Can my relationship survive without sex?

If you and your partner are happy with how much sex you’re having... that’s great! Sex in a relationship becomes a problem when you and your partner’s desire for physical intimacy is out of balance.

To find this out you need to have an open and honest conversation with each other.

Let’s talk about physical intimacy, baby

If you and your partner have similar levels of desire and you feel emotionally and sexually fulfilled that’s brilliant. There can be quite a lot of outside pressure to make you feel like you’re not having enough sex (like comparing yourself to friends, media or porn). If you’re both satisfied though, you have nothing to worry about.

It’s important to recognise sex is just one way to be physically intimate with your partner. We’re talking about more than just sex – physical intimacy is about touch, comfort, support and connection.

A healthy relationship has a balance between all types of intimacy. Relationships with sex but no emotional intimacy can be self-destructive and potentially harmful.

Just a word for couples who identify as asexual...having a non-sexual relationship may be your preference. You just need to talk it through with your partner so you are both happy within your relationship.

Nerdy biology bit

Did you know that levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are higher in the few months of a new relationship? This increases the feeling of needing to bond and be together.

It’s a really important part at the beginning of a relationship…think back to when you first got together.

As time goes on the need for physical intimacy might go down a bit and the need for emotional and other types of intimacy tend to increase.

So what if one of you feels they aren’t getting enough?

Do you and your partner have differences in sex drive?

  • This could be due to stress, a physical or mental health condition that may affect desire or ability to have sex.

  • Or there might be outside factors - becoming parents can be a big one!

  • Ask each other if this is likely to be temporary or longer-lasting. Are you both willing to stick this out? How long for?

If it feels like it’s going to go on for a long time with unknown recovery there’s more likely to be feelings of distress around changes in sexual activity.

How it can make you feel

  • The partner with higher desire may feel rejected.

  • The partner with lower desire might feel they have to be super alert to make sure they don’t give the impression they’re interested in sexual activity when they don’t feel ready. They may feel overwhelmed or inadequate at not meeting their partner’s needs.

  • .....and neither of these feels very nice.

 Something bigger…

Could it be a symptom of a bigger issue in the relationship? Do you feel that you’ve grown apart? You might not even like each other anymore and there’s constant criticism or arguing.

A lack of sex can lead to a decrease in other forms of intimacy and connection, leading to feelings of resentment and maybe even infidelity and irreparable rupture of the relationship.

An option could be to negotiate an open relationship so both partners can get their needs met within mutually agreed boundaries.

Perhaps an affair’s been discovered, or there’s an affair taking place behind the other partner's back, leading to more disconnection and mistrust which can be difficult to recover from.

What can you do?

Address the elephant in the room – talk about it – have an honest conversation – how does each of you feel about how much sex or physical intimacy you have in your relationship?

Think about scheduling sex – it might not sound very romantic but it’s actually a great way to stop sex falling by the wayside and make sure you’re making time for each other (which I reckon is DEFINITELY romantic!)

Physical intimacy is what makes a romantic relationship different from a friendship – feeling attraction, passion and connection with your partner is really important.

BUT it’s not the lack of sex that’s key, it’s the inability to address the challenges in your relationship and to be willing to look a little deeper.

It can make you feel vulnerable and uncomfortable to address these issues so you might want to do this with the help of a relationship counsellor.

Are there issues in your relationship that are caused by or are impacting your sex life? IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS! You deserve to be happy in your romantic relationship and so does your partner. Get in touch and let's talk about that elephant in the room together.