Relationships are complex and unique to each person, which means that relationship problems will also look different for every couple. However, a common problem that many couples run into is going long periods without having sex. Without proper communication and clear expectations, partners can find themselves having issues with their sex life, or specifically the lack thereof.
Sex can be an uncomfortable topic of discussion for people, but when sex stops in a relationship, it can cause confusion and hurt if these gaps are left to assumption rather than straightened out through conversation.
Why Is There No Sex in My Relationship Anymore?
Significant decreases in sexual activity in a romantic relationship can be caused by (but is not limited to):
- An event that causes mistrust
- Body image issues
- Increased negative thoughts about self and partner
- Worry and/or overthinking
- Higher stress levels
- Lack of good communication
- Feeling less connected to one’s partner
- Overall relationship dissatisfaction
You may find it difficult to talk to your partner about your sexual satisfaction and opinions. Though it’s uncomfortable, this absence of a discussion can also contribute to overall feelings of dissatisfaction.
How Long Do Dry Spells Last in Relationships?
Many clients in individual or couples therapy who have not been sexually intimate and state that they are in a dry spell have usually gone approximately 2-6 months without having any form of sexual contact. Again, though, this is something that should not necessarily be generalized but is person- and relationship-specific.
There are many variables that directly modify the length of a sexual absence within a relationship. For example, an increase in the quality of communication, acts of service, or emotional intimacy can quickly end a “dry spell.” Even just bringing it up and acknowledging the sexual absence and what may have led to it can help a dry spell end quicker.
Is 2 Months Without Sex Normal?
As stated above, many therapy clients who have not been sexually intimate and state that they are in a dry spell have gone about 2-6 months without having any form of sexual contact. Again, this is not something that is easily generalizable but rather is specific to each person and relationship.
Judging by this time window, two months without sex is not necessarily abnormal, though no sex for six months or more can be an overall sign of relationship dysfunction. However, each relationship is unique and will have their own timelines for sexual activity and their own “normal” standards for how often it occurs.
What Happens When You Go Too Long Without Sex?
There can be a lot of significant psychological and physical problems that arise, both interpersonally and intrapersonally, by not having sex. Psychologically, if two partners are in a committed sexual relationship, going for long periods without sex can cause feelings of hurt or rejection and significantly decrease levels of intimacy and connectedness within the relationship, especially if this issue is ignored or not addressed between the partners.
Physically, sex has been scientifically proven to reduce levels of stress and cortisol levels, decrease inflammation, boost mood, and regulate hormonal activity throughout the body. While a lack of sex may not always be a direct cause of any of the dysregulation listed above, it can also be a contributing factor.
However, not having sex is also not always something to be seriously concerned about. While wanting sex or physical pleasure is normal, not wanting it or even feeling an aversion to it is also normal for many people. This can be caused by low libido, hormonal changes, or it can even be a natural part of who you are, as with many asexual and demisexual people.
Though sex can be rejuvenating and help you connect with a partner, it is not a necessary part of living a good and happy life for everyone.
What Are the Signs of Lack of Sex?
The reasons why some couples stop having sex look very similar to the effects of not having sex. These issues almost always accompany an unwanted lack of sex within a relationship, whether as its cause or as the effects. The behavioral and emotional signs of a lack of sexual intercourse within a relationship can include but are not limited to the following:
- Increased mistrust
- Body image concerns
- Negative thoughts about self and partner
- Worry and rumination
- Increased stress levels
- A decrease in quality of communication
- A decrease in the overall connectedness one experiences
- Overall relationship dissatisfaction
This isn’t to say that a relationship without sex can’t be happy and healthy or have good communication. However, sex can be an important and integral part of romantic relationships, and the lack of the release and understanding it can bring can point to problems with communication, emotional tension, and certain amounts of distrust—or, in turn, start causing those issues.
How Long Can a Man Last Without Sex? How Long Can a Woman Stay Without Sex?
This question is person-specific and cannot be generalized to the entire sex or gender of “men” or “women” as a whole. These questions are based on many assumptions and stereotypes about both genders that are not necessarily based in truth.
For men, there is a myth that if someone who was born male at birth is denied sexual intercourse that they will develop “blue balls”—that is, some sort of stoppage of blood flow and circulation to the scrotum due to not being able to reportedly ejaculate. This is a misconception and has no evidence-based research to support it.
There is also a misconception that people who are assigned female at birth have an inherently lower sexual arousal and desire than those born male at birth. There is also no evidence-based research to support this fallacy. It is also a myth that those born female at birth become more emotionally attached during sexual encounters. Again, the ways in which people emotionally and/or physically connect during sexual intercourse is person-specific, not gender or sex specific.
However, if someone has a higher sex drive, they might need to have sexual intercourse multiple times a week in order to feel emotionally fulfilled and to be able to feel intimacy within an interpersonal relationship. In any case, it’s best to have open communication with one’s partner about each other’s sexual preferences and needs. This way, each person knows where the other stands and will be able to accommodate them more effectively.
Can Lack of Sex Ruin a Relationship?
While it may not be the specific culprit in the ruin of a relationship, a lack of sex within a romantic relationship can be an indicator of overall poor relational health. In romantic relationships, frequency and consistency of sexual intercourse can be a strong indicator of the overall feelings of connectedness, emotional intimacy, physical intimacy, and feelings of satisfaction within the relationship.
It can be a helpful window into a relationship for therapists working with couples, as it is a good way to gauge how healthy the relationship is. Often, the healthier the relationship, the more satisfying and/or frequent the sexual behavior.
How Often Should a Couple Have Sex?
How often a couple should have sex is relationship specific and should take into account each partner’s sexual arousal levels and desires, as well as realistic time throughout the week that they have to engage in sexual intercourse.
The best way to estimate how frequently you should be having sex with your partner is to consider: What frequency makes me feel sexually fulfilled? What frequency makes my partner feel sexually fulfilled?
A common rule of thumb amongst many couples is that having sex at least once a week satiates their personal and physical needs, but, again, this is different for every couple.
Though sex is often portrayed to be spontaneous, it is completely normal, and often advisable, to plan out sexual activity according to each person’s availability. This can help each person make their expectations and desires clear rather than having to assume that both of them are on the same page.
Can You Be in a Relationship Without Sex?
You can absolutely be in a relationship without having sex. As previously mentioned, there are those who identify as asexual, meaning that they are not interested in sexual activity and do not wish to engage in sexual intercourse. Asexual people engage fully in romantic parts of their relationship but have varying degrees of aversion to sex. Asexuality is a spectrum, and people that identify as asexual can still elect to have sex with partners, though others may not have any interest in sexual activity of any kind.
If you are in a relationship and all partners do not identify as asexual, then there is a possibility that a temporary cessation of sexual activity can still exist in a healthy way, but it must be discussed and agreed upon by both parties. Withholding sex as a manipulation tool with your partner is never advised and is often viewed as abusive behavior.
How Long Is Too Long Without a Relationship?
Each person likely has their own concept of how long they believe is “too long” being without a relationship. Those reasons likely also have much to do with the specific person’s values, beliefs, and ideas of what their lives and relationships should look like.
Instead of wondering how long would be too long without a relationship, you might ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my reasons for seeking a new relationship?
- Are these reasons/personal needs ones that I can meet myself or with the help of a social support system?
- Am I still healing from a past relationship?
- How will I determine/know if I feel ready to enter into another relationship?
- What are my boundaries surrounding a potential romantic relationship?
This reasoning is completely personal, and, oftentimes, people who do not enter into a relationship soon after the end of another relationship tend to need time to heal themselves and focus their energies inward—however long that might take.
In the end, sex is an important and exciting part of life for many people. However, when sex disappears from a romantic relationship, communication and understanding are key to making sure that the transition is a healthy and mindful one, whether it’s a step from intimacy or back into having sex.