By We-Vibe Relationship Expert Dr Becky Spelman

Many couples endure the frustration of sexless relationships

Many couples endure the frustration of sexless relationships

Many couples endure the frustration of sexless relationships but there are many reasons couples can find themselves in this situation. 


For some people, a medical condition might make it hard or difficult to have sex. For example, women with a condition such as interstitial cystitis or pelvic inflammatory disease can find sex excruciatingly painful, which understandably tends to kill desire. Men who have had their prostates removed can no longer have erections, making penetrative sex impossible. Many health conditions in both sexes can impact on the ability to have or enjoy intercourse. The first and most urgent thing to do is to have the physical condition identified so that it can be treated. Some conditions will always make “traditional” sex difficult or impossible. In these cases, couples can explore different ways of being intimate that work within the boundaries of the condition.


There is growing recognition of asexuality, or a lack of interest in having sex. In fact, people who identify as asexual are increasingly getting organised politically, demanding the right for recognition as a distinct sexual minority, like lesbians and gay men. Asexual people can, of course, experience romantic love and want to get married—they just don’t experience physical desire, or have very low levels of physical desire. What matters here is that the couple be well-matched. If both parties to the marriage are asexual, then there is no reason why they can’t have a happy, fulfilled relationship without sex. Problems may arise if one wants to have sex, and the other simply has no interest in it; it is important to clarify these issues before making a serious commitment, even if it results in making the painful decision to split. 

Low libido

At certain points in their lives, many people experience a downturn in libido. It is important to rule out an underlying medical reason, but often there is nothing physically wrong. People can lose interest in sex because they are completely absorbed in childcare, or consumed at work. Usually, the loss of desire is a response to a particular set of stressors in their lives and, when the stressor goes away, the interest in sex returns. Assuming there is no underlying medical issue, the best thing to do is to continue to enjoy being intimate in non-sexual ways (hugs, massages, etc.) and deal with the external stress. When the stress is being managed better, it’s likely that sexual desire will return.

Personal issues

The old stereotype of the midlife crisis can have a big impact on desire. Women might be worried about the menopause, or experiencing difficult symptoms associated with it, and women and men alike are at a stage in their lives when they reassess their priorities and think about the future direction of their lives. It can all be a stressful process, and sexual interests may take a back seat until their personal issues are resolved.

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