Wednesday, February 26, 2014


When I first started to counsel I thought the bulk of my work related to sex would be helping people to stay within bounds, or guiding them back after taking a walk on the wild side. Although that still is a big issue, I did not fully realize that there is a whole other side to the subject – that of low-sex or no-sex marriages. And it is an equal opportunities issue. There seem to be as many desire-challenged men as there are women, often leaving one or both partners feeling unloved or unsatisfied with the marriage.

A recent article by Cliff & Joyce Penner in AACC’s Christian Counseling Connection magazine dealt with the topic. They described a sexless marriage as one where the couple has sex fewer than 10 times per year. Why would people refrain from this God-given gift to us? It is not a simple subject, but here are a few thoughts.

The history each spouse brings to the relationship as well as their own history as a couple will impact their sex life. Was there a negative attitude towards sex growing up? Was there abuse? Did one or both of the partners grow up in an anxious or alcoholic family system? Was there a break in trust or an affair that has decreased desire towards their partner? Were there unsatisfying or shaming experiences related to earlier attempts at sex?

How about health issues? Is there medication that affects desire or performance? Is there a chronic illness that makes sex difficult? That illness can be either physical or emotional. Anxiety and depression can have a very negative impact on our connecting sexually. Are there low levels of testosterone in either partner? Testosterone is the ‘horsepower’ behind sexual desire. Is there a lack of physical fitness? Is there any pain associated with intercourse? There doesn’t have to be – get help.

Our lifestyle patterns also affect our desire for sex. 

Are we too busy for sex? Are we too tired? Are we too angry with each other? Does the fear of interruption from children keep us away from each other? How about our expectations? Do we believe that every encounter with each other has to be a “10” and so we wait for the perfect circumstances of mutual desire? Are there addictions that get in the way like pornography, romance novels, alcoholism, recreational drugs or hobbies or workaholism?

Here are a few things you can do when you find yourselves drifting away from each other in the bedroom.

1.       Stay connected emotionally. Talk to each other every day. Make time for each other on a daily basis. Deal with problems quickly and regularly and without hostility.

2.       Get away with each other regularly. It doesn’t have to be for long periods of time. A meal out as a couple away from the kids. An overnight stay a couple of times a year. A real vacation once a year.
    3.       Keep being affectionate with each other. Hold hands, kiss like you used to when you were dating, flirt with each other. Talk about sex – what you like and don’t like.
      4.       Intentionally schedule time for sexual connection if that’s what it takes. Yes, make it part of a date night together. Let anticipation fuel your desire. And remember that “quickies” count.
        5.       Make the bedroom a pleasant environment – soft light or candles, nice smells, attractive decoration. Keep it free of clutter, work items, televisions, and computers. No fighting in the bedroom – take that somewhere else.
          6.       Etc., etc., etc. There is so much more to be said on this subject.

            Lastly, if this is too hard to work out on your own, or if it is a deeply ingrained negative pattern that both of you have become resigned to – get help. God intended sex to be a blessing inside marriage. When it isn’t, then something needs to change. 


            1. Thank you for your blog. I enjoy each of your posts - they are always reasonable, wise, compassionate. I would like to make a request. Could you do a post on how celibate Christians can manage their sexuality? This includes single Christians who are not in a relationship but still struggle with desires for sex and intimacy (not just Christians who are in relationships and struggle with staying abstinent). Thank you.

            2. Hi Anonymous --

              Thanks for the comment and for reading the blog. I will think about your request -- it's a tough subject, and might better be asked of someone who has personally struggled with the issue. I was never single and a Christian at the same time -- plus I was married at age 21. My heart goes out to you and all the single Christians that must deal with these normal desires for sexual expression.