Photo of a couple walking in nature in an article about what happens in your marriage when you go too long without sex.

How Long Is Too Long Without Sex In A Relationship?

With the newness of a relationship or marriage comes the excitement of being close to one’s partner. Usually partners spend time gazing into each other’s eyes, looking forward to spending time together and feeling connected by holding hands, snuggling, and sharing intimate moments together. As couples move through their relationship, changes occur to their intimacy levels, and you may wonder is 1 day, 1 week, 1 month or 1 year too long without sex or intimacy?

What Is The Difference Between Sex And Intimacy?

Sex is considered the physical act of having intercourse, but Dr. Barton Goldsmith describes intimacy as an “exchange of tender energy between two people who love each other deeply. The intimacy that you exchange with a loving partner can turn bad days into good ones and make your troubles seem much smaller”.

How Often Do Couples Have Sex?

What’s normal for one couple may not be normal for another couple. Each couple has to communicate with each other to determine what they enjoy and how often they want to be intimate. If you watch, read or listen to any social media, it may seem that everyone is having sex frequently, but that’s not actually true. On average, couples have sex about 1 time/week.

10 Reasons Couples May Not Be Having Sex?

The level of intimacy might drop in a marriage because:

1. Pregnancy/Babies-When couples begin to have children, the level of intimacy usually drops due to a shift in priorities and sleepless nights.

2. Stress, whether it’s the pandemic, stress from work, family or otherwise partners may feel distracted, overwhelmed and drained. Stress triggers the release of hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine, which in high levels can cause decreased sex drive.

3. Body Insecurity-Thinking you look “fat”, too thin, scrawny… can lead a couple not to want to undress or feel unsexy in front of their partner.

4. Pain, Illness, and Medical Issues- These issues can leave you feeling uncomfortable, tired or worried.. Certain medications may also decrease your libido or create vaginal dryness or erectile dysfunction.

5. Smartphones-Couples are spending more time on their phone and less time with their partner. As a couples therapist for over ten years, I’ve seen that approximately once a week, a couple argues about how much time their partner is looking at their smartphone. If this is your challenge, you may want to make an agreement about how much you look at your phones when you could be spending time together and try reconnecting instead.

6. Communication-You may find that your connection wanes when you are not communicating your true feelings and thoughts with your partner. When partners feel that their partner isn’t listening or hearing them it leads to an increase in criticism, fighting, defensiveness, and shutting down. In turn, since many women need to feel emotionally close to their partner this discord impacts the intimacy of many couples.

7. Mental Health Issues-Mental health issues may impede sexual relationships if you feel anxious, depressed or have been impacted by trauma.

8. History of Abuse-If you or your partner were abused as a child or in a past relationship, you may be dealing with issues of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and/or fear.

9. Mismatched Libidos-Sometimes one partner has a lower or higher level or desire for intimacy which can cause one partner to be waiting or chasing the other partner.

10. Menopause-During perimenopause and menopause stages of a woman’s life, the decrease in estrogen may lead to less desire and possible difficulties becoming aroused which will impact physical intimacy.

Is Having Sex Everyday Normal?

Normal is what the couple defines as normal. Sometimes in different stages of a relationship, couples are more likely to have sex daily, such as in the beginning of their marriage or when they are trying to conceive. You should think about what you would enjoy and discuss your level of frequency with your partner.

Is It Normal To Go A Month Without Having Sex?

Some couples go without having sex for a month and are happy with this amount of intimacy and sex and do not believe that a month without sex is too long without sex. On the other hand, some couples will wonder what’s wrong with their relationship and think a month is too long without sex.

The number of times a couple is having sex is focusing on quantity instead of quality. You should discuss with your partner whether or not good, satisfying sex is more important than possibly unsatisfying sex and lack of connection.

What Happens When You Don’t Have Sex For A Long Time?

It’s important to note that sexless and sexually active people report equal amounts of happiness. You can use this time to connect emotionally with your partner, increase other areas of interest in your life or relationship.

In relationships were not only sex doesn’t occur, nonsexual touch may not also occur which may lead to someone feeling touch starved which is “also known as skin hunger or touch deprivation — occurs when a person experiences little to no touch from other living things”. Whether it’s due to the pandemic, a cultural norm or the increase in technological usage, this condition is on the rise and may result in a negative impact on one’s physical and psychological well-being. Therefore, there are ways that if you don’t experience sex or physical touch for a long period of time, you may consider spending time with animals, getting your nails done, or going for a massage.

The focus should not be on how much sex you are having, but on the closeness and bond that is created between you and your partner. There is no correct number of times to be sexually active each week because it varies between couples. If you feel your relationship is going too long without sex, try talking with your partner about your feelings and negotiating ways to care for each other.

Additional reading to support your relationship as you explore options for couples therapy and healing:

Why Effort Is So Attractive To Your Mate

What Causes Resentment In A Marriage (Plus How You Can Heal Resentment In Yours)

How To Communicate With A Man That Won’t Communicate

Why Do We Keep Having The Same Arguments?

ADHD & Relationships


Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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