Sex promotes the flow of oxytocin, the chemical that promotes feelings of bonding.
Sex also is a free way of having fun together.
Lastly, when sex is a special activity that married couples share only with each other, sexual sharing enhances the partnership, keeping it monogomous, loving and strong.
A good place to start is by checking out what has caused the decrease in sharing this generally pleasurable activity. Here's some of the most common factors that inhibit sexual sharing:
1. No private time together.
If spouses prioritize other activities over sharing sexual time, there may be trouble ahead. Sometimes there is little choice, as when couples have jobs with opposite hours. Most often, however, setting up a schedule where there's no time for sex is a matter of priorities. Think again!
To want to make love with each other, fun times together refresh your connection. Even just "hanging out together" helps greatly, especially when you are both good-humored and if you are interactive, not just both on screens.
Be sure too to keep cell phones away during such times. Interruptions destroy bonding.
2. No privacy.
If the walls where you live are paper thin or for whatever reason you fear that normal sexual sounds will embarrass you vis a vis others in the household, this blockage merits real attention. What could you do to create more privacy? There's always options of some sort.
3. No motivation.
Some folks have minimal initial sexual drive. Others just don't experience sexual pleasure during intercourse.
Irritability, judgmental voice tones, criticism, blame and other hostile ways of interacting can easily squelch a partner's interest in sexual sharing. Even if the receiver of this kind of negative energy is not intending to respond with resentment or revenge, few partners feel affectionate toward those who hurt their feelings.
Still others have had traumatic sexual experiences earlier in their lives that may be blocking comfort with adult sexual sharing. For this problem, acupoint tapping can be a good option, either working with a therapist or self-administered. Check this option out by searching Emotional Freedom Technique on YouTube. Other kinds of psychotherapy also can help.
4. Age and familiarity have decreased initial sexual interest levels.
New romance evokes stronger sexual urges than familiar sexual partners. No problem if the initial urges are not prompting you. Decide to do it anyways. Get started and the sexual feelings will surge from contact.
Age is among the easier causes of a sexless marriage to overcome. Initial sexual arousal levels diminish with age. At the same time, once older folks "get going," sexual activity can be as or even more gratifying than earlier in life.
The key for those who do not feel enough initial spontaneous arousal to initiate sexual connecting? Schedule regular sexual times. Couples who can talk together about frequency, time of day, and days of the week, that work best for them can overcome their sexual infrequency this way. E.g., make Sundays into sexdays. Or make Wednesday nights dinner-date-and-do-it nights.
Few people feel like exercising before they head out the door for the gym. Once they get going though, exercise, and sex likewise, gets them feeling great.
5. No one takes responsibility for initiating sexual interactions.
Too much fear that the other may say no can block either from getting started. At the same time, too much saying No by one or the other partner can inhibit confidence about launching sexual contact.
While it can be helpful if both of you sometimes initiate sexual interactions, most long-standing couples divvy up marital roles including which partner rings the sexual bell.
6. Biological factors and psychological inhibitors.
As one reader wrote to me, "The two largest causes of diminished sex drive and sexless marriages are 1) pain or chronic illnesses like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, CFS, fibromyalgia, etc., and 2) the drugs that people take, not just for physical ailments, but also for birth control and depression. Birth control pills and SSRI antidepressants slaughter libido. Together, they can work sex-squashing magic."
In addition, negative sexual messages or experiences earlier in life can make sexuality feel dangerous, as I mention in point #3.
The internet has many sources of good information. Check them out.
There are three main ways to address sexless marriage situations.
One is to begin by talking about the situation. If you choose this route be sure to use your best skills for how to communicate in a relationship about sensitive topics. Use especially tactful talking, thoughtful listening, and symmetrical dialogue (equal air time) skills. No blame or looking for who's at fault. No criticism. Speak about your own concerns (e.g., "I respond best when ....") rather than telling the other what to do. And reply appreciatively to your partner's thought-sharing.
The second strategy is to decide that sex is important, and therefore figure out what you yourself can do differently that could help. With regard to each of the factors listed above that pertain to your situation, what could you do differently?
Caution: Each of you will be best off looking for what you yourself might do differently. Unless asked, refrain from telling the other what you think they should do.
Third, get professional help. There is now an association of certified sexual therapists. Google to find listings of these sex therapy specialists in your area.
Wait and see is unlikely to prove to be a strategy that leads to change.
Some couples are fine with a sexless marriage arrangement. If either of you however would prefer that sex return to your relationship, pay attention and put your mind to problem-solving about change options. Otherwise, as I wrote above, a sexless marriage is a vulnerable marriage.
Needing help with addressing sexual issues in your relationship? Denver clinical psychologist Susan Heitler, Ph.D, a graduate of Harvard and NYU, is author of Power of Two, a book, a workbook, and a website that teach the communication skills that can enable couples to resolve differences, including differences about sex.
Click here for a free Power of Two relationship test.