Let's be proactive here, okay? Keep the comments helpful and constructive. What has helped you stay faithful or remain emotionally healthy if you're dealing with a sexless or low-sex marriage?

image: morguefile