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What Does Sex Have to Do with Love?

There are are couples for whom sex isn’t important; they should not have to feel that their relationship is a ‘shameful secret’

Most of us expect sex with some sort of regularity to be among the many perks of tying the knot — or any monogamous romantic relationship for that matter. Unless you have an open relationship or an adulterous one, monogamy typically limits who can sleep with.

Intimacy is not the same as sex

For one couple, it actually doesn’t. Married for 25 years, the couple hasn’t had sex for 20 years — and they’re OK with it, or at least that’s what they told the Guardian.

It’s quite odd feeling you’re not interested in something that the rest of the human race is mad about, which is why I joined an internet support group for celibate couples. I don’t have to justify our marriage to other people, but it’s almost like I have to justify it to myself. … All sorts of sexual proclivities are accepted now, but being celibate in a relationship is still taboo. It’s only mentioned if illness or some other negative stops it, never as an ordinary way to live. Everyone puts all the details of their sex lives all over the internet now, and I’d love it if a famous couple would say they’re celibate. I still wouldn’t tell the world, but maybe I could stop feeling that our sexless marriage is a shameful secret.”

I feel for both of them. Having a sexual relationship within a romantic partnership may matter for many people — I’m one of them — which is why I am fully empathetic to those whose sexual desires and needs are not being fulfilled in their marriage.

All the perks, none of the sex

One of the marital models in the book I co-authored, The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, is a companionship marriage, a model I have sometimes struggled to define. It seems to be a catch-all for marriages that don’t fit the “traditional marriage” model: it’s not about having kids, especially for the childfree, or having kids together, especially for those who have already had all the kids they want. Beyond the child issue, it may or may not be about having sex. It may be a way for people who are friends and seek companionship with shared interests, with sex or not, to be privy to the legal perks and protections of a marriage license.

Written by

Award-winning journalist, coauthor of “The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels,” mom, changing the narrative about older women

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