We encounter a whopping amount of men experiencing sexless marriages or what others may describe as sex-starved, or “intimacy anorexia.”
Marriage is commonly considered “sexless” when a married couple has sexual intercourse ten times a year or less.
Regardless of this clinical definition, we’ve also met plenty of men for whom ten times a year would feel like winning the lottery.
More than a measure of sexual frequency
For this reason, we don’t focus on counting sexual interactions in a year as a measure of failure or success with sexual intimacy.
Instead, we find it more effective to ask a man whether he is experiencing the level of connection, intimacy, passion, and romance he desires in his relationship and life.
Unsurprisingly, we meet a lot of men who feel greatly disillusioned and dissatisfied with these elements of their marriage and life.
However, what may come as a surprise in a modern culture that tends to believe men are sex-crazed maniacs with single-tracked minds dedicated to only sexual conquest and escapades, is that most men are not those things.
Our experience with men paints a much different and hopeful picture of men.
When we inquire what is causing these men the most pain in their lives, it’s not simply the lack of sexual intercourse and activities. Most easily understand those to be a symptom more than a cause.
Men are more than they are made out to be
Men are often characterized by caricatures of idiotic, beer-drinking, woman-gawking simpleton dimwits with low emotional intelligence, fat bellies, and small dreams and vision. Men are often held in very low regard in our media and public discourse.
This belittling of men is unwarranted, despite the sins of men of ill character in the past.
We find most men we encounter to be good. These men are quite kingly, noble, hard-working, and respectable men who feel important, valued, loved, and respected – everywhere but their kitchen tables and bedrooms.
So what gives?
Why are these men who are often considered trusted leaders in their community and those we consider society’s finest finding it so difficult to experience the deep, emotionally-connected, intimate, and passionate marriages they yearn for?
As mentors speaking to hundreds of such men a year, and helping many of them overcome the challenges of a sexless marriage, we’ve identified key patterns among the men who are experiencing a sex-starved relationship that is low on intimacy and high on frustration and emotional pain.
We’ve also identified the patterns common to those that overcome sexless marriage.
In this article, we want to share each with you.
Disconnected, Emotionally-Immature, and Intimacy-starved Marriages
Aside from a few scenarios where medical conditions make sexual intercourse impossible or very unkind to one partner, nearly every other man in a sexless marriage that we get to know has an unhealthy relationship with sex because of an unhealthy relationship with himself.
These men never learned how to be or feel whole without some part of their wholeness coming from outside of themselves, typically via their partners’ validation, approval, appreciation, respect, and admiration.
When Sex Isn’t About Giving Love But Receiving Validation
These men usually have developed a dysfunctional dependency on sex and intimacy to feel a sense of value, worth, significance, or masculinity that they don’t otherwise have a solid means of experiencing.
Instead of experiencing sex as the act of generously giving a gift that comes from within them, something to receive, they seek getting sex and sexual attention instead of giving it.
They do the same with romantic and female attention, female approval, validation, respect, and more – all as an attempt to establish or maintain their sense of well-being and self-worth. In other words, they depend on sex, and thus their partner, to feel whole and okay.
In fact, this is so profoundly common that our culture, by and large, even holds the belief that “men have sex to feel connected” and thus sees this “getting” view of sex as “normal.” and that “that’s just men.”
We believe this is an unfortunate, incomplete understanding that fosters pervasive immaturity among men. One that also leads to feelings of sexual entitlement that leads men and women into disconnection, erodes intimacy and often destroys couples and families.
We find it more effective and accurate to understand that it is immature men who have sex to feel connected, not all men.
Immature men do so because they’re not yet aware of how to create connection and intimacy, and thus seek it from females.
We anecdotally witness a course correction in this in every man we’re able to show how to be more self-reliant.
As he learns to look within for his sense of value, worth, and well-being, he also discovers that he is not a consumer of connection but a creator of it.
Neediness is a Stinky Cologne
When so much of a man’s sense of self-worth is dependent upon his partner to fulfill, catastrophic neediness ensues and erodes the romance and connection.
Needy men will begin to beg and plead for their partners to provide for their dependency. In turn, she usually becomes increasingly distant as she seeks to escape from the unpleasant aroma of her needy partner.
If she’s a mother, she will often equate her feelings toward her partner to how she feels when her children need her. Ewww!
Blame is a Terrible Aprhaodisiac
Unfortunately, it’s at this point that a needy man, believing his partner is failing to meet his need-based expectations for connection and intimacy begins to experience the silent killer in all relationships – judgment.
Judgment happens wherever we observe something and believe it “should” be or have been different than it is.
The insidious nature of dependency on others for things we consider crucial to our sense of self and well-being is that we not only expect them to be met but pass judgment on the object of our dependency when those needs are not met.
This, in turn, leads to blame (and anger, resentment, hostility, and contempt).
We routinely talk to men who essentially live in a story that goes like this:
Blame is an off-putting, disconnecting energy, that erodes connection and intimacy so it’s no surprise that women rapidly move away from it, distancing themselves from the blaming partner.
This distance leads to even more pain for the dependent man, he runs after, and the cycle continues. This pursuer-distancer dynamic is typical of sexless marriages.
Two ways out of this cycle
There are two ways out of this cycle, however, we find only one of them to be reasonable and reliably effective to end a sexless marriage:
- The dependent man becomes self-reliant, ending his dependency
- The woman overcomes all natural instincts to serve the entitled neediness of her judgmental, blaming partner
Most men we speak to in sexless marriages are waiting for #2 to take place – and for a very long time. It’s not uncommon for us to meet men who have been waiting for a change in their sexless marriages for two, three, and even four decades.
If the female partner in a sexless marriage ever does suddenly change, it’s typically for “one last hurrah” just before she decides to leave the relationship, has an affair, or permanently swears off intimacy with her partner. The man experiences these as a blissful moment where he’s “had more sex in one week than he has in years!”.
However, these sudden seasons of sexual activity are often a woman’s way of checking to see if she can feel romantic feelings for her mate by having more sex (basically, see if her partner’s needy strategy could work).
Her conclusion after these is nearly always a resounding “nope!”
It’s those women who often:
- Say something like:
- “I’m done!”
- “I don’t care if I never have sex again!”
- “I can’t see myself ever feeling romantic or sexually interested in you again.”
- “I don’t have feelings for your anymore\.”
- “I need space.”
- “I need to find myself.”
- “I love you, but I’m not ‘in love with you”
- Ask for, or insist on a separation or divorce.
- Become ripe for emotional and physical affairs.
- Completely check out of the relationship.
These moments can look and feel very bleak to a man and woman in a sexless marriage. Take heart – it doesn’t have to end poorly.
There’s a much better way!
We find consistently positive results for ending a sexless marriage stalemate when a man will instead experience #1 above, ending his dependency on his partner for his sense of well-being, and becoming self-reliant, mature, and emotionally resilient instead.
Most men never consider this because they think they have a partner problem. That’s the nature of the blame they experience from the above cycle.
Men who are able to overcome their own blindness and seek answers within instead of a change in their partner begin to experience a new relationship dynamic that leads to everything each partner longs for in the relationship and restores connection and intimacy.
Let’s take a deeper look.
Deeply-Connected, Emotionally-Satisfying, Mature, and Intimate Marriages
These kinds of marriages and relationships aren’t by accident.
They don’t just happen by luck, time, or chance.
They’re intentionally and deliberately created.
Long-term relationship satisfaction, intimacy, and connection are the byproduct of first overcoming the most demanding challenges within ourselves.
This requires a journey of learning to look past our greatest disappointments with one another and deeply within ourselves instead.
Doing so frees our partner from the expectations and judgment we’d been placing on her, and creates deep acceptance, warmth, appreciation, and kindness instead.
These begin to heal the connection and intimacy.
When a dependency gives way to self-reliance
Most men we encounter are befuddled to learn that the root cause of their struggles is the dependencies they’ve never outgrown from their childhood. They simply lack self-reliance in some important areas of their inner life.
These men are not slackers or unintelligent!
They’re most often quite successful, career-oriented, deeply-committed family men, over-achieving entrepreneurs, respected business owners, law enforcement, military, and more.
Yet, they never learned that a sense of wholeness and well-being is created internally, not by how others behave toward them.
When we guide them on the path of discovering these areas of their dependency and show them how to replace them with self-reliance, these men begin to have “ah ha” moments that are sobering, transforming, and liberating.
Wholeness creates a whole lot of openness
As each man grows more self-reliant and begins to change his relationship with himself, he discovers a newfound sense of well-being and resiliency.
He becomes aware of how much energy he had directed toward trying to make others happy and content to keep the sources of his well-being intact and cooperative. He learns just how controlling and manipulative some of his strategies were and begins to see why the sex and romance became stagnant and ceased.
He learns to feel and be okay within himself, and as he does, he finds himself calmer, more relaxed, and more open.
His newfound openness is the natural byproduct of being at peace with himself, and being at peace with himself, he is at peace with and open to others.
As a result, he’s less distracted and more present and begins to experience more non-sexual intimacy and connection – prerequisites for a vibrant and healthy sex life.
Warmth and acceptance are super sexy
Nearly 100% of the men we encounter have a “yeah, but… what about her?!” response to our insights and suggestions when learning about our path to correcting broken intimacy.
We have a simple response: thermodynamics! Specifically, the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
This law of physics states that with two objects in proximity, heat travels from the hotter object to the colder object until the objects are at equilibrium.
We find this same “law” to be visible in relationships too, and that when a man’s “insides” warm toward himself, they begin to warm toward his partner as well, and she warms up as well.
A man warming his inner self with an improved sense of value, worth, and regard for himself is soon creating the warmth necessary to thaw the ice that’s frozen the pipes of loving connection and stoke the fires of passionate intimacy.
Apparently, we aren’t unique in our findings. Consider the quote below from the Gottman Institute:
Ending the sexless marriage cycle takes serious work
We hope that you’ve found inspiration in the words above and renewed hope for restoring marriage suffering from a sexless marriage. This process we speak about above is non-trivial and requires tremendous grit, fortitude, dedication, and support in a man to lead himself into the life he wants.
It works and we routinely witness these turnarounds in the men we encounter.
If the intimacy in your marriage is suffering, and you’re ready to experience a transition from dependency and blame to self-reliance and warmth, we’re eager to help you if you’re ready to experience the kind of journey we’ve described above!
Where to go next
Below are two options to take risk-free next steps toward understanding more about recovering the passion in your sexless marriage.