By Kellie Scott
How important is sex in your romantic relationships?
For some couples, the answer is ‘not very’.
Asexuality, health challenges and low libido are just a few reasons sex is not on the agenda.
And we can learn a lot about intimacy from understanding how couples stay connected without it.
We spoke to four people in relationships to hear why sex isn’t a part of their lives.
‘Through our asexual relationship, we’ve become more confident in our bodies’: Kylie*, 31
My spouse and I met on an asexual website.
We’ve both been in relationships with allosexual [someone who experiences sexual attraction] people and felt broken, used, and objectified; those relationships never worked for us.
Even in asexual relationships there are fears people won’t be on the same page. But through dating my spouse, we learned we had similar levels of desire regarding intimate acts and frequency.
I grew up in a very Christian culture and felt a lot of shame regarding my body, especially sexuality.
Through our asexual relationship, both of us have become more confident in our bodies, recognising we won’t be sexualised or pushed into uncomfortable sexual moments because of something we do, wear, or say. It’s awesome!
Learning I was asexual was beautiful.
At last, I didn’t feel broken; I was just different, and there were other people like me.
I feel like there are so many things we aren’t worrying about that some of our friends are; for example, sexual compatibility, surprise pregnancy, STIs.
Everyone knows we won’t be having kids (at least not biological ones), so we don’t have to worry about those questions from family and friends.
It has eliminated a tonne of stress.
‘The last thing on my mind is sex’: Melinda*, 38
I think the main reason we stopped having sex was having a newborn baby at home and taking care of her 24/7.
My husband works out of town half of the year so having to take care of a new baby and a five-year-old just by myself made things more difficult.
The last thing I had in mind was sex.
When he was back from work he helped me with the kids so by the end of the day we were exhausted.
And after our baby began to get older, this had just become part of our new routine — our new normal. Neither of us took the initiative.
Before we stopped having sex, our sex life was OK. I always had to take the initiative and even the positions were always the same.
I felt frustrated so decided to let him take the initiative for once. That never happened.
I honestly don’t know if he is happy with us not having sex, but he is not uncomfortable about because he is the type to say if so.
Even if we are happy or comfortable how we are right now, I believe it could become a thorn between us in the long run.
‘With our health issues, sex is off the table’: Rebecca*, 42
When we first met, our sex drives were completely different. I had a much higher drive than him and wondered if that was ‘normal’.
It took time for me to adjust at first, but with medications for other health issues, it has taken away my libido.
With both our health issues neither of us have much interest in sexual intimacy — it’s something that’s off the table.
Some may think my partner may not be attracted to me; however he always kisses me, hugs me and we hold hands while watching TV at night.
We love each other, support one another, have a wonderful caring relationship without sex.
There is shock when I have told a few others about what isn’t in our marriage. However, I look at what we have together as precious.
I must admit it took a long time for me to get to used to not having sex.
And there are still moments I think I’m missing out, but everything else we have together is wonderful and I wouldn’t want to let that go.
‘We get our sexual needs met elsewhere’: Charley*, 41
We’ve been together for 14 years and in an open relationship for about 10.
Over time the sexual connection between us started to fade but the romantic connection was strong. So about two years ago we acknowledged that, for now at least, our relationship is a companionship and that we’ll get our sexual needs met elsewhere.
At first it was only open on my side because he wanted me to sleep with other people — it was a turn on for him.
Eventually he wanted to sleep with other people, too, and by then I’d had plenty of time to become comfortable with the idea and our relationship was very solid so I didn’t feel jealous or threatened by the idea.
We get to have our cake and eat it too: The excitement and fun of new partners but the comfort and love of a solid, long-term relationship.
Some comments have been edited for brevity and clarity.