In a sexless marriage? Relationship expert in Singapore shares solutions for intimacy struggles

Relate & Date: Discover the causes of intimacy's decline and explore expert tips to reignite the flame and fortify your relationship's foundation

Relationship: A couple with their backs turned to each other having an argument at home (left) and a happy couple enjoying their time at a beach. (Photos: Getty Images)
Can a marriage survive without intimacy? There are certain things you can do to reignite the flame in your relationship. (Photos: Getty Images)

In the grand tapestry of marriage, intimacy acts as the thread that weaves emotional closeness, physical connection and shared vulnerability. But what happens when this vital element starts to fray or vanish in a relationship? Can a marriage endure without intimacy?

Dr Martha Lee, a relationship counsellor and clinical sexologist at Eros Coaching in Singapore, shares insights into the common reasons intimacy wanes, the impact of its absence on a marriage, as well as ways to reignite the flame.

While intimacy is often linked with sex, Lee emphasises that intimacy comprises a whole lot more than that. “Intimacy encompasses a wide range of emotional, physical, and sexual connections between partners. It involves deep emotional closeness, trust, vulnerability, and understanding. While sex is an important aspect of intimacy, it is not the only component.

“A lack of intimacy in a marriage is like a neglected garden – it withers away,” Lee warns. “It can lead to emotional distance, resentment and even the erosion of the foundation that holds the relationship together."

A woman cries while feeling heartbroken during an argument with a man.
A woman cries while feeling heartbroken during an argument with a man. (Photo: Getty Images)

What causes the erosion of intimacy in a marriage

Lee identifies several factors contributing to the disintegration of intimacy within a marriage: stress, work pressures, and daily demands diverting attention, leaving partners feeling neglected. Unresolved conflicts, communication breakdowns and unmet expectations can further widen the emotional gap.

“Falling into a routine can also lead to boredom and a lack of excitement in the bedroom,” Lee shares. “Insecurities about one’s body can also impact self-confidence and hinder sexual intimacy.”

A couple with relationship problems sitting on a bed. (Photo: Getty Images)
A couple with relationship problems sitting on a bed. (Photo: Getty Images)

What a lack of intimacy does in a marriage

“Intimacy, both physical and emotional, is a vital component of a healthy marriage,” Lee says. “When there is a lack of intimacy, emotional distance can develop between partners. This can lead to feelings of loneliness, disconnection and a sense of not being understood or valued by one's spouse.”

“Without regular intimacy, couples may struggle to maintain or deepen their emotional connection, which can impact the overall quality of the relationship,” Lee adds. “Couples may find themselves arguing more frequently or experiencing tension and frustration due to unmet needs or desires for physical and emotional closeness.”

Individuals craving intimacy but not finding it in their marriage face self-esteem and self-worth challenges. They may question their attractiveness or desirability, leading to feelings of insecurity or inadequacy.

Lee notes that every couple's experience with a lack of intimacy will be unique, and the impact will vary depending on individual circumstances and dynamics within the relationship.

Seeking professional help from a sex therapist or counsellor is advisable if distress arises.

“If a lack of intimacy is causing distress or strain in the marriage, it may be beneficial to seek professional help from a sex therapist or counsellor who can provide guidance and support in addressing these issues effectively,” she says.

A couple pauses for a selfie during a hike.
A couple walking and exploring nature during a hike. (Photo: Getty Images)

How to rekindle intimacy in a marriage

If you find yourself struggling to bring back the spark to your relationship, Lee proposes:

1. Communicate openly

Discuss desires, needs, and expectations, addressing concerns collaboratively.

“Start by having an open and honest conversation about your desires, needs, and expectations regarding intimacy. Discuss any concerns or barriers that may be affecting your intimacy and work together to find solutions,” Lee said.

2. Prioritise quality time

Dedicate distraction-free moments for activities fostering connection and bonding.

“Set aside dedicated time for each other without distractions. Plan regular date nights or activities that you both enjoy, such as going for a walk, cooking together, or trying a new hobby. This helps create opportunities for connection and bonding,” Lee noted.

3. Explore new experiences

Trying new things together can reignite the spark, from exploring new sexual experiences to experimenting with different techniques.

“Trying new things together can help reignite the spark in your relationship. This could involve exploring new sexual experiences, experimenting with different techniques or positions, or even engaging in role play or fantasy scenarios if both partners are comfortable,” Lee remarked.

4. Practise affection and touch

Non-sexual physical touch fosters closeness and connection.

“Physical touch is an important aspect of intimacy. Make an effort to show affection through hugs, kisses, cuddling and holding hands. Non-sexual touch can help foster a sense of closeness and connection,” Lee added.

5. Enhance communication during sex

Openly discuss desires, fantasies, and boundaries to create a safe space.

“Talk openly about your desires, fantasies and boundaries during sexual encounters. This can help create a safe space for both partners to express their needs and explore new experiences together,” Lee said.

6. Seek professional help if needed

If struggling, consider guidance from a counsellor or sexologist for specialised support.

“If you're struggling to reconnect or address intimacy issues on your own, consider seeking guidance from a professional counsellor or clinical sexologist. We can provide specialised support and strategies to help you navigate these challenges,” Lee remarked.

A couple sitting on the couch in the room to consult with a relationship counsellor.
A couple sitting on the couch in the room to consult with a relationship counsellor. (Photo: Getty Images)

While the question of whether a marriage can survive without intimacy is a complex one, the resilience of a relationship often lies in the willingness of partners to invest time, effort and understanding into nurturing their connection. Intimacy, in all its forms, is not a static element; it requires ongoing attention, adaptability and a shared commitment to the journey of love.

By acknowledging the challenges, understanding the dynamics at play and actively seeking ways to reignite the flame, couples can navigate the complexities of intimacy and emerge with a stronger, more vibrant connection.

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