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When Partners Stop Having Sex, Whose Choice Is It?

An insight into the overall decrease of sexual frequency.

Key points

  • For couples over age 50 who have sex less than 10 times a year, the lack of sex is mostly man's choice.
  • GES values a flexible approach to couple sexuality, breaking the cycle of non-sexual relationship.
  • To address a non-sexual relationship, introduce erotic and sensual touch as alternative ways of sexual expression.
Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock
Source: Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock

Approximately one in five American couples is non-sexual, defined as having sex less than 10 times a year. Whose choice is it? The “politically correct” answer is a mutual choice, but that is seldom true. The “common sense” answer: It's the woman’s choice since one in three women report chronic low desire. However, for the great majority of couples, especially over age 50, it is the man’s choice. It is not that he wishes to stop having sex, but the most common reason to avoid sex is he has lost confidence with erection and intercourse. He says to himself: "I don’t want to start something I can’t finish."

He feels trapped in the cycle of anticipatory anxiety, tense and performance-oriented sex where he rushes to intercourse because he fears losing his erection. He feels frustration, embarrassment, and eventually falls into sexual avoidance. He makes this choice unilaterally and conveys it non-verbally, although sometimes he unfairly blames his partner. This is a destructive choice for the man, woman, and couple. Rather than sexuality having a 15-20 percent positive role in their lives and relationship, it has a destructive 50-75 percent role that demoralizes the partners and subverts their bond. Stopping sexual relations is a bad choice driven by negative motivation.

Confronting the problem of a non-sexual marriage (relationship) is a couple's challenge. You need to deal with the cycle of hurt, blaming, and anger and instead approach intimacy, pleasuring, and eroticism as a sexual team. The “wise” decision is to consult a couples' sex therapist, but if you want to address this on your own, start by redefining what you mean by having sex. For most people (especially males) sex is defined as intercourse; it becomes an “intercourse or nothing” power struggle. When sex is intercourse or nothing, nothing usually wins.

There are five dimensions (gears) of touch—affection, sensuality, playfulness, eroticism, and intercourse. Affectionate touch—holding hands, kissing, and hugging—anchors attachment, but is not sexual. However, sensual scenarios, playful scenarios, and erotic scenarios are all dimensions of sexual expression. Sensual, playful, and erotic touching allows you to feel sexually connected. Intercourse is a natural continuation of the pleasuring-eroticism process, not a pass-fail performance test. Ideally, most sexual experiences flow from comfort to pleasure to arousal to eroticism to erotic flow to intercourse and orgasm.

When the sex does not flow, rather than panic or apologize you can transition to a sensual or erotic scenario and share pleasure and sexuality in that manner. The scenario is usually mutual and synchronous, but can be asynchronous (positive, but better for one partner than the other). You affirm that the essence of sexuality is giving and receiving pleasure, not an individual pass-fail sex performance.

Good Enough Sex (GES) is an approach that motivates and empowers the man, woman, and couple. GES values intercourse, but even more, it prioritizes a variable, flexible approach to couple sexuality. Adopting GES not only breaks the cycle of a non-sexual relationship, but ensures that you experience desire, pleasure, eroticism, and satisfaction now and in your 60s, 70s, and beyond.

Facebook image: Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock