SEXUAL DESIRE AND LOW SEX RELATIONSHIPS
Stanley Ducharme, Ph.D.
In recent times, there has been considerable attention focused
on the problems of low or no sex marriages. In such a relationship
usually one partner has a very low libido or there is a
significant discrepancy in sexual desire between the couple.
The longer couples avoid sexual contact, the harder it becomes
to break the cycle. The longer they refrain from sexual
contact, the more they tend to blame each other.
low sex marriage can often deteriorate so that conflict,
frustration and boredom become commonplace in the relationship.
With motivation however, these relationships can usually
re-establish a healthy sexual life together.
The Importance of Sexuality
Sexuality is a complex, crucial aspect of life and marriage.
There is no one-way to be sexual and no specific sexual
frequency that is considered “normal”. For most
people, sexuality is healthy as long as it causes neither
member of the couple any distress or emotional turmoil.
Healthy sexual functioning allows both people to enjoy pleasure
and to have realistic expectations of each other.
Maintaining sexual desire, attraction and trust is an ongoing
process that takes effort and initiative for both individuals.
When a couple’s sexual expression begins to lag and
lack excitement, the key to rebuilding marital sexual desire
is to enjoy non-demanding pleasuring, increasing intimacy
and having fun together. Both members must be committed
to revitalizing the sexual energy
Low sexual desire can have a multitude of causes. These
might include childhood sexual abuse, guilt regarding previous
sexual activities or partners, fears of failure or a lack
of genuine feelings for one’s spouse. These “secrets”
often affect the trust in a relationship and can seriously
impair marital communication. Ideally, they should be discussed
with one’s partner or at the very least with a therapist,
best friend or sibling. Left undisclosed, they can become
poison to a relationship or marriage.
Other factors affecting sexual desire can include issues
such as fears of pregnancy or difficulties such as infertility,
fears of abandonment, shame about a sexual fetish, the need
to protect a partner or lack of physical attraction.
For an individual with medical concerns or chronic health
problems, additional issues may play a role in the lack
of sexual desire. These might include shame or negative
feelings about one’s body, concerns of being a burden,
fears of rejection, the work involved in preparing for sex,
fatigue, lack of privacy, difficulty with erections or ejaculation,
and feeling inadequate as a sexual partner.
Increasing sexual desire in a relationship is possible but
requires the commitment of both people. Some authors have
given specific instructions designed to rebuild sexual interest
in the relationship. To maintain a vital sexual life you
have to commit time and energy. The most important components
in maintaining desire are to:
as a team dedicated to solving this problem.
Anticipate sexual encounters
Realize that sex is more than intercourse and orgasm.
Spend time kissing, holding touching and being together
in intimate ways.
Be open to sexual experimentation
Maintain a regular rhythm of affection and sexual contact.
Be committed to strengthening your relationship by enhancing
your sexual life together. One factor or one spouse does
not cause a lack of sexual interest
Some marriages can survive in spite of low sexual desire
or infrequent sexual activity. It is possible to have a
good relationship without sexual interest or sexual drive.
Over time however, the lack of sexual desire becomes severe
and chronic. Tension becomes more prevalent and the intimate
connection is lost or destroyed. In these marriages, blaming
and resentment build until anger becomes a daily issue.
For the partner, withholding or avoiding sex makes a statement,
a way to fight back. Withholding sex can be a reaction to
the anger of ones spouse.
If lack of sexual desire has been an ongoing problem, dealing
with anger may be the first step in restoring intimacy.
Pointing a finger or blaming a spouse accomplishes nothing.
Assigning blame only intensifies a problem and divides a
couple even further.
Both people need to take responsibility and work together
to break a deadlock and promote change. Regardless of what
originally caused the problem, it is easier to break the
cycle if you are able to talk about the sexual difficulty
as a couples issue. Viewing a lack of sexual desire as a
couple problem reduces guilt, defensiveness and blaming.
For many people, intimacy energizes the marital relationship
and promotes a sense of closeness and connection. The real
test however is the ability to stay connected and emotionally
connected during difficult times. Maintaining intimacy during
difficult times is a sign of a viable relationship.
does not have to negate emotional closeness and anger need
not be a reason not to be sexual. For most of us, it is
extremely important to deal with conflict, anger and frustration
outside of the bedroom. Healthy couples tend to find a way
to resolve conflict and to deal with anger and hurt without
sacrificing sexual intimacy. At times, this may mean finding
professional assistance with a problem rather than letting
frustration slowly destroy a relationship.
No Quick Fix
In summary, there are no quick and easy solution to maintaining
sexual desire and sexual intimacy in a relationship. However,
a few guiding principles might be important to keep in mind:
Try to be intimate in some form on a regular basis.
The longer couples avoid sexual contact, the harder
it is to break the cycle.
Both members must be committed and motivated to revitalizing
a sexual relationship. The couple must function as an
integrated team to restore emotional and sexual intimacy.
with anger resentments and hurt outside of the bedroom
and don’t use sex as a way of punishing your partner
or making a statement about how you feel.
Get away from the idea that intercourse and orgasm are
the most important aspects of a sexual relationship.
Have sexual contact be pleasurable, enjoyable, non-demanding
Maintain sexual contact during difficult times even
if initially you are not in the mood. The intimacy at
these times will bring you closer and strengthen the
bond between the two of you.
Try to talk about sexual secrets, guilt and other issues
that cause shame and feelings of inadequacy. Keeping
such secrets to yourself tends to cause distance in
the relationship and usually results in some form of
withdrawal by one member of the couple.
Remember that sexual contact should be fun and enjoyable.
If sexual desire is missing, it may be that sex has
turned into work and effort.