The Emotional Pain and Depression of a Celibate Relationship


“We are living in a time when it seems as if sex is used to sell everything. From laundry detergent to pancakes, from make-up to hair dye, sex sells. We are inundated with it.”

I was doing a seminar on Sex, Love, and Relationships. During a break, a well-dressed, pretty, but nervous woman, came up to talk to me. She asked if I had ever encountered a person who was living in a celibate marriage or relationship.

“I don’t mean not having sex for long stretches of time because of certain problems that can be resolved. I mean never having sex, sleeping together in a bed but not being intimate for years.”

I nodded my head—I had heard about it. She was talking about a celibate relationship.

We see intimacy on daytime programming, loving couples in commercials, and nighttime shows filled with happy people either in the midst of, finishing, or seriously about to have, sexual relations. Sex sells because it is a part of our minds, our egos and our physical needs. Most people not only need it they want it. This is especially true in a relationship, where one of the great joys of being with the person you have chosen to spend your life with should be sexual intimacy. The harsh reality is of ‘relationship sex’ is different from what we believe. 1 in 20 couples live their lives in a relationship that lacks sex.

Even celebrities, such as Paula Zahn and Carol Channing have spoken of being in marriages where sex with their partners was non-existent for years. This reaches across all age groups. Women in their 20’s are just as likely to have a celibate relationship as women in their 50’s.

The idea that there are women who have little or no sexual contact with their men seems incomprehensible to many people. While every woman expects, (and definitely should expect) frequent, fulfilling sex in her marriage, sleeping celibate in bed is more common than you think. Yet, until recently, there was very little data on women and their plight. No one spoke about it. One reason is a feeling of shame. Women, whose partners have turned away literally, as well as emotionally, from them, have a misplaced feeling that the reason for this is that they are sexually unattractive. The common factor here is that they blame themselves for the lack of intimacy in their lives. Said one woman I interviewed,

“We haven’t had sex for almost twenty years. I feel strongly that the fault lies with me. Everything else is fine in our lives—we socialize and travel, we have a good marriage but we don’t have sex. He has just stopped wanting to have sex with me. It has to be my fault. I feel very unattractive. This is something that I feel embarrassed to discuss even with my doctor!”

There is also the anger issue, the unfairness of it all.

“In the fifteen years that we have been together, we have had sex 3 times and that was in the first year. I had almost half hoped that he was having an affair or was gay. Then I could justify him not wanting to have sex with me. But he isn’t gay and there was never an affair. I feel so hurt and incredibly angry that I am being denied something that should be a natural part of our relationship.”

A celibate relationship damages a woman’s self-esteem. One woman describes her life as a ‘living non-entity’. I am frustrated and defeated. His not wanting to have sex with me has shattered my feeling of self-esteem.”

For a healthy woman who desires sex, living celibate is a torment. Talking with a doctor or sex therapist is a must for your sanity and well-being.

Joan Avna and Diana Waltz who wrote the book, Celibate Wives: Breaking the Silence, list ten reasons for the lack of sex in a marriage. Below are the top 5, all of which can be helped by medical and mental health professionals.

  1. Mismatched sex drives, one partner having a higher or lower drive than the other, also known as desire discrepancy disorder (DDD).
  2. Inhibited sexual desire (ISD), loss of interest in sex due to life change or crisis
  3. Low sex drive shared by both partner
  4. Medical reasons, medications, or surgery
  5. Job or family related stress

If you are living in a celibate relationship, make an appointment with a doctor to find a way to help remedy the situation. And remember that sex doesn’t not have to include penetration. Touching, caressing, oral sex—these are all part of sexual activity.

One thing to remember is that it should become a part of your life. Having sexual relations and then stopping does not solve the problem. Even if it’s once a month, that’s a good start. You have to both seek each other out for intimate times.

Everyone has the right to want to live their best, most fulfilling life. Sex is your right.

copyright 2018 Kristen Houghton all rights reserved

Kristen Houghton
Author: Kristen Houghton

Kristen Houghton’s new book, Lilith Angel, was published in April, 2019 and is already in the top “fiction top five” by Nielson Ratings. She is the author of nine novels, two non-fiction books, a collection of short stories, a book of essays, and a children’s novella. The first four books in her best-selling series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation, are now available in a special boxset. She is also the author of the Horror Writers of America award-winning Quick-Read, Welcome to Hell.

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