It’s easy to assume that couples consistently and regularly engage in sexual activity, especially after getting married and being available to each other on a regular basis or just about every night of the week. Many couples assume that others have active sex lives simply because they cannot imagine a couple being together without having sex and because sex is often presented as being important in relationships, but statistics tell a different tale when it comes to sexless marriages.
Consider some interesting statistics about these types of relationships, why they may happen, and what psychologists say about couples in these situations.
1. Dr. Phil McGraw, a popular speaker and counselor on relationships and marriage, has said on his website that there is no particular number of sexual encounters that is considered “normal” for couples, married or not. His advice to couples is to “negotiate” a sexual relationship that meets both their needs rather than assuming they “should” be having sex at certain intervals or a certain number of times.
2. According to researchers quoted by Newsweek magazine, married couples have sex an average of just over 68 times per year, or just slightly more than one time per week. Other researchers have put the number as closer to 58 times per year, still slightly more than once per week.
3. Married people under 30 are reported to have sex some 111 times per year.
4. The same source stated that married persons have only 6.9 more sexual encounters every year than those who are not married or who have never been married.
5. Experts define a sexless marriage as a relationship wherein the couple has sex no more than 10 times in any given year, or less than once per month.
6. Some 15% to 20% of couples identify as having a sexless marriage, based on the above statistic. A study performed in 1994 said that some 2% of married couples had no sex the year before. Less than 20% of those identifying as having a sexless marriage were under the age of 40.
7. According to USA Today, some 20% to 30% of men and some 30% to 50% of women claim to have little if any sex drive.
8. A persistent or recurring lack of interest in being sexual or in sex itself, and the persist lack of absence of sexual thoughts and fantasies, is call hypoactive sexual desire, or HSD.
9. Some 25% of Americans in total, made up of one-third of women and one-fifth of men, have HSD to a varying degree.
10. Psychotherapist Tina Tessina stated that the most common causes of a marriage without sex include hurt feelings between partners, a partner that initiates sex but that gets turned down too often, partners that are too busy or that become neglectful of spouses and the relationship, and communication problems between spouses or with one spouse in particular. Sexologist Judith Steinhart stated that relationship issues such as lack of trust between spouses, anxiety, pressures such as from children, and common misunderstandings between spouses also contribute significantly to having a sexless relationship.
11. Counselor Dr. Adam Scheck reported in the year 2000 that half of the couples he counseled had found themselves in sexless marriages, and stated that the common causes were the inability to talk openly about sex, not understanding the actual physical act of sex itself, lack of sleep, and the use of antidepressants and other medications that affect a person’s sex drive.
12. Persons in sexless marriages are more likely to seek a divorce than those with active sex lives, according to the Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times.
13. According to Parker-Pope, a sexless marriage can also be temporary and affected by outside circumstances. For example, childbirth or an affair on the part of one spouse can make a marriage become sexless.
14. Elena Donovan-Mayer was quoted in Reader’s Digest as saying that a sexless marriage would not automatically cause a couple’s desire for a divorce, but rather, blamed a discordant level of desire instead. Her article stated that in a sexless marriage, if both partners are comfortable with the level of sexuality, a marriage is likely to continue.
15. Some researchers have blamed modern technology for the increase in sexless marriages; The Examiner is quoted as stating that TVs and laptops or cell phones in the bedroom are to blame by many couples when it comes to interrupting sexual activity and desire.
16. A sex census in 2012, funded by Relate and adult store Ann Summers, stated that respondents claimed to have more sexual confidence between the ages of 60 and 69 than ever before. The study also claimed that respondents reported no decrease in sex drive after the age of 50.
17. Ladybird Magazine reported that many of its readers put “lack of time” as the number one reason they were not having sex as frequently as they once did or would prefer. Their respondents cited childrearing, housework, secular careers, paying the bills, and everyday chores such as these as taking precedent over sexual activity.
18. The same article listed depression as a common cause of a lack of sex drive, on the part of either spouse.
19. Physical causes can also be behind the lack of a sex drive in women. According to the Mayo Clinic, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease can interfere with a woman’s overall sex drive. During menopause a woman can experience vaginal dryness and this can interfere with a healthy sex drive.
20. Hormonal changes in women can also affect their overall sex drive, according to the Mayo Clinic. Pregnancy and childbirth and subsequent breastfeeding can affect a woman’s hormone levels so that her sex drive is decreased.
21. Women may also have psychological causes for the lack of a sex drive, including poor body image, lack of self-esteem, a history of sexual or other abuse, and lack of connection with one’s partner. Infidelity or a breach of trust was also listed as a common psychological cause of low libido or sex drive for women.
22. According to webMD.com, the number one physical cause of lack of sex drive for men is the use of antidepressants and medications such as those for high blood pressure. These are known to cause a drop in libido and sexual function in men.
23. The website also reports that low testosterone can interfere with healthy sexual activity. In one survey quoted at their site, some 28% of men who reported low sex drives tested for low testosterone as well.
24. Erectile dysfunction or physical impotence is not the same as a low sex drive. Men who have erectile dysfunction have a physical inability to maintain a healthy erection, although they may still have a healthy sexual desire.
25. Common causes of erectile dysfunction include smoking as this damages the blood vessels needed to carry blood to the penis, obesity, a slow metabolism, and age.
26. Psychological factors can also affect a man’s sex drive. These can include stress particularly from one’s job, and problems with one’s partner.
27. Alcohol is also a leading cause of low sex drive in men as alcohol interferes with healthy blood flow to the penis.
28. Lack of sleep can also interfere with a healthy sex drive for both men and women, as both sexes need proper rest to have sexual energy.
29. The site webMD.com also listed children as a leading cause of the lack of sex drive for both men and women, regardless of the ages of children. The site brought out that parents can suffer from stress and physical exhaustion and these in turn can interfere with a healthy sex drive and desire.
30. A lack of intimacy for both partners was also listed on webMD.com as a leading cause of a sexless relationship. The site claims that emotional intimacy is needed for both partners to feel sexual and to increase one’s sex drive.
Sexless Marriage Explained
The statistics and facts show that a sexless marriage or one with very little sex is not as uncommon as many people assume, and that it can happen to anyone in any relationship. It can also develop over time or be a temporary problem with a couple, based on mitigating or outside factors. These statistics and facts also show that it can be addressed with counseling or medication and physical treatment, if either or both partners wish to change the situation.
At the same time, experts agree that if both partners are comfortable with their sex life or lack thereof, it is not a problem that necessarily needs addressing. The key to a healthy sex life within a relationship, according to these statistics, is to find a level of sexual intimacy that is comfortable and acceptable for both partners. If one desires a change then the problem should be and can be addressed, but if both partners are comfortable and happy with being in a sexless marriage or relationship, then experts agree that a change is not necessarily in order! Partners can still be happy and healthy without sex, if this arrangement works for both of them.
By definition, a sexless marriage is when a committed couple, whether legally married or not, have little to no interest in sex or little to no sexual activity between them. When talking about a sexless marriage, some might assume that these couples have severe problems between them, are on the verge of a breakup, or may be suffering from some type of chronic illness or condition that makes sex difficult if not impossible. However, the facts about sexless marriages and relationships may surprise you.