But there are times when that dip doesn’t reverse itself, and you end up stuck in a sexless marriage. It can be tough to resurrect a healthy sex life when you’ve stopped having sex for months or years, but it’s not impossible. We spoke to two sex therapists about what the main causes of sexless marriages are, and what you can do to solve them.
Cause: You were having bad sex.
Stephen Snyder MD, sex and relationship therapist and author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship, explains that when you’re having bad sex and you don’t address it, you tend to stop having it. “Maybe you had to fake an orgasm, or you couldn’t communicate what you needed,” Snyder says. “Maybe you felt like a failure or your partner made you feel like one. There are a million things that can go wrong when a couple gets naked together.”
Solution: Be honest and communicative about what you want in the bedroom.
In a manner that’s neither judgmental nor aggressive, talk to your partner about the issues you’re having in the bedroom. If communication is something you struggle with, then Snyder suggests seeing a sex and relationship therapist. The three of you, together, can better articulate what you and your partner’s needs are in a healthy and productive manner.
Susan Wenzel, certified relationship and sex therapist and author of A Happy Life in an Open Relationship, added that it can be helpful to re-conceptualise how you think of sex. It doesn’t have to simply be penetrative P-in-V. “Be flexible to change and create new sexual norms,” she said. This can include using more sex toys, using your mouth, hands, cuddling, and more.
Cause: Your sex life is just…meh.
There’s a different between bad sex and meh sex. Bad sex is when you or your partner is doing something wrong that you don’t like. Meh sex usually comes from doing the same thing over and over again with the same person. At some point, you’re likely going to get bored. If you don’t address the mediocre sex, often you just stop having it, because why bother? It’s really not that good.
Solution: Explore new ways to spice things up.
“Whether, you want to include sex toys in your sex life, Viagra, or open your relationship, remember, you and your partner are creators of your sexuality,” Wenzel says. Adding onto this, try new sex positions. Try dirty talk. Step up your foreplay. Send and receive nudes throughout the day. Explore BDSM. Go to a sex party. There are truly so many things you can do to re-up your sex life once it becomes tedious.
Cause: There’s something else, not sex-related, wrong with your marriage.
If you’re not feeling emotionally connected to your partner outside the bedroom, it’s tough to connect while having sex, Wenzel explains. One or both of you might be feeling neglected, under-appreciated, unwanted, or something else entirely.
Solution: Work on your marriage.
You probably won’t see a change in your sex life unless you first address these “unresolved emotional hurts and resentments,” Wenzel says. Again, if you struggle with communication, she recommends making an appointment with a couple’s therapist.
“Not all marriage problems are fixable,” Synder said. “But marriages thrive on hope. You’ll need a sense of optimism about your future together, if you want to keep being physically intimate.”
So, how often do sexless marriages end in divorce?
At this point, you might be wondering: “Is it worth it to attempt to reconnect, try therapy, and have these hard discussions if it’s likely going to end in divorce anyway?”
Research doesn’t provide a specific percentage for the number of sexless marriages that end in divorce—probably because it’s too hard to measure. “I would argue that there is no concrete percentage of divorce cases due to sexless marriage since other factors such as emotional disconnect, lack of trust, affairs, mental health, stress, might go hand in hand in the decision to initiate divorce due to sexless relationship,” Wenzel says.
Still, a widely-cited 1994 survey in The Social Organization of Sexuality showed that roughly 15 to 20 percent of married couples are in a sexless relationship. We also know that today, around 40 percent of marriages end in divorce. That’s partly why Snyder estimates “a significant number” of sexless marriages end in divorce.
One more thing to know: A sexless marriage isn’t inherently a bad thing.
It only becomes one when you or your partner still have a desire to have sex. “If you resigned to not having sex, that okay as long as you don’t have the same expectations for your partner,” said Wenzel. “Having said that, there’re couples who both agree to have sexless relationships and this is absolutely okay. However, I recommend sharing hobbies or activities that release a high level of dopamine, such as exercising, meditating and dancing together.”
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health