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Can a Lack of Sex Cause Anxiety in a Relationship?

The amount of sex you have can change over your lifetime. But when the sex suddenly stops, it’s common to feel worried that something’s gone wrong. 

And while a lack of sex in a relationship isn’t always a sign that the relationship is in trouble, it can still bring about a range of unpleasant emotions.

Keep reading to learn more about the emotional impacts when sexual intimacy wanes, and whether you should be concerned about the lack of sex.

Lack of Sex in a Relationship: Potential Effects

When you and your partner are no longer having sex, you may start to experience feelings of self-doubt, worry, and anxiety. Let’s take a closer look.

Feelings of Rejection & Impacts on Self-Esteem

If your partner doesn’t seem to show an interest in sex, it’s natural to wonder if you should be concerned. 

Low sexual desire is one of the most common relationship concerns. But if you are the partner with higher levels of sexual desire, it can be frustrating and even lead to feeling rejected by your partner.

A lack of sex often leads some people to worry that there’s something wrong in their relationship, or that their partner isn’t attracted to them anymore. These fears can impact your self-esteem, which is why it’s important to check in.

Sexual desire can fluctuate throughout your life. Before letting your brain dive headfirst into “My partner isn’t attracted to me!” check in about where both of you are at with regard to your sexual desire.

Emotional Intimacy Can Be Affected

Some people don’t need sex to have a fulfilling romantic partnership. But others do need that sexual connection to enhance their emotional intimacy. 

Of course, there are ways to strengthen emotional intimacy without sexual contact. But if you know you need that physical connection to feel close to your partner, it’s important to communicate that.

Can Lack of Sex Cause Anxiety?

For some, a lack of sex can lead to feelings of anxiety and distress.

Feelings of anxiety can arise if:

  • The amount of sex you’re having is lower than what you want
  • You don’t know what’s causing the lack of sex in your relationship
  • You’re worried about the state of your relationship
  • You haven’t talked to your partner about your concerns

If you’re finding it difficult to manage your concerns, that is when a couples and sex therapist can be a huge source of support. 

Why Doesn’t My Partner Want to Have Sex?

So why doesn’t your partner want to have sex? Sexual desire is much more complex than we’d like it to be sometimes. 

Many factors contribute to our current sexual needs and how we’re feeling in the moment.

Lower levels of sexual desire can stem from:

  • Stress
  • Mental health concerns
  • Sleep issues
  • Medical problems
  • Medications
  • Hormonal changes
  • Chronic pain

A multitude of factors can converge and result in lower levels of desire. If you’re stressed out, starting a new medication, and have been sleeping poorly—it should come as no surprise if your sexual desire is lower than it used to be. 

How Much Sex Is Normal?

Many couples are often concerned with how much sex they should be having.

But in truth, there is no sex frequency you should aspire to.

The amount of sex you should have is the amount that you and your partner feel happy with. 

That could mean once a month, or five times a week. If you’re happy having sex once a year, then that is completely normal for you!

However, sexual desire differences between partners are very common, and can cause strain in relationships. 

It’s a common story: You want sex once a week, and your partner is happy to go a month or longer without sex. In these situations, you should be having an honest conversation about how you can both feel like your needs are being met. 

Do You Have a Sexless Marriage?

Estimates show that 15-20% of couples are in non-sexual relationships. So if sex seems to be missing from your relationship, know that you’re not alone. 

A lack of sex isn’t always a cause for alarm. For instance, if you and your partner have sex once a year and feel content—then that’s great! If everyone is happy, there’s no need to stress over the number of times you have sex. 

But if you feel like you’re struggling in a sexless marriage, you may need to take a closer look.

Are you and your partner going through a major life event like the death of a loved one? Are your desires mismatched? Is one or both of you experiencing a chronic illness?

Bottom line: There is no normal amount of sex you should be having. Only you can decide how much sex is right for your relationship.

Intimacy and Stress Reduction

You might have heard that having sex reduces stress. While that’s true—sexual intimacy isn’t the only thing that can reduce stress levels.

One study found that partners who engaged in any sort of nonverbal expressions of intimacy experienced lower levels of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone).(1)

So actions like smiling, hand-holding, hugging, kissing, and cuddling are all ways of engaging intimately. These different types of touch and affection can not only strengthen emotional connection, but also lower stress levels.

Is a Lack of Sex Causing You Anxiety and Stress?

In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether a lack of sex in your relationship is causing you anxiety. 

If you are concerned, know that it’s normal to feel anxious if you’re not getting the kind of intimacy you want from your partner. And the first step is to address these worries with your partner. 

But you don’t need to do it all alone.

If you and your partner need support:

  • Reconnecting physically and emotionally
  • Having productive conversations around sex
  • Exploring new ways to be intimate together

Couples and sex therapy can help pave the way for a more fulfilling relationship. 
Ready to see what’s possible? Reach out today.

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