Going Without Sex – How Long is Too Long?

Intimacy & Sex
24 Jun 2023
9 min read
How long is too long without sex in a relationship
When was your last sex?

Is sex present in your life as much as you need? Are you getting enough sex in your current relationship – or are you frustrated because you’re not? Maybe your sexual desire seems to always be greater than your reality? Let’s just put it simply –  how long is too long without sex in a relationship for you?

It’s time to have this important conversation. But note that we will not be dealing here with a lack of sex when partners have decided on a sexless marriage. We’re interested in those reductions in sex and physical intimacy that occur under the otherwise perfectly normal course of a relationship.

Are you looking for a sexual satisfying relationship?
Are you looking for a sexual satisfying relationship?

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What Does Research Say on a Sexless Relationship?

The European Association of Social Psychology study has concluded that having sex once a week has certain physical and mental health benefits. But once that sexual frequency is increased to more than once a week, there even appears a little additional benefit. So, does it mean that the more sex, the better for health?

Not always. It depends on your sexual orientation and needs. In this regard, researchers note that it is important to distinguish between asexuality and abstinence.

Asexuality refers to sexual identity – someone who has no desire for sex at all. There are asexual couples who have a sexless marriage or relationship that works well for them.

Abstinence refers to someone whose sex life may have been active but who decides to do without sex for certain reasons. It doesn’t mean that the sex drive has disappeared. It just means that you have chosen to do without.

As research shows, there is no single answer about how long is too long without sex in a relationship. Abstinence may happen, for example, when married couples are separated for periods of time and agree to be faithful. Their sex life reverts to zero, and they will have to figure out how they will satisfy their urges in other ways (think masturbation or the use of sex toys). This can be difficult for normally sexually active couples, but, if committed, they will endure.

The role of sex in a relationship

The Evolution of Sexual Relationships – What’s Normal?

With a new relationship, it’s normal for sex to be a high priority in a relationship. New couples are exploring each other with sexual behavior and intimate moments and emotional closeness. This is probably the most sex they will have for the duration of their relationship.

Related reading: The Art and Skill of Making Love

Eventually, real life settles in. While you remain perfectly happy, sex and intimacy levels fall off for many couples. When your relationship was new, sex daily was normal and brings continued intimacy and enjoyment. But with the demands of work, family, outside activities, etc. the same frequency is just not realistic.

In the given circumstances, as the earlier cited research suggests, once a week tends to be satisfactory for most couples. The sex life slows down, and each partner settles into a type of routine.

It’s not about scheduling sex, which may still be random and spontaneous. But since the average adult just has lots of stuff on their plate, how much sex a couple has becomes, again, very individual. And that is the reason why comparing yourself to other couples is pointless.

What’s Not Normal Then?

Since the concept of “normal” is personal and individual, a sexless relationship is completely normal for non-sexual people and sexless marriages. In this situation, it won’t affect the relationship quality they have. But if that’s not you, having less sex than needed is not normal – especially if you see it as important to your general well-being.

When you have less sex than early on in your relationship but still enough to feel like having good sex lives, that can be OK. And after all, your partnership or marriage is far more than just sex. But if feel constant lack of satisfaction, it’s worth paying attention to changes that may have happened and make your situation not normal. Maybe, you are absent from your place for an extended period of time, contract a long-term illness or experience mental health issues that result in a far lowered libido. Possibly, your partner has some other places or activities that make them not want sex anymore.

Related reading: Need to Catch a Cheater? Here Are the Ways to Do It!

Whatever the reason, you realize that you will be without sex for a much longer period of time than ever before. What will be the impact?

3 Things That May Happen to Your Relationship Without Sex

There are all sorts of reasons for a person’s sex life to be disrupted, even though they are still in a relationship:

  • The partnership may be a long-term relationship because one partner is far away, either for a job or military assignment.
  • One partner may be suffering from an illness or sexual dysfunction.
  • A sexless relationship can come about by mutual agreement or the lack of a sex drive on the part of one person.

The key question here is, “How are you feeling about this lack of sexual intimacy?”. If you’re feeling bad, that will result in several complications in the near future.

So, when you have been used to regular sex, even not all that often, and then suddenly appear in that awful position without sex, let’s see which things might happen to your relationship.

1. Developing Other Relationship Issues

Sex is an intimate act between two people. There is all that foreplay, the actual act, and the pretty amazing afterglow. And when sex goes, it’s not just the sex that is gone. Your relationship has lost one of the important facets of intimacy.

Your mood will not be as bright; sexual frustration can lead to lashing out in anger; small things lead to big arguments, etc. You will want to seek professional help if your relationship problems are threatening your marriage or partnership.

2. Low Self-Esteem

Particularly, if your partner now has a low libido, you may come to believe that somehow, they do not want you sexually and you are no longer attractive to them. This can impact how you feel about yourself in other areas of your life too. And it can lead to a host of other emotional and even physical health issues.

When your self-esteem takes a serious hit, you may look to build yourself up in other ways – thus, the next possible consequence.

3. Temptation to Cheat

“Most people wrongly assume it’s because of bad sex or there is no sex, but when someone doesn’t feel valuable, this is the number one reason.”

Susan Winter, relationship expert

It happens. When there is a long period of no sex, a partner may stray. People cheat most often because they feel unappreciated and not admired. And with problems that relate to your sex life, you may feel the temptation to solve it with another random partner.

Related reading: Is Sexting Cheating? It’s Complicated

Impact of a sexless relationship on your sex life

What to Do If Your Current Sex Life Is Not Good as Before?

So, here you are, not having sex daily (or with any same frequency as before) and not experiencing all that joy sex brings to your real life. You have been used to an active sex life, and your relationship satisfaction has relied on this too. What should you do in this situation?

Mostly, people whose sexual intimacy has floundered, are not as happy as they once were in long-term relationships. As sex is reduced or cut off but your sexual desire remains the same, your sexual satisfaction is threatened. If you not bring this problem up and fix it somehow, you risk having some of the underlying issues that come along with that – even chronic stress and higher blood pressure. And worst of all, overall relationship satisfaction with your partner is in jeopardy because of the lack of sex for a long time.

So, let’s have a look at your options depending on the specifics of your long-term relationship.

If You’re in a Long-Distance Relationship

For whatever reason your intimacy levels lowered, you and your partner will feel separated because of having less sex. Fortunately, given today’s technology, you do have the ability to video chat.

You can try to reconnect by pleasuring yourselves during these chats to relieve your frustration and keep intimacy alive. Sexual interactions of this type are certainly not as good as real in-person sex, but they will let you keep your relationship intact.

If Your Partner Has an Illness or Other Physical Problem

A partner may have a serious long-term illness or suffer from erectile dysfunction. Sexual activity is pretty much at a standstill. Before this, sex was an integral part of your relationship. You’re going to have to find some way to relieve your physical and mental frustration.

Some people get into a gym and work out. The benefit here is that the physical exercise releases the same “feel good” chemicals from the brain that are released during sex. This will help. Other people find ways to pleasure themselves manually or invest in some good sex toys. You might try both.

If Your Partner Has Developed Underlying Mental Health Issues

Many emotional issues, along with medications that may be prescribed, will kill a person’s libido. Sex means very little to them, and you are looking at a sexless marriage or partnership. Other couples facing this often get divorced. And you certainly have that choice too.

But if you are committed to your partner, then it’s time to get to a sex therapist. Or if it’s a medication issue, get back to the original prescriber and see what kind of changes can be made. And while you are going through all of this, you can have sex with yourself and get to that gym often.

Are You Bad Because Want Too Much Sex?

Sex has been a “mover and shaker” throughout history, and it is certainly one of those pleasures in life that most of us enjoy. So, when we must go without, just how long is too long without sex in a relationship?

You are the only one who can answer that for yourself. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the relationship with your partner important enough that you want to work through whatever the reason for the lack or loss of sex?
  • Can you find good alternatives that work for you if you have to go without sex for a long time?
  • If you might be looking at the rest of your life without sex, is this something you can handle?

Going without sex when it has been an important element in your life is hard. How you handle that will mean looking at all of your options and choosing those that will work for you.

The point is this: Going without sex plays a key role in the health of almost any romantic relationship. And it’s a very individual thing. Only you can decide how long is too long without sex in a relationship and what you should do about it.

Love&Sex Expert
Cherie Hamilton
I’ve always been inspired by women who are outgoing, very sure of themselves, and not afraid to be who they were, including their sex lives. Under their tutelage, I gradually shed my old self, hung out and socialized with them, and, over time, became the empowered, self-confident, and sexual woman I am today. Happy to share my insights with other women today!
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