The Complexity of Sexless Relationships: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Coupled and dealing with carnal drought? Get answers in our guide to sexless relationships, with tips on how to put the spark back in the bedroom.
Grindr
&
Editorial team
October 5, 2023
February 29, 2024
7
min. read
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A sexless relationship is far from the inevitable endgame for long-term couples, despite what some outdated jokes might imply. In the gay community, we're rewriting the narrative, challenging the "ball-and-chain" clichés. While it's true that the flames of passion may dim over time, it doesn't mean your sex life has to go extinct. 

So, before you resign yourself to a life of Netflix marathons and cuddles, let's delve into how important sex is in a relationship and how to reignite that old spark. Because let's face it: settling for a life devoid of intimacy isn’t the kind of "forever" anyone should aim for.

The anatomy of sexless relationships

Knowing exactly how long is too long without sex in a relationship is all relative, but if you’re feeling a lack of action in the bedroom, you're not alone. Studies indicate that sexual frequency is declining (although those numbers are primarily about straight folks). So, what about us? The gay men navigating the stress and sexless relationship conundrum? 

Remember the honeymoon phase—where sparks flew and clothes vanished? What happens when that passion fizzles out? Let's explore the emotional and psychological toll lurking in the shadows when contemplating breaking up over a sexless relationship:

The emotional toll

The absence of sexual intimacy can lead to a cascade of negative emotions. From resentment to insecurity, the emotional landscape can become barren. Feelings of loneliness, anger, and disconnection often erode the relationship's foundation. Unmet needs can breed sexual frustration, while perceived rejection damages self-worth. This emotional maelstrom can take a heavy toll on both partners.

The psychological impact

It's not just about the body; it's also about the mind. The lack of sexual activity can decrease self-esteem and even trigger mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Some partners may internalize the problem, seeing it as a personal failure. Others spiral into obsessive over-analysis, trying to decode the cryptic clues behind their partner's lack of desire. Mental and sexual health are often deeply intertwined, so when one suffers, the other may follow suit.

The many reasons behind sexless relationships

Ah, the million-dollar question: Why? Remember, there are many reasons a man may go extended periods without sex, which can contribute to sexless relationships. Let's look at some of the most common causes of this complex situation:

Busy schedules

"Sorry, babe, I've got a Zoom meeting." Sound familiar? Our modern lives are busier than a drag queen during Pride month. Between work demands, social obligations, and an endless scroll of TikTok, who has the time or energy for fun sex positions to try?

Mismatched libidos

Sometimes, it's a simple case of one wanting it seven days a week, while the other is content with a monthly rendezvous. Navigating different sex drives requires compromise, but if left unaddressed, discrepancies in desire can breed resentment. Open communication about needs and expectations is key. 

Relationship conflicts

Ever tried getting frisky after a heated argument about who left the dishes in the sink? Probably not. Lingering beef and unresolved conflicts are passion killers. Addressing issues directly rather than letting them fester can help get things back on track.

Physical and mental health 

Physical and mental health challenges can significantly impact sexual desire and function in a relationship. Chronic illnesses, depression, anxiety, past trauma, and body image issues can hamper libido and affect intimacy. Making self-care and open communication with your partner essential. 

For example, setting aside time for activities that relax the mind and body, like meditation, exercise, or enjoying music together, can help nurture emotional closeness. And speaking candidly about fantasies or new positions you’d like to try, without judgment, allows both people to understand the issues at play. With compassion and teamwork, physical and mental health struggles don’t have to be barriers to sexual satisfaction. The trick is creatively working together to adapt to support both partners' well-being.

The spectrum of sexual importance

So, how much weight does sex carry in a relationship? For one person, it may be the be-all and end-all. But for another, sex might be important... but not as important as cuddling while watching Real Housewives of Atlanta.

The truth is sexual importance spans a spectrum. For some, it's the glue that bonds a relationship. For others, it's merely the sprinkles on an already fulfilling partnership sundae. And that's okay—different strokes for different folks. Priorities shift over time, which is why checking in with each other regularly is so important. Don't let assumptions or silent resignations sabotage your intimacy.

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Perspective matters

The importance of sex can vary dramatically among gay men, especially when factoring age into the mix. 

For younger gay men, sex is often an exciting adventure and conduit for connection. But as the relationship (and individual) matures, sex can take on new meaning. Some may view it as maintenance of the bond. Others as a barometer of lingering desire. Just like your fav pop-star's different eras; perspectives shift with life changes. Empty nesters may have more freedom to reconnect sexually after years of child-rearing duties. Retirees may find that comfort and closeness replaces previously frequent raw passion.

The key is aligning expectations through ongoing dialogue. Don't let age-related assumptions go unexamined. Talk openly about what sex means to each of you now.

The role of community

Within the gay community, the importance of sex is undoubtedly influenced by our subcultures. We're sure you've looked in the mirror and asked yourself: Am I bear? A twink? Or somewhere in between? Each group suggesting particular norms and expectations regarding sexual frequency and satisfaction.

For example, mainstream gay culture has historically emphasized youth, body image, and hookup culture. You probably associate twinks with greed and bottoming, whereas a furry daddy as kinky and dom. However, these groups still face implicit and explicit pressures regarding sexual behavior. Not every twink is going to be a bottom (love you, femme twink tops!) and not every daddy is a dom top.

Navigating subculture expectations while staying true to your needs can be tricky. Seek friends & partners who validate you for you, not just your label, and allow you to define intimacy on your terms.

To stay or to walk away?

Deciding whether to stay in or leave a sexless relationship is a complex, deeply personal choice. It's not just about tallying up pros and cons; it's about evaluating the emotional, psychological, and sexual dimensions of your relationship. So, let's break it down:

Reasons to stay

  • Emotional connection: If the emotional bond you share is strong and fulfilling, it might be worth working through the sexual issues. Your love, companionship, and dedication beyond sexual pleasures can make up for what's lacking in the bedroom.
  • Willingness to change: If both partners are committed to addressing the issue and are open to solutions like couples therapy, that's a positive sign. Just make sure that both of you are putting in the action therapy requires, not just the words.
  • Shared goals and values: A strong alignment in life goals and core values can often outweigh sexual incompatibility. Perhaps communicating a "new goal" to spice up the bedroom will fan the fading flames.

Reasons to walk away

  • Persistent unhappiness: If the lack of sex is causing ongoing stress and frustration, it's probably time to reconsider. You didn't come out of the closet to not fuck, right?
  • Unresolved resentment: Lingering grudges that aren't addressed can poison even the most robust relationships. We all love Toxic by Britney, but let's leave that one to the radio, alright?
  • Mismatched sexual needs: Again, if one partner views sex as essential and the other doesn't, it will most definitely lead to long-term dissatisfaction. The only real solution is reaching a middle-ground. Channel Beyoncé's voice in Pure/Honey, "you can be both, meet in the middle"
  • Non-negotiable dealbreakers: If you've communicated your needs and they're still not being met, walking away is the healthier option.

The balancing act

Reflect on what's currently lacking and the relationship's rewards. Have open talks with your partner about core needs. Listen to your logic and emotions and determine if a compromise can lead to mutual fulfillment or if certain unmet needs are irreconcilable. With self-compassion, assess if the relationship still aligns with your shared values. Evaluating these nuances takes patience to make the best choice that honors your well-being and connection.

The takeaway

Whatever path you choose, remember that growth often emerges from struggle. Each relationship—with its highs, lows, and everything in between—offers valuable lessons for the future. Remember, there are no wrong choices when you act with courage, compassion, and self-care. You alone define what a fulfilling relationship means to you

At a crossroads?

If you’re torn over whether it’s time to say “thank you, next,” Grindr can help. With more than 10 million active users, you’re sure to connect with someone who’ll understand… and maybe even help end the carnal drought. Download the Grindr app now and get started!

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