How to Deal With a Sexless Marriage and When to Walk Away

Few people walk down the aisle expecting their marriage to be sexless, but whether your love life has dwindled over time or there has always been a disconnect, you don't have to settle for a dead bedroom.

Here are some expert-approved tips for getting your sex life back on track—and for working out when it's time to walk away.

Why Do Marriages End Up Sexless?

A joint survey by Mumsnet, Gransnet and Relate found that a quarter of long-term relationships are sexless, which experts define as having sex less than 10 times per year. Life stressors are often the cause, such as long working hours, money worries or parenting young children, but mismatched libidos and trouble communicating can also play a part.

Vanessa Marin, a psychotherapist specializing in sex and relationships, said people don't always realize how many factors can affect their sex life.

She told Newsweek: "If you're struggling to connect it can feel so scary, but there are common and understandable reasons for this."

Once you've figured out the real reason you're no longer having sex, steps you can take to fix it include:

  • Taking things slowly
  • Getting to know each other all over again
  • Taking a look at your relationship as a whole
  • Communicating
  • Trying something new
  • Working on yourself.
How to Deal with a Sexless Marriage
Unhappy couple facing away from each other in bed. Relationship experts say a sexless marriage can be fixed if there is a strong foundation to build on. gorodenkoff/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Take Things Slowly

It's common for couples in a long-term relationship to jump straight into sex, but this can make things less exciting. Relationship coach Janelle Fraser, who specializes in helping women find confidence in the bedroom, recommends thinking back to when you were dating and how every little thing seemed to build sexual tension.

She told Newsweek: "A lot of people say that the start of their relationship was hotter. What were some of the qualities that were happening back then that have changed now?"

Whether it's sending flirty messages or spending more time on foreplay, going back to basics can bring some of the magic back to your relationship.

Get to Know Each Other All Over Again

It's easy to take each other for granted in a long-term relationship, but don't fall into the trap of seeing your partner as just your spouse or a "mom/dad." Remember that they're a whole person and so are you, so spend some time getting to know each other all over again.

"We stop sharing parts of ourselves," Fraser explained. "The reality is, you become strangers over time."

Remember to ask your partner about their day or schedule a regular date night to make them feel special. If a lack of attraction is to blame for your lackluster relationship, getting to know them again can remind you why you fell in love in the first place.

"People say they're losing physical attraction, but what that actually means is that the emotional connection with that partner is suffering," Marin said.

"For a lot of couples, it can be overcome. For others, it's a sign that it wasn't just the greatest fit to begin with or you're just not compatible any longer."

Take a Look at Your Relationship as a Whole

Although a lack of time or the stress of daily life can interfere with your ability to get it on, sometimes deeper-seated relationship issues are to blame. Constant arguing, communication problems, different morals and one partner doing all the work in the relationship are just some of the reasons cited for breakdowns. According to Fraser, there is no point trying to repair your sex life if the rest of your relationship is floundering.

"Attraction comes from the whole relationship dynamic," she said. "You can be physically attracted to someone, but it doesn't dictate whether there will be good sex in the relationship or not."

Communicate

How can you meet your partner's needs, or they yours, if you don't talk to each other? Whether you want more spontaneity or to explore something new, the first step to getting more sex is talking about it.

Marin said: "We're all really nervous to talk about sex openly—even with the person we're having sex with—but there's no way you and your partner can have a good sex life if you don't communicate about it."

Don't wait until you're both so frustrated with the lack of sex that you start to criticize each other, she added. Marin recommends talking about the problem in a more neutral sense, without complaining or blaming, beginning with the things you miss about your sex life.

A good starting point is to share some of your favorite sexual memories together: "Get comfortable with this being a topic of conversation before you get into the more serious conversations."

Try Something New

If you feel your relationship has got too comfortable, trying something new can make your sex life exciting again. If you're at a point where no sex is better than your usual routine, then there's lots you can do to break out of your comfort zone. Share your fantasies, watch a dirty movie, invest in some toys or have sex somewhere new.

Marin suggests scheduling some sexy time to help you get back on track. "Make a specific plan for more quality time between the two of you. Work together as a team to stay sexually connected."

When to Walk Away

You've tried everything and you're still struggling to connect. How do you know if it's time to walk away?

Marin recommends not calling it a day unless you've had a chance to see a couples therapist. "Relationships deserve the respect of therapy. If you're both doing the work and putting the effort in but you're still on different pages, then it may be time to walk away.

"Sex is one of the main ways we can express emotional intimacy, so if that's missing, it's really an OK reason to end the relationship," she said.

Fraser agreed. "People do change. Look at your values and future goals, is there enough of a foundation here that you want to put in this effort to keep going?"

Not sure if your values align anymore? These are the important conversations that all couples should have, according to a series of viral TikToks.