Marriage is as old as the hills. People marry for all sorts of reasons. Nowadays, we normally think about people marrying for love, but back, not so long ago, and even today, powerful people married to combine resources, kingdoms and families.

And, while people marry for love, mostly, they also marry for other reasons. A marriage for something other than love is known as a "white marriage", or in French, "mariage blanc", and what it means, by definition, is a marriage that is an "unconsummated marriage"1

In a nutshell, "[s]exless or celibate marriages are unions in which couples mutually agree to not have sex. Sometimes they consent to an open relationship, where one partner has the freedom to have sex with other people; others remain faithful and committed to a sexless union. In other cases, one or both members of the couple identifies as asexual - someone who isn't sexually attracted to anyone - and they mutually decide not to engage in intercourse."2


Different types of white marriages (les mariages blancs)

The Lavender Marriage OR Mixed Orientation Marriage:

This marriage is one where two people marry to cover up the homosexuality of one or both partners.1  This marriage is also known as a "mixed orientation" marriage. Sometimes, one partner doesn't know that they are in one. Men and women can both marry to cover up their homosexuality, not opening up to their partners and keeping their true self hidden for as long as they can get away with it.

Marriage of convenience:

People enter into a marriage of convenience when a person with more social advantage marries someone who may need political or economic protection, asylum, or wants to emigrate to another country.3

A Different Definition of "Mariage Blanc":

In some conservative Muslim countries, the definition of white marriage (marriage blanc) is totally different. In Iran, where Shia rule is highly regarded, more and more unmarried couples are living together.3 And, when couples live together, they have sex.

So, a white marriage, generally, is one where intimacy is not involved, because people get into it for a reason that isn't love (except if you're in Iran).

But what happens when you do marry for love, and the sex dies? When what began as an intimate, loving relationship, where you woke up beside your best friend every morning, and made love to them regularly, is now a relationship where you still wake up beside that someone, but the sex is VERY infrequent or nonexistent. This, too, is a sexless marriage, a "mariage blanc".

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Sexless Marriage: defined and dissected

Marriage starts out as marriages for love usually do - giddy, happy, intimate and 2making plans for the future - "'til death do us part".

In a sexless marriage, it is not necessarily the love that dies. You are still in love with the person that you married. You still look after the kids; you still pay the mortgage, and may still go out as a family or as a couple on married dates. You just don't have sex, and it seems, from the outside, that everything is OK because you are together in the same home, so there must be some mutual understanding about the way the marriage is going.

However, living together doesn't mean a picture of happiness. Living in a sexless marriage doesn't always mean there's agreement between a couple. Sometimes people discover that they are not interested in sex as a couple, and agree to not have sex, but that's not the case most times One partner, more than likely, is the person who has withheld sex, and the other partner, willingly or unwillingly, goes along with it.

A marriage is seen as a sexless one if a couple has very little or no sex. And, when we say "very little" sex, opinion is varied. Generally, people understand it as being sex 10 times or less in the past year.4 But, it could also mean no sex in the past year4, or no sex in the last six months.4 Whatever the social scientist definition, there's still no sexual satisfaction in the home.

These marriages are more common than one might think. It was reported in the NY Times in 2009 that around 15 percent of marriages in the United States are sexless.5 The numbers are the same in Britain.8 The numbers hold true in Canada too. About 19% of Canadians told an Ipsos survey that sex is rare or non-existent in the home2, with the highest number in Alberta at 27% and the lowest number in Quebec at 10%.2 Between genders, 22 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women said that they were in a marriage with no sex.2

Reasons for this type of marriage

Married life can start out great. However, as time goes by, things can change. Life's little difficulties and trials can get in the way - family, job, career, money, illness, and just being worn out. As things change, sex can lose its place of importance in a marriage, and your sex life can die an agonising death. Whether everyone's OK with it or not, or one partner gets upset, feels neglected and grows resentful,2 it can change the energy of the marriage.

The sex may die, but the romance can still be there- little gifts, flowers, and other signs of affection. Intimacy can take other forms - date nights, running baths, etc., but it may not be enough for some people. Sometimes, when and if life does return to a normal, the sexual appetite of one partner may come back while the other one falters. How long a denied partner chooses to live like this is up to them, but at some point, things have to change.

These are some of the reasons couples' sex lives can dry up:

One spouse loses the spark for the other person

This is probably the simplest reason for a dwindling sex life.6 As time goes on, people fall out of love, lose the desire for their partners, and just give up.

Communication breakdown

Relationships take work, and if there's anger or resentment, negative feelings or conflict, or one partner is just bored6, intimacy can be affected. One partner can shut down, leaving the other frustrated.


As people get older, their bodies change. Things begin to hurt, and sometimes this means sex can hurt too, especially for women. When sex is painful, women lose interest, and as they move into menopause, the desire can also change too. It's not just women who suffer the effects of ageing. For men, erectile dysfunction can cause changes in desire.4


People get sick, and short term or chronic illness can affect the sexual appetite. Along with these issues can come self-esteem and body issues. And it's not just physical issues, mental health issues such as depression can affect sexual frequency.

You could just lose the craving for sex

There are many reasons for this. Perhaps life just got in the way. Perhaps a couple is mismatched sexually, or one or both members of the couple identifies as asexual, and they decide not to have sex.2


Stress affects every part of our lives, good or bad. It sometimes pumps people up to get things done, but most of the time it just shuts people down. When you're stressed, whether because of your job, your family, finances or other woes, your sex life is bound to suffer. And then you both will suffer.

Kids and family

Children are lovely, but sometimes they can be hard on a marriage. Constant demands, and things like late night feedings, odd newborn hours and behavioural issues take time away from couples. Parenting and family life can be stressful and tiring. It can be a lot of fun. It can also take a temporary toll on a couple's sex life, and sometimes the couple never recovers.

Sexual orientation of one partner is discovered.

Sometimes people marry to cover up their sexuality. Many times, their partner doesn't know that they are gay or bisexual. When it is discovered, there are new issues to address. Just learning to trust again is huge. Since one partner is not sexually attracted to the other, there is no sex to be had.

The honeymoon is over

When you meet someone, there is a rush of adrenalin and everything is tingly. New love and new marriage makes food, sex and life better, but when you get used to the relationship and life begins to get cozy, everything changes. And, on top of that, you may find out after the wedding that your spouse can't or doesn't want to have sex with you. It could be because of impotence, asexuality, mismatched libidos or low sex drives (which become more apparent after things calm down), frigidity or illness.3

Other life stuff that needs a lot of attention

If someone has experienced past sexual abuse, or abuses alcohol or drugs, their libido can be affected, and this affects their spouse. Even a pornography addiction10 can divert a husband's interest away from his lonely wife.6

The spurned spouse

Many times, when sex dies in a marriage, the woman in a relationship gets blamed, but both sexes can become disinterested in sex. The stereotype of women being the only ones closing the sexual door is simply not true.7

Sex is important. Because our species relies so heavily on sex - for pleasure, for reproduction, for survival - to think that it doesn't need to take a seat at marriage's table is considered by some to be not right. It's easy to say that there should be compromise in a no sex marriage, but over the long term, that compromise can cause a lot of suffering.

They can be caught between wanting to leave, but, because they've invested so much in the relationship, and are still in love with their partner, they consider staying and putting up with no sex.2 People stay to keep the family unit together, and because of the love they have for their partner.

And, while some spouses being denied sex will accept their fate, willingly or unwillingly, others will find new interests outside their marriage, and this could lead to rifts in the marriage.

So, when one person is spurned by their partner, there is a rush of emotions and feelings. It can feel like the end of the world to the person being ignored. They feel isolated from their partner2, shamed and unable to talk about it with anybody. They think that they are the only ones going through it. The rejection from a spouse can be painful, emotionally and physically. This can cause a deeper rift in the marriage.

Some people try anything to get their partner interested by having a date night, wearing lingerie, or sleeping naked4 and when they are spurned, they feel resentment. After attempting to get your partner's attention, there is only so much you can do. One can only bang their head against the wall for so long. It is important that the partner doesn't blame themselves for what is going on. Things happen, and if they can't be fixed, then it is time to change course.

How to handle a sexless marriage

If you're in a no sex marriage, you have to figure out how you're going to handle it. Decide what's best for you.

Accept your fate

If you think that it can work, then maybe you can stay. Some people feel that the lack of sex in their marriage is not enough of a reason to leave, so they stay. They put up with not having sex at all, or having it so infrequently that it might as well not exist.

If you stay, you can one do one of two things. You can live without sex and be happy with what you have, or you can seek sex elsewhere.

If you decide to stay, know that a sexless marriages can work. Sometimes, both partners agree to the boundaries in the relationship, and are OK with limited sex. They don't believe that a marriage's success or happiness is reliant on the number of times that people have sex.2

A sexless marriage is only a misery if one person is unhappy. A couple can be perfectly happy if that's what they BOTH want.


You can also leave. If your marriage is sexless, and the love and all of the other goodies of marriage are gone too, then leaving might be an option - unless you want to do something else. Like...

Have an affair

If you're at the point where you are considering an affair, then either you've given up and want to get out of the marriage as quick as possible, or you want to stay, but get your needs met. This is the preferred option for some.

An affair can make your marriage bearable, giving you the chance to have sex, and then return home to your married life. Social scientist Catherine Hakim thinks that an affair can be the best thing to happen to someone who is not getting it at home.8 She doesn't think that having an affair with someone is cheating, and that we need to get over the "Puritan" way of thinking that admonishes cheating.8 And she's right.

We see a no sex marriage as more acceptable than a spouse who is being denied sex having an affair. Deny sex to your partner, and then ask them to not have sex with other people? How is that fair?

This is where married dating websites can provide an outlet. Sites like can help you meet someone, and still keep the love at home. You can still have a good marriage, keeping things smooth at home and with the kids, keeping your home in line, and still be fulfilled. So, if all else is running tickety-boo in your marriage, then maybe you can fulfill the need for sex somewhere else.

In fact, things can get better when you have someone compatible who can provide an adulterous outlet, without the commitment.9 You can have a no strings attached affair with someone who expects nothing, and then go home to your loving family. Remember to not feel guilty about keeping your affairs in order.

Dealing with it with your other half

Although it may be best to keep your affairs hidden, you may feel that you can be open about it, that your spouse would be OK with it. Whatever the reason for the sex dying in your marriage, there are ways to stay together in a relationship where BOTH of you are happy. It really is up to you as a couple to decide how you want to handle it.You could decide to have an open marriage, where one or both partners are free to explore other sexual encounters. Both spouses can stay happy, and stay in the home.  Polyamory has become more common, and poly dating websites have become commonplace.  Married dating apps have grown substantially in popularity.Whatever you decide, it's important to communicate. Talking can also make you closer, make your relationship stronger.


People get married for better or for worse, and having that partner is important, and staying married has its benefits. However when sex dies, a relationship changes. It is up to a couple to decide how to move forward, and both may be OK with a no sex relationship. It's when one of the two is unhappy and there is no compromise that things can become quite uncomfortable, and one partner can end up married but lookingInfidelity can take a foothold.Finding contentment, by staying in a sexless marriage, leaving or having an extramarital affair is important for the health of a spouse who is being denied sex.

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