Can sexless marriages work?

PHOTO: Can sexless marriages work?

Is sex crucial to a marriage?

Or can people be happy in a celibate relationship?

Psychologists Daniel Koh of Insights Mind Centre and Dr Nelson Lee, who is also a practising psychiatrist, of The Psychological Wellness Centre, weigh in.

Why have sex?

Sex is fun and exciting, but is fun all there is to it? Our experts say no, sex is not just about the act, it cements a relationship. Dr Lee: "It brings a couple closer and helps them form a bond that is difficult to replace."

Mr Koh: "Sex can be used as a type of bonding, a way for a couple to appreciate each other and make one another feel good. It reminds couples that they are a pair and to focus on something other than themselves."

He says it also acts as affirmation of one another and a reminder of the love they share.

"Sometimes, having sex is how some individuals value themselves, as it gives them affirmation that they are sexy or attractive, and makes them feel confident and happier," he says.

So why would people stop?

Simple. Work and children get in the way.

Both psychologists say that sexless relationships are actually very common, especially after children become part of the picture.

Dr Lee: "After having children, couples forget how to stop being mummy and daddy. They are so focused on their kids. They also worry their children may overhear something. So they neglect their sex lives."

The issues of work and long hours are also factors.

Mr Koh: "People are so distracted by work or other things that they neglect their relationships or the needs of their partners. Work becomes their biggest focus and sex gets sidelined."

Can couples still be happy?

Both doctors say yes, but both parties must be on the same page. They must agree that they don't need sex.

And this is rare. And it takes a whole lot more work.

Mr Koh: "If both partners are on the same page and agree that they do not need sex, then it will work.

"However, couples will have to do other things to remain close to each other."

Dr Lee: "It is very dependent on whether they have the same stance. If one wants sex more, it will probably strain the relationship."

Can every couple live without sex?

Although some may be able to be satisfied, most will feel a gaping hole in their relationship, the experts insist.

Dr Lee: "For the majority, the sex or lack of sex is a big factor and can lead to a breakdown in the relationship. In fact, for many, the lack of sex can signal bigger problems."

Mr Koh: "Some couples may think they are happy because they're too busy and distracted to think about it, but once their job stabilises or they become less focused on this other factor, they will realise how empty the relationship is."

What are the negative effects of not having sex?

The biggest problem with not having sex is how it affects the individual, who will then bring these negative feelings into the relationship.

Mr Koh: "Saying no to your partner may make them feel neglected or rejected. Or they may become suspicious and lonely, leading them to seek affection outside the marriage.

"This misunderstanding will lead to couples drifting apart emotionally and physically, and lead to affairs or breakdowns in the relationship

"It could be a great hit to their self-esteem, and they could fault themselves and become resentful of their own bodies."

Dr Lee: "Not having sex is rarely just about not having sex - it can be an indicator of bigger problems in the relationship, like a loss of love or attraction.

"Some people will decline to make love and attribute it to being busy or tired when in reality, there is a problem with the relationship or they are just not attracted to their partner any more."

Are there other ways to make a relationship work?

Doe not having sex mean the relationship will not be happy? The experts say there are other ways to make it work.

Mr Koh: "There are three ways of maintaining a relationship - sex, intimacy and communication.

"Couples may not have sex, but still do something else together like share a hobby or hold hands and hug. They must freely and frequently communicate.

"These things can keep a relationship going strong too. It is only when a relationship has none of these at all that it will not be happy. "Sometimes, companionship is enough."

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