Each week, The CSPH answers questions that have been submitted anonymously through Formspring. This week’s question is:
I run /r/DeadBedrooms, a support group for redditors in sexless relationships. Most of our members are coping with the frustrations of dealing with a low-libido partner… some of them with a co-operative but sexually-incompatible person, and others with a person who refuses to accept the seriousness of the problem. Do you have any resources you could recommend? It’s always good to have more content for our reading list.
A sexless relationship isn’t necessarily a negative thing if both partners are content with that arrangement. Based on your description though, it sounds like that isn’t the case here. Kudos to your and your group for supporting each other through this difficult time and for providing positive resources.
Pinpointing the reasons behind the DeadBedroom (as your Reddit group refers to it) is a sensitive task that will take patience, compassion, and dedication to the relationship. Possible cause(s) for this are numerous: communication problems, a natural shift in libido level, loss of interest in sex or one’s partner, age, stress, undiagnosed or untreated medical issues, different schedules, children, fatigue, depression, incompatible sexual orientations, sexual dysfunction, and so much more. The Redditors in your group all have unique circumstances surrounding their relationships that no single approach or solution will apply to, so with that in mind, I’ll provide some general advice for those struggling with a sexless relationship, as well as a wide variety of additional resources for your reading list.
- Step One: Communicate. Talking about sex can be difficult, but it is essential to a healthy relationship. The CSPH’s Q&A: How Do I Get My Partner to be More Sexually Adventurous? has great advice to help people examine exactly what their sexual interests are and how to talk to their partners about them. The Q&A on asexuality provides information on another potential factor of a sexless relationship (asexuality and/or low libido) and may be a great starting point to help partners’ define their libidos. Other sites like Our Bodies Ourselves and Kinsey Confidential also have tips on improving communication. When a couple opens up with each other in a caring, supportive way, they will strengthen the foundation needed to resolve this potentially delicate subject. However, if the partner with the low libido denies there is an issue or is unwilling to talk about it, it may be prudent to seek counselling with a sex positive therapist. There may be underlying issues that this person will need to work through, either alone or in couples sessions, before being able to talk comfortably with their partners about it. Remember that wanting a healthy sex life with one’s partner is a reasonable thing to ask for, but in turn, being patient and supportive as everyone works to resolve it is crucial. If they are completely uninterested in trying to resolve it or refuse to consider it a problem, this may be the time to consider whether the relationship should continue or not. Sexual incompatibility is a common concern and an acceptable reason to end a relationship. If a level headed, open discussion about the relationship and sex’s role in it does not show everyone’s needs being met in the long term, it may be best to part ways now.
- Step Two: Visit the doctor. A doctor will hopefully be able to either diagnose or rule out any medical concerns that are contributing to the sexless relationship. Diet, sleep, weight gain, stress, and exercise can all affect the libido and a doctor can recommend if any changes are necessary for overall health, as well as increased sexual desire. If there is an underlying condition, the doctor should be able to suggest treatment options. Don’t skip this step if possible, as sometimes a simple change can make a huge difference.
- Step Three: Communicate some more. Talk with each other about everything, not just about sex. Even if a visit to the doctor, an earlier conversation, or something else pinpointed the causes, communicating regularly will help maintain a high level of intimacy and trust. This communication can be essential to repair any emotional damage that may have been caused during the sexless portion of the relationship. If still working towards resolving the issue(s), research using the links below and the DeadBedrooms reading list can be helpful. Find a non-assuming or non-accusatory way to discuss information found with each other—e.g. I thought this was an interesting article, though it may not apply to our situation. What do you think?—and go from there. Remember: being passive aggressive or pressuring them for sex will only make the situation worse.
Though this is advice intended for sexless relationships, it applies to every relationship and can potentially prevent a sexless situation. When partners communicate about sex openly and honestly, discussing their needs, interests and ideal sexual “timetable”, they’ll have a much better understanding of what will keep each other happy in the long run. Opening up about sex can make it much easier for partners to open up about every other aspect of the relationship, strengthening their connection and improving the sex they’re having, however often they engage in it. Whether already in a sexless relationship or at the start of a new relationship, focus on communication and honesty—about sex and everything else—to improve everyone’s chances for happiness.
Please note that the links provided below are only meant as a starting point and may not apply to your specific situation, gender, or orientation. We cannot vouch for all/any user generated content or opinions on these sites, especially because some accounts, while valid and enlightening, are not written with inclusivity and diversity in mind.
Resources from The CSPH
- Workshops – Currently includes F-Sex and the Spice it Up series
- The CSPH library – Books related to libido
- The CSPH library – Books related to sex and marriage
- Sexual Studies: Weight Loss Linked To Increased Sexual Function in Men
- Sexual Studies: Sexual Dysfunction From Anti-Depressants
Medical and professional resources
- The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT)
- International Professional Surrogates Association
- Society for Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR)
- Sexual Health.com – Posts tagged with low libido
- Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy: Relationship Among Sexual Desire, Sexual Satisfaction, and Quality of Life in Middle-Aged and Older Adults
- Relate.org: We’ve Stopped having Sex
- Why Men Stop Having Sex: Men, the Phenomenon of Sexless Relationships, and What You Can Do About It – Bob Berkowitz & Susan Yager-Berkowitz. The first chapter is available to read for free here.
- The Sex Starved Wife, What to do When He’s Lost His Desire – Michelle Weiner Davis
- The New Science of Love: How Understanding Your Brain’s Wiring Can Help Rekindle Your Relationship – Dr. Fran Cohen Praver
- The School of Life: How to Think More about Sex – Alain de Botton
- The Happy Spouse – Sex Therapy and Marriage Counselling blog by clinical sexologist Dawn Michael
Support groups and forums
- Relationship Support Group on SupportGroups.com – General relationship support group but has some sexless/low libido posts
- Experience Project – Personal stories and support from people in sexless relationships
- Sexless Marriage Support Group on Yuku – Active support forum with thousands of user posts
Advice columns, articles and personal stories
- Dan Savage’s Savage Love – Letters tagged with low libido
- Sexuality.org: Is your sex drive in park? - Information about how testosterone can affect libido
- This is what a sexless marriage feels like – A brutally honest personal account of one woman’s sexless marriage
- Surviving a sexless relationship with sanity – Tips based on one woman’s experience in a sexless relationship
Sexual Statistics (including frequency)
- National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) 2010 findings – Tabulated on the Kinsey Institute Site
Relate.org’s Sex Census – UK focused survey