“My spouse and I don’t have enough sex, in my opinion, but should I get divorced over it?”
It’s the question of the hour, or the decade it appears, as fewer and fewer Americans admit they are sleeping in a “dead bedroom,” where sex is the stuff dreams — or, depending on who you ask, nightmares — are made of. What sex isn’t for these folks is reality, with potential clients contemplating divorce revealing to me more than ever before that they haven’t had any sex with their partner in over a year or longer.
Dead bedrooms are a phenomenon so common that, as I was doing my research for this article, I stumbled onto a Reddit thread devoted exclusively to the question of whether a lack of sex justifies divorce. There was also this Quora thread and endless firsthand accounts about what it’s like to be in a sexless marriage where divorce has become an enticing possibility.
Though relatively new in terminology, the concept of a dead bedroom is far from old, existing in sexless marriages and relationships for what must feel like forever, especially if you’re the one with an itch that isn’t getting scratched. In other words, a dead bedroom can happen to any couple, transcending gender, sexuality, and, of course, marriage. Commonly, the absence of sex leaves one or both partners frustrated and usually takes its toll on other aspects of the relationship, too.
That said, exiting a relationship is, in most situations, a lot easier than dissolving a marriage, especially where there hasn’t been a co-mingling of funds or assets. When you’re married, there’s more to consider, especially if you have children together.
So whether you’re having infrequent sex or none at all, ask yourself: Is a dead bedroom a strong enough reason to go through the hassle of a divorce? Before answering yes or no, you may first want to evaluate other aspects of your relationship and ask yourself if your sexless marriage is indeed worth saving because, for some couples, it is.
Is your “dead bedroom” even an issue?
There’s no singular definition of a dead bedroom. Some say it means six months without sex. Others say it requires more than six months. Still, others claim there doesn’t need to be an absence of sex but, instead, that the frequency of sexual activity occurring within the relationship is no longer “normal.”
Then there are those couples for whom normal is no sex. Suppose you and your partner are entirely content with being in a relationship in which there’s mostly an absence of sexual activity, and you both categorize your relationship as satisfactory to you. In that case, you don’t have a dead bedroom. According to one nationally representative survey, sexless Americans reported being as happy as their sexually active peers.
Regardless, if you or your partner are left feeling dissatisfied, and you’re not willing to wait it out, it’s probably a smart idea to see what’s going on under the covers — figuratively and literally. A dead bedroom can be remedied and, therefore, temporary, depending on what’s causing it.
Why is your bedroom “dead”?
A dead bedroom can result from a variety of factors, beginning with life itself. It ain’t easy out there. There’s work, bills, and let’s not forget the crazy dog. You name it; it could very well be the reason your spouse is wearing flannel pajamas to bed night after night.
Maybe your spouse’s or your physical appearance has changed over the years, causing attraction to wane. Weight gain among married couples, for instance, is a frequent occurrence. According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, if one spouse becomes obese, the other spouse has a 37 percent increased chance of becoming obese as well.
If it’s not your weight, perhaps it’s that you’ve been wearing those orange leggings for four days in a row or that torn college shirt with the armpit stains which has seen better days.
Dare I say, children? Kids have a magical way of putting the kibosh on sexy time. Whining, screaming (yours and theirs), exhaustion, and a lack of privacy can all contribute to your dead bedroom.
Even more serious, is there’s a medical condition disrupting sexual activity? Or perhaps it’s that you hate the way your partner brushes their teeth. Whatever it is, you need to get to the bottom of it. And then get to work on it.
Have you tried working on your “dead bedroom” issue?
In most of these situations, the potential exists for fixing the relationship if you’re both up for it. That can include anything from taking a vacation to seeing a marriage counselor to undergoing medical testing. Whatever you think might help.
What’s critical is that you’re communicating effectively and working to solve your dead bedroom issues — together. If not, it may be time to share your thoughts about your future apart.
Are you ready to call it quits?
I want to be honest: divorce isn’t an easy path. It can be a long, stressful, heartbreaking process. It’s why I want my clients to explore and exhaust all other options before making that final decision.
Once you do, cut yourself some slack. If you value sex in a relationship and having a certain amount of it makes you feel safe, loved, and intimate with your partner, you’re well within your rights as a human being to divorce and look for happiness elsewhere.
Your bedroom may be dead, but you’re not.
This article was written by Elise Buie, Esq. Elise is a Seattle-based family and divorce lawyer and founder of the Elise Buie Family Law Group. A champion for maintaining civility throughout the divorce process, Elise advocates for her clients and the best interests of their children, helping them move forward with dignity and from a position of strength.