Stuck in a sexless marriage? You’re not alone. According to data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, the top-searched marriage complaint on Google is “sexless marriage.” (What’s more, searches for “sexless marriage” are three and a half times more common than “unhappy marriage” and eight times more common than “loveless marriage.”)
Many of those searching for answers are women struggling to understand why their spouses aren’t reciprocating their desire for sex. We reached out to marriage therapists and sex experts to share the advice they give women stuck in sexually unsatisfying marriages. Read what they had to say below.
“Many women are the ones with a higher sex drive in their marriages but women commonly don’t discuss this dynamic openly with friends. Also, the media portrayal of relationships makes women think that males have a constant high level of sexual desire. On the contrary, many women struggle in sexless marriages. Outside of therapy, I’d say that finding a support system can be invaluable. There are forums online where women share their experiences, such as the Dead Bedrooms forum on Reddit.” — Samantha Rodman, psychologist and couples’ counselor
“It may not be you, so stop beating yourself up. It is no indicator of how sexy you are as a woman if he is initiating or not. Many times men stop initiating sex because they are stressed or they are experiencing some kind of erectile dysfunction and they’re too afraid to tell you. Men define their sexuality by their ability to perform and if they cannot achieve an erection upon demand they may withdraw. Keep being affectionate and let him know there is no pressure to get to the ‘finish line.’ Let him know you still want to cuddle and be close and then if you still want a ‘happy ending,’ well, frankly, you can take care of it yourself. If he wants to participate, he might find himself more turned on than he thought himself capable. Don’t wait for him to take charge. It is OK as the woman to be the driving force of your sex life.” – Tammy Nelson, certified sexologist and sex therapist and the author of Getting the Sex You Want
“Our libido often dips with age and in tandem with life stressors — juggling multiple jobs, kids, family, home and self care. That said, if several months have passed with no sex and it’s troubling you, the matter needs to be addressed. Sometimes, all you need to do is communicate. But there may be physical, psychological or marital issues that require work. If it turns out there is a physical issue — your over-40 husband is having trouble maintaining erections, for instance — a trip to the doctor can do wonders. But if the issue is decreased physical attraction, know that it usually has less to do with appearance and more to do with unexpressed and unresolved unhappiness in the relationship or marriage. If this is the case, you’re in the right place: couples’ counseling.” – Robert Weiss, LCSW, senior vice president of clinical development at Elements Behavioral Health
“If he has erectile dysfunction or the inability to get or maintain an erection, he may have prostate issues and it is important to get that checked out right away. Have him schedule an appointment with a urologist. Rule out any health problems before you begin talking about what could be happening emotionally. When you have ruled out cancer, his testosterone levels have been checked, and you have had discussions around his stress levels, then you can look deeper into your relationship.” — Tammy Nelson
“If your spouse is not willing to see a sex or relationship therapist (alone or with you), it’s very telling. I recommend going to professional in almost all cases if either partner is still emotionally committed to their sexless marriage. But if your partner really doesn’t give a damn about you or the marriage and the two of you are just co-existing, then you really need to think about what you want the rest of your life to be like.” – Pepper Schwartz, certified sexologist and the author of Prime: Adventures and Advice on Sex, Love, and the Sensual Years
“The good news is that for most otherwise healthy (emotionally intimate) couples who are both willing to put in work, it’s relatively easy to spark a new fire. To start, a little romance never hurts. And yes, I am talking about toys, new positions, new places and unexpected romance within your relationship. Be intimate, share quiet moments where you simply look at each other, hold hands and talk about your feelings. Nothing, not even sex, is more intimate than having a compassionate partner who has your back. As for the sex itself, try mixing it up. Tell your spouse about your secret sexual fantasy, and ask if he or she is willing to try it. And then ask about your partner’s secret fantasy and offer to indulge it.” – Robert Weiss
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