How Long Is Too Long Without Sex in a Relationship?

There’s no “right” amount of sex to have in a relationship
on January 17, 2024
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare
how long is too long without sex in a relationship

Dry spells are normal, and sexual desire can wax and wane in a long-term relationship, but when does it become a cause for concern? And how long is too long without sex in a relationship?

Sex can be an important component of a romantic relationship (although it’s not necessarily the most important). It can boost intimacy, foster a sense of closeness, and most importantly, it’s fun! So when you’re not having sex with your partner, it’s only natural to wonder if the relationship is on the rocks.

So if you find yourself counting up the days since you had sex, or worse, that you can’t even remember the last time you did it — it might be time to start looking for answers! While it’s tempting to hit the panic button, a dry spell doesn’t have to spell out disaster. 

Deep breaths. 

Key Takeaways
  • Couples can go through dry spells for a variety of reasons, such as insecurities, health, stress, relationship issues, or even a change in the relationship (such as parenthood).
  • There is no perfect formula for how many times a couple should have sex to sustain a healthy relationship. It’s entirely based on the couple’s needs and sexual desires, which should be discussed and communicated regularly.
  • Not having regular sex doesn’t mean that you have to break up, and the definition of a dry spell in your relationship is entirely dependent on your history and preferences.
  • If you’re not happy with the amount of sex in your relationship, there are several strategies and solutions to pursue to spice things up. However, before you get to the fun part, you have to opt for open and honest communication about your needs — which will help you put guidelines in place for your future sex life.

Why do couples go through dry spells? 

Every couple goes through a dry spell now and again, even if your fellow couples may like to deny it! There are a myriad of reasons why you’re not connecting physically at the moment, and it isn’t always as bad as it seems. 

There can be any number of reasons for a lack of sex in a relationship

  • Body image issues, poor self-confidence, or other insecurities. 

  • Chronic stress or fatigue.

  • Relationship problems, such as a breakdown in trust. 

  • The birth of a new child.

  • Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence, menopause, or dyspareunia (painful sex).

  • Low libido or a mismatch in sexual desire. 

  • Busy schedules, and a lack of prioritization around sex. 

  • Navigating physical and mental health.

Some of these may lead to a temporary drop in sexual activity, whereas others may have you questioning your sexual compatibility. 

While your sex life may not be as wild as it was in the beginning, you can still have a happy and fulfilling long-term relationship without sex. It all comes down to your and your partner's sexual needs. It’s not always an easy topic to bring up, but it’s important to discuss these desires, so one person isn’t dealing with sexual frustration with no release. 

How often should a couple have sex?

First things first — there’s no right or wrong when it comes to how often a couple should have sex. There is no magic number, and there is no answer that marks your relationship as a failure. 

If you don’t believe us, researchers have looked into this, of course. 

A study of 26,000 Americans revealed that the average monogamous couple had sex 54 times a year — a little under once a week. But keep in mind that doesn’t mean every monogamous couple should be having sex once a week. Multiple factors come into the mix, such as the factors preventing sex mentioned above, as well as age and lifestyle. 

In a study of mid-life adults, it was revealed that their views of sex became less positive over time. Adults in their 20s would have the most sex, and women over 50 would have the least.

We also have to consider other factors like cultural or religious norms, which may shape someone’s attitudes towards sex. Then there are the sexual interactions themselves. Just because you’re not having full intercourse, doesn’t mean you’re not enjoying each other’s bodies in other ways. That’s the beauty of sexual relationships: everybody is different.

In fact, our recent study revealed that sex isn’t always the biggest priority in a relationship, with 64% of people admitting that snuggling is actually the action that makes them feel closest to their partner. 

So, even if your sex life isn’t off the charts at the moment, it doesn’t always mean a disconnect is present. 

What is the average amount of time for a couple to go without sex?

In one 2013 study, three-quarters of participants said they were having sex once or twice a month — so even if you’re having a month off, this is perfectly normal. 

“Remember that the amount of time one can stay without sex varies from one person to another,” says Mairead Molloy, a psychologist and relationship therapist. “Ultimately, there is no right amount of sex that one can have. You do what you feel and what makes you both happy.”

Again, everybody’s libido is different, and it’s normal for one partner to want sex more than the other. What’s important to remember is that sexual intimacy isn’t the only kind of intimacy. Humans rely on physical touching to bond and can feel “touch-starved” if they’re not feeling each other’s skin often enough. As our survey showed, people feel most connected to their partner through actions like snuggling, hugging, and even hand-holding. So these similar acts of affection can often do the trick when keeping couples connected when cohabiting or going about their daily lives. 

Is it healthy to go months without sex in a relationship?

Not having regular sex doesn’t mean you should break up! If you’re used to going months without hopping into bed, it can be perfectly healthy to go months without sex in a relationship. If it’s circumstantial, then there may be other factors at play — for example, a new baby. 

Open up to each other and let each other know how you feel. You may be able to satisfy your sexual desire with dates or scheduled sex — not always romantic, but often necessary if you have kids. 

While this can seem like a simple solution in theory, it can feel daunting to bring up these new strategies — as they might not reflect the kind of sex life you had pre-parenthood. However, adapting to your new situation is totally normal, and it can be helpful to utilize the Paired app to spark these important conversations (without offending your loved one!) 

How long is considered a dry spell in a relationship?

A dry spell in a relationship is relative to the amount of sex you’re already having. It equates to how much you value sex as a couple. 

You might consider a dry spell two weeks if you’re used to having sex multiple times per week. Other couples might be happy to have a sexless marriage, as long as it’s agreed upon by both parties. 

Intimacy comes in many forms, and if they’re satisfying their sexual desire in other ways, or simply don’t have the sexual desire, this is fine. Romantic relationships come in all shapes and sizes, and if this is non-sexual, it might work just as well as those couples who have regular sexual encounters.

So, can a relationship last without sex? Yes, absolutely. It’s completely normal to be in a mutually agreed sexless relationship. The real red flag is if sex comes to an end suddenly, particularly if one partner is not willing to explore why this happened. This could be a sign of other underlying problems, such as lack of trust or physical factors.

What happens when you don't have sex for a long time?

Not having sex for a long time doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong. Rather, it’s the reason for the lack of sex that you should be focusing on. For example, if your partner is struggling with body image issues, they may need to take the time to explore what healing might look like to them, and possibly start trauma work to feel open to having someone close to their body again.

You may both be battling personal mental health issues such as bereavement in the family, which can have an impact on your well-being (let alone your sex drive).

If reduced sexual frequency is circumstantial, it’s important to address the issue first. Talk to your partner and encourage them to share what they have been holding on to inside — it could be something as simple as a hard time at work.

Sexless couples and sexually active couples can be just as happy as one another, according to a 2017 study. While there are theories about the health benefits of sexual activity, such as stress relief, this comes down to the physical bond itself. 

Naturally, one partner may fear that their partner may cheat if there is a sudden reduction in sex. Putting that kind of pressure on yourself to perform is a recipe for disaster, as having sex with someone simply so they don’t cheat on you… That doesn’t sound good. 

Instead of jumping into bed for the wrong reasons, try and practice an open dialogue about your sexual needs (and fears), with these conversations often sparked and helped by a sexologist or sex therapist. 

What should a couple do when they have been without sex for too long?

If you’re concerned about the frequency of sex in your relationship, tell your partner how you’re feeling and that you feel neglected. Even more important, ask them how they are feeling — be compassionate and encourage them to air any anxieties or concerns they may have.

This may bring to light other issues you’d not discussed before, such as anxieties or preferences around sex. It may not be an easy conversation at first, but remember, it’s a positive step and shouldn’t be shied away from!

After all, it could be the first step in rediscovering each other all over again, and you may feel like you’re in a more honest, open relationship.

Once the serious stuff is over, you can start to get experimental and have fun spicing things up! Try:

  • Talking about your sexual fantasies. 

  • Dialing up the touching, from holding hands to naked cuddles in bed. 

  • Touching each other without the expectation of sex — a technique called “sensate focus”. 

  • Relaxing each other with a massage or a warm bath. 

  • Experimenting with sex toys or outfits.

  • Sparking new conversations in the Paired app. 

Above all, it’s important to be patient with your partner. There could be any number of reasons why you’re having less sex. One or both of you may have a low sex drive, or there could be underlying issues from sexual satisfaction to overall relationship satisfaction.

Don’t be afraid to confront the elephant in the room. There’s no right or wrong for what’s considered “enough sex”, and it’s natural to have more in a new relationship.

Be patient and build it up slowly. Remember, it’s your sex life, nobody else’s — so do what works for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it unhealthy to not have sex for a long time?

    When it comes to sex in a relationship or lack thereof, people can often jump to conclusions or assume the worst. However, it isn’t automatically unhealthy to not have sex in a relationship. There could be several factors at play that justify these patterns, and these should be openly discussed with your partner. However, if there is a sudden and unexpected lack of sex in a relationship (with one partner pulling away), this could be a red flag for your future.
  • How long is too long without sex in a relationship?

    There is no such thing as going ‘too long’ without sex in a relationship. The amount of physical intimacy is entirely dependent on the relationship in question, and there is no decided date or timeframe that should spark alarm. As long as the couple is communicating, or are satisfied without sex, then it doesn’t have to spell disaster for the relationship.
  • What is a nice way to bring up our lack of sex with my partner?

    Take some time to first identify what is feeling disconnected for you in your relationship. Has your partner discussed what they desire for initiating sex? If so are you doing those things? Sit with this first. Otherwise what can happen is the conversation starts a fight or gives your partner the feeling that they are doing something wrong. When in reality you miss being close to them, including physical closeness. For many couples one partner typically initiates sex, it’s good to sit with the emotions on what else has changed in the relationship that the dynamic of initiation stopped being functional in your relationship. Talking about that with your partner can lead to greater understanding for you both.
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