Tracey Cox reveals how to negotiate relationship without sex (and still keep your partner) 


It’s official: long-term couples are having less sex than ever before.

Research released a few days ago found thirty-four percent of British women and 15 per cent of men aren’t interested in having sex.

The study by the University of Glasgow (published in the medical journal BMC Public Health) confirms what we already know: sex dwindles in a long-term relationship.

These findings are being echoed by research throughout the US, Australia, Japan and many other countries.

Sexless marriage is no longer a rarity but increasingly common.

But can a relationship really survive without sex?

The answer to this is actually yes.

Love, playfulness, affection –these things also bring intimacy to relationships and are equally as important as love making.

With one enormous caveat: so long as both of you agree.

And herein lies the problem: it’s extremely rare for both of you to suddenly decide you want to stop having sex at the same time.

Usually, the decision to give up on sex is made by one of you – with the other mightily unhappy about it.

Here’s what to do if…

 Sex has trickled to nothing and your partner seems perfectly happy about it?

The crucial question here is why – the reason dictates what you should do about it.

If your partner no longer wants to have sex because of something that’s obvious and not their fault – they’ve got a life-changing illness, struggling with health issues, going through a rough time, or depressed or stressed over a life event that’s out of their control – this is a completely different scenario than them simply deciding ‘Right, that’s me. I’m done’.  

But, even then, there’s usually some wiggle room.

Sex as you used to have it might be impossible, but some type of sex might well be achievable.

Where there’s a will there’s a way – and a negotiation to be had!

If you’re in a monogamous relationship, there is an obligation on each of you to keep each other happy sexually. It’s part of the deal.

Speak up. Say you miss having sex with them and see what reaction you get.

If your partner genuinely is too busy or stressed to register that sex has gone AWOL, simply pointing out how long it’s been and how much you miss it may be all that’s required.

If you’ve tried this and they’ve been avoiding talking about sex, no time will be a good time to discuss the problem.

Their reaction to you finally daring to tackle the issue might well make them angry, storm out, pick a fight, cry or clam up and refuse to speak.

Expect any or all of these reactions.

Sometimes, the first talk doesn’t go so well but, often, they’ll go away and think through what you said and be ready to talk again in a day or so.

If they don’t reopen the discussion a day or two later, you do it.

Say, ‘I know it’s uncomfortable for you. But can we finish the talk we were having the other day about our sex life?’

One good question to ask then is this.

Even if your partner’s no longer physically fit enough to have intercourse, they may still be well enough to satisfy you.

Can they use their hands or tongue to pleasure you? Can they hold a sex toy to stimulate you?

Erection problems aren’t a good reason to stop having sex. Neither is painful sex.  

There are solutions for both (see your GP). Even if there isn’t, you can have non-penetrative sex.

At the very least, they can be in the room when you masturbate, making them part of it all, telling you how hot you look when you do it. (Mental illness is quite another story and a situation only you know and can make decisions about.)

Just because they don’t want anything sexual being done to them, are they open to still sexually stimulating you?

The answer to that question speaks volumes and will strongly affect which option you now choose.


If no type of sex is ever going to happen again with your partner, there are several ways you can deal with it. 


In other words, satisfy yourself by stimulating yourself without other people being involved.

You might decide you want to stay with your partner but intend to satisfy your sexual urges through one-night-stands, sign up for a website that caters for married people seeking sex with others, use sex workers or have an ongoing affair.

I understand why you’d go for this choice. Just don’t kid yourself your partner will forgive you if they find out.

Lots of people think it’s perfectly fine to stop having sex even if their partner isn’t happy about it.

This often takes the form of your partner saying, ‘Do what you need to do but I don’t want to know about it’, when you finally get them to acknowledge your sex life is non-existent. 

Sometimes, particularly if one of you isn’t well enough to have sex anymore, the other will say it’s OK if you have sex with others.

This generally happens with couples who loved having sex together and can no longer continue for whatever reason (often health issues).

There are nearly always rules with approved sex outside the relationship. Set some, if you go for this option. 

If you’re a person who enjoys sex and loves the intimacy and connection and all the other profoundly extraordinary things that sex provides, no sex is usually a deal breaker.

In that case, it’s kinder on both of you to separate and let each other find someone more compatible, rather than try to rub along unhappy and resentful.

It’s you that’s lost interest and but you’re damn sure your partner is going to freak if you announce sex is off limits?

First up…

Would you consider non-reciprocal sex with your partner, which I talked about earlier?

Lots of women say they don’t want sex but what they mean is they don’t want intercourse or penetrative sex.

If you think you could be sexual, just don’t want sex the way it looks now, say so.

Be honest and you might be pleasantly surprised.  

You don’t want to do anything sexual at all?

If you’re in a monogamous relationship and your partner’s not done with sex that leaves them in a very unfortunate situation.

Sex for them now means solo sex sessions, fantasising and watching porn.

For some people, this will be enough. Especially if your reason for wanting to stop is because of something outside your control like a health issue.

If, instead, it’s a choice, it’s a different scenario.

You’re basically saying to your partner: I want you to be sexually faithful to me but I won’t have sex with you.

Does this seem fair to you?

Every couple’s circumstances are different and you may well be justified in saying, ‘Actually, yes it does, given what’s happened”.

But even if you do think it’s fair, be aware that your relationship is now at risk.

If you’re not having sex with your partner and your partner’s gagging for it, everyone around them is going to look mighty appealing.

Even if they are the most loyal partner on the planet and love you dearly, there is a chance they will succumb to temptation if someone else pays them attention.

Or they might decide to use sex workers on a regular basis.

This is a popular option for men who love their partner but still desire sex: they figure there’s a no (or low) risk they’ll fall in love, so it feels less like cheating, and discretion is assured.

You have several choices of how to deal with this:

You hope like hell they won’t but are prepared to take the risk of them seeking unapproved sex outside the relationship.

Hint that you would understand if they got sex elsewhere without officially giving permission.

Relax the rules of monogamy. This might mean you allow your partner to have sex with other people, with your permission.

If that’s something you think you could do, think about how this might work.

Sometimes just saying to your partner “Hey, you know sex? Well, I’m not doing that anymore” does that for you.

If they do decide to stay, double the affection you have, keep being playful and keep doing new and interesting things together.

If you can’t provide sex, you can make sure the rest of your relationship meets all of your partner’s intimacy needs – and some.



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