Sex is very important to every relationship, but what happens when it stops? It’s more common than you might imagine: research suggests that 15% of married couples have not had sex with their partners within the past six to 12 months.
We invited readers to share their thoughts and stories. Here five people talk about what happens when sex or passion leaves the relationship.
James, 34, Johannesburg
When I started dating my now wife, the sex was amazing. We were very compatible and had similar tastes. After a few years, that quickly changed. At first I thought it was just the natural flow of a relationship and life stresses and so forth.
But when we got married everything changed: alarm bells rang loudly on our wedding night when my new bride was too tired to make love – this still stings many years later. After we married, sex was just a routine and not frequent. Oral sex became almost non-existent and resentment began to set in. When I tried to address the problem I came up against a brick wall. I tried all I could to find a fix, researching for advice online, helping her more around the house and trying not to be too demanding while making it clear that sex was very important. The addition of children was another nail in the coffin of our sex life. Sex become to a one-off thing reserved for Christmas or birthdays.
I began to feel resentment towards my wife and her unwillingness to have sex with me. I withdrew and the romance dried up completely. This year a colleague and I had a short but fulfilling affair. While it lasted it was wonderful and very fulfilling to be desired again sexually. This affair ended when my wife found out about it, and so we decided to give our marriage a try.
We are in the first steps of counselling where we’re trying to undo the unjustified hurt that my betrayal had caused. If we can get past this bump, we will then begin to try and work on finding a solution to our very different sexual needs.
Sex is a beautiful thing and positive way to express yourself and it’s important to all relationships. The connection and intimacy it provides helps me to feel loved.
Samantha, 30, Cape Town
I have been married for almost 5 years and haven’t had sex with my husband for 8 years. Yep, we last had sex 3 years before we got married. Our love life stopped with him rejecting me a number of times, until we both just stopped trying. We thought marriage would bring a spark back to our sex life, but this wasn’t the case. Once passion is gone, that’s it! it’s gone. We get along just fine and enjoy our time together but there is luck of intimacy. I talk about having kids and he just says it will happen – but when I ask when, he just changes the subject.
When I talk about it, he says the same things and we agree to try therapy but then don’t even arrange for it. Sometimes I just want to divorce him, i even wish we could have our marriage annulled, but I’m scared of being alone. minus the sex issue, our relationship is solid.
I had sex with a friend of his a few months ago. It was my first time in 8 years. I don’t really feel bad about it. My husband doesn’t know.
Am so confused. I don’t understand marriage as a concept. We live together and everything goes smoothly in some ways – I feel safe and we like each other’s company and we could probably be married for ever. Maybe sex is just something we could just enjoy with other people?
Michael, 25, Morocco
I’ve only had sex with my wife 10 times or less this year. We were only in our mid 20’s when we met, she believes that sex should just be for reproductive purposes only. Not only that, but she has a low sex drive.
This has affected our marriage a lot, such that we go to bed with our backs turned against each other. It’s gotten to a point where i do not even try to have sex with her any more. We discussion about how sex is important of any successful marriage four days ago, and that if we did not do anything about it, it would eventually lead to problems in the future, maybe even divorce. I’ve found that talking to my wife about this helps a bit. I came out with my issues one night. I have asked her if it is me and tried to convince her that sex is for more than just reproduction.
I know for sure that sex is one of, if at all not the most important factor in a marriage. But it changes over some time in a relationship and if you don’t spice things up it becomes boring. You need to know how to please your spouse.
Sad, but unfortunately am not the only one going through this sort of thing in a marriage. I would just advise you try to be patient, although this only gets you so far.. I’ve even been considering a sex therapist, but I am not so sure how my wife will react to that.
Brice, 52, Australia
My wife and i have been together for 14 years. We still live together although we have separate rooms and we have had a sexless marriage for over 3 years. We tried marriage counselling. Some times it feels like we are making progress, but 2 or 3 years ago there was a sense of resignation from both of us, and it has been no sex, no counselling, no effort at all to revive the marriage – just a focus on co-parenting our children and making the household work.
There’s no intimacy whatsoever. I’m a feminist at heart, although I’ve got to admit that sex does help as the gateway to intimacy and conversation, but that’s all gone now.
Maybe I could have made a more effort to be affectionate and caring, but we’ve been stuck in a cycle; she would be so critical of so much of what I did and the criticisms would make me withdrawn. Counselling was a help for a short while, but I think all those efforts are exhausted. The effort now is to have a workable non sexual, functioning relationship where the children can grow up loved and secure.
Anonymous, 39, Zambia
Last year we had sex 6 times. This year just once. So yeah, Am in a sexless marriage. Even in the 3 years before we got married 15 years ago, I noticed that we had very different sex drives. While i had to beg my husband to make love to me on our wedding night. I married him because I love him and so I take full responsibility for my decision.
Over the years I have begged, forced, threatened, shouted, cried and done everything to make him know just how i feel. He still has done nothing to meet my demands. Am a very sexual person. I need to have sex like I need sleep and food. He does not seem to understand this.
I know that he loves me very much, we get along very well. I love him very much too. I have never tried to cheated on him. Yet. am very angry, sad and disappointed. I know that some husbands verbally or and physically abuse their wives or neglect them and the children. My husband does not do any of these things, although refusing sex is just as good as abuse in a way. I do not forgive him for it.
Am very aware sexual people. I have seen men look at me in a very sexual way. I never respond to them. But one day if the right person comes along i just might, our children have left home, I might as well even if I might lose my husband. I don’t think I can emotionally afford to lose him. I depend on him for a lot, not really financially but emotionally. He makes me feel happy. Just not in a sexual way.
I have made peace with the fact that our relationship is never going to fulfill me sexually. I still think he is the kindest, cleverest person I know. I don’t want to hurt him, but he hurts me very much by not giving me the sex i know i deserve.
It would really be difficult to say no if someone I liked offered me sex. I just have not found anybody yet that I liked. Over the years in the beginning I thought he was cheating on me, then I thought he was gay. Lately I have come to the conclusion that he is just not a sexual person.