To gauge the health and happiness of your marriage, there are plenty of things couples should look for. According to relationship experts, loyalty, support, compassion, communication, respect, and equality are seven of the fundamental cornerstones of successful relationships. And of course, maintenance sex plays an equally important role in keeping both partners happy and content across their long-term relationships.
With so many benefits to consistent and routine intimacy in marriage—stress relief, mood boosting, higher levels of commitment, and deeper emotional connection—it’s more curious that younger couples have effectively entered into a “sex recession” in recent years.
So how many couples are currently living in a sexless marriage, and what kind of impact is it really having on their relationships? To find out, we surveyed over 1,000 people about their “dead bedrooms” and what might be driving a wedge between their physical connection. We wanted to know how often the average couple has sex, how long their dry spells last, what most people think is causing the disconnect, and if living in a sexless marriage really makes couples unhappy. Read on to see what we uncovered.
There’s always an excuse. Whether it’s busy work schedules, the drain of having to keep up with your kids and their daily activities, or feeling like there might be a rut in your libido, there are plenty of reasons why couples may experience a decline in their level of intimacy. Once these issues present themselves, they can be hard to articulate correctly and can drive a deeper wedge between spouses.
Just 1 in 4 married spouses surveyed admitted to having sex monthly. Even more, 27 percent, were having sex between 4 and 8 times each year, followed by another 20 percent who had sex 2 to 3 times a year. While less common, 1 in 10 people surveyed acknowledged they hadn’t had sex with their spouses in years.
Lost that Lovin’ Feeling
It may not seem overly concerning when you first start to realize that your sex life is slowing down, but even if it doesn’t set in right away, you’ll likely start to experience frustration at your partner, a lower sense of self-esteem, anger, and even depression.
Unfortunately, once the fire starts to go out in the bedroom, reigniting it might not be as easy as you’d expect. Some relationships experts say sex becomes a “use it or lose it” kind of mentality. The less often you have sex, the lower your libido might be and the most uncomfortable broaching the topic with your partner becomes. While a small portion of married people who’d experienced a “dead bedroom” said the dry spell lasted less than 6 months, nearly twice as many said they went without sex for 6 to 12 months instead. Even more, 39.4% percent of people said their dry spells lasted between 1 and 5 years, and another 6.2% said it went from 6 to 10 years.
Looking for Answers
According to more than half of people, the single element having the biggest effect on their sex life was simple: a stressful work environment. If you’re waking up on a Monday morning dreading going into work, you could be bringing that negative energy home with you and into the bedroom. When you’re managing a difficult work-life, you might start to realize the drive to have sex starts to disappear, you feel distracted when you’re with your partner, and any sense of creativity in the bedroom seems lost.
The most common issue might even be triggering the second most common reason people stop having sex – weight gain. Work-related stress can cause unexpected weight gain in people who might eat more to help calm their nerves or who put off going to the gym because of all the work they’re doing. For 46 percent of people, weight gain was causing their “dead bedroom,” while another 41 percent attributed it to lack on interest followed by having children (28 percent) and resentment (24 percent).
In the same way that you might not see all of the side effects from not having sex in your marriage, you might also not notice the way your behavior with your partner changes. While more than 1 in 4 people identified resentment as a primary cause for their dry spells, it’s possible resentment occurs as a result of the lack of intimacy. The anxiety, depression, and anger you feel at not being physical with the person you love (especially when that passion was previously present in your relationship) can start to bleed into feelings of ill will towards your spouse.
Nearly half of people (46 percent) admitted both parties were at fault for the lack of heat in the bedroom, but people we polled were more likely to pin the blame on their partners than they were on themselves when they didn’t consider the responsibility mutual.
Keeping things fresh and exciting in the bedroom isn’t the only task that sometimes gets an unequal divide between couples. Women were more likely to feel they were responsible for elements of their home life including child care, cooking, and household chores, while men claimed ownership of financial contributions.
Both men and women expressed frustration at not having regular sex in their own words. While one man identified feeling “robbed” of something fundamental and another said he felt “starved,” one woman said not having sex with her partner was more of a “relief” than anything else.
There’s nearly an endless number of reasons why you might stop being intimate with your partner. From the weight of your work-life balance and juggling a career with home life to emotional fallout, hormone changes, and sexual dysfunction, there may not be one individual reason why physical relationships go from hot to cold over time.
But does any of that really matter if you still love your partner?
As it turns out, the answer may be yes. Less than half of married men and women we polled who’d experienced a dry spell in their sexual connection identified being happy in their relationships. While roughly 30 percent were neutral, 25 percent of women and 19 percent of me struggling to find intimacy with their spouse admired to having an unhappy relationship. And for some, the value of sexuality may have faded over time. 11 percent of women and 20 percent of men we polled believed their partners would be content with never having sex again.
Lighting Up The Dark
Even though a vast majority of couples we polled felt the need to impose blame (either to both parties equally or just one), there’s a very real chance lack of intimacy in marriages or long-term relationships is a blameless. In fact, while just 18 percent of people identified their hormones as the root cause of their dry spell, research shows as many as 70 percent of low sex drive cases can be attributed to hormonal imbalances. Those fluctuations aren’t unique to older couples, either. Men and women can start to experience changes in their hormones before they turn 30, causing a severe shift in their intimacy.
At BodyLogicMD, we’re committed to helping you find the perfect balance in life and love. Hormonal issues don’t just impact sex, they can trigger weight gain, mood swings, depression, insomnia, fatigue, and memory loss. In many cases, hormone therapy is the solution. To find a physician near you or to learn more about our hormone replacement therapy, visit us online at BodyLogicMD.com today.
All participants were screened using a two-pronged approach: (1) description of selection criteria with a requirement for self-acknowledgment and acceptance, and (2) directly asking each participant to confirm each criterion. This study employed an online survey using a convenience sampling methodology via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, with a subsequent posteriori exploratory, correlational data analysis methodology employed after completion of data scrubbing via Microsoft Excel and data visualization via Tableau.
Demographics: Participants ages ranged from 18 to 65 years. Gender comprised of 53.42% female, 46.40% male, and 0.39% other (other included those who self-identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, two-spirit, and agender). All 50 states and the District of Columbia had representation except for North Dakota.