It's been pounded into our heads for eons that a.) sex shouldn't be the basis of a relationship b.) looks fade and c.) sex naturally slows the longer you're coupled up. (After all, our parents don't have sex. Do they? Do they?) So at first blush a sexless (or mainly sexless) marriage for a couple who've seen each naked for 25 years doesn't seem like too much of a stretch, does it? Libidos diminish and whatnot, right? Marriage Rx: The Silent Treatment
Well, The New York Times ran a Q and A with Georgia State sociology professor Denise A. Donnelly who is very successfully building a case that a sexless marriage may not only be a deciding factor for divorce, but a state that a marriage has little chance of ever recovering from.
"Happy couples have more sex, and the more sex a couple has, the happier they report being," she says.
But big picture, it may not be lack of sex but unequal desire that causes problems. If both parties are pleased as punch being platonic bedmates, than fair enough. But more realistically, one wants sex and the other is resistant. Even more, after a partner's advances have been thwarted off one too many times, Donnelly says the marriage has little chance of recovering. Marriage Sex & Seperation, Adultry.
"In my 1993 study, I did find that people in sexless marriages were more likely to have considered divorce than those in sexually active marriages...some do [recover from a sexless marriage] But once a marriage has been sexless for a long time, it’s very hard. One or both may be extremely afraid of hurt or rejection, or just entirely apathetic to their partner. They may not have been communicating about sex for a very long time (if ever) and have trouble talking about it."
Indeed, it seems those suffering from a sexless marriage might be doing themselves a favor by moving on.
"Some of our former respondents have kept in touch with me, and the happiest ones are actually those that have moved on to other partners. It may be that lack of sex is a signal that all intimacy in a marriage is over, and that both would be happier in other situations," she says. "I know that this may not be a popular idea with the religious and political right, but it may be a better solution than staying in a marriage that is hurtful and unfulfilling."