Dead bedroom refers to when sexual frequency and activity is very low or non-existent in a relationship. The couple has veered away from their sexual norm either temporarily, or permanently for a variety of reasons. Dead bedrooms can be a source of unhappiness and frustration and lead to further breakdown of the relationship if left unresolved. However, partners can work together to improve their sexual intimacy, either alone or with the help of a therapist.
What Is a Dead Bedroom?
Dead bedroom is an informal term and not a clinical diagnosis. A dead bedroom is when partners have very low or non-existent sexual frequency and there has been a change in the couple’s normal sexual intimacy. In many cases, one of or both partners have lost interest in sex for a variety of reasons.
A dead bedroom isn’t necessarily a sexless marriage, but can look very similar. A dead bedroom looks different for every couple. What may be problematic for one couple, isn’t for another. Even though there may be a lack of sexual intimacy it doesn’t always mean partners don’t care for one another anymore, but may be experiencing other life issues that directly impact their sexual intimacy, libido, and sexual drive.
Examples of a dead bedroom:
- A couple who has sex only on special occasions or holidays
- A couple who sleep in separate beds or rooms and doesn’t engage in sexual activity
- A couple who used to have sex several times a week but has not gone several months without sexual activity or the activity has significantly dropped
- One or both partners consciously avoid physical contact with the other
- One or both partners consider their sex life less pleasurable than usual
- One or both partners are unsatisfied with the frequency of sexual activity
Is Lack of Sex in a Relationship an Issue?
A lack of sex in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an issue. If both partners are content with the frequency and type of sex, then it’s not a problem. However, a lack of sex can create problems if there is a mismatch of sexual needs of one partner where one partner wants sex more often or feels sex is more important, or if there is sexual incompatibility.
For example, a person’s disinterest often leaves the partner feeling resentful, depressed, frustrated, unappreciated, and sad. Ongoing and unaddressed issues can affect bedroom intimacy and bleed over to other aspects of the relationship, which will begin to suffer.
What Causes a Dead Bedroom?
A dead bedroom can be caused by a variety of factors including health issues, stress, work demands, children, communication problems, emotional distance, being unhappy in the relationship, or financial strain. It could also be part of a larger issue that is unaddressed that affects the quantity and quality of sexual intimacy in a relationship.
Possible causes of a dead bedroom include:
Couples have many demands on their time and in their lives between work, friends, family, and maintaining a personal life. These demands are often saddled with a lot of stress. Between high levels of stress from work, family demands, finances, children, co-parenting, extended family, health issues, the added stress is a perfect storm to affect a person’s libido, interest, and desire and energy for sex.
The everyday stress can make it difficult to maintain a sexual relationship. And if a person has difficulty putting aside the stress for a period of time or doesn’t have good coping skills, sexual desire will disappear.
Family issues that remain unresolved within the immediate or extended family create conflict that can lead to a dead bedroom. Poor communication, resentment, and continued arguing over these issues builds up over time and affects the quantity and quality of sexual intimacy.
One major way this happens is with children. Children have a huge impact on a couple’s sex life because of the time, energy, and attention that children require. It is often exhausting and stressful. It is common for parents to focus on their children to the exclusion of their relationship.
A person’s sex drive is dependent to a large degree on their partner’s appearance. If a person has gained a lot of weight or stopped taking care of themselves, this will affect a partner’s sex drive. Men are more affected by this than women, but it doesn’t mean that women are not affected as well.
Body changes can also affect a person’s self-esteem. When a partner doesn’t feel good about their body or if they have gained weight, this affects their sexual desire and libido.
Lack of Communication
Couples who don’t communicate honestly and openly about their sexual needs, desires and expectations may experience a decrease in sexual activity. A lack of communication can also compound other relationship problems that create more conflict, resentment, and emotional distance furthering the decline in sexual activity.
Couples find themselves in a negative relational pattern and stuck in a loop they cannot get out from, decreasing their libido and sexual desire for one another. They communicate in unhealthy and ineffective ways.
Familiarity & Boredom
Over time, if they are not careful, couples can fall into the ‘friend zone’ which is different from being best friends with your partner. Even if you are sexually compatible or have a sufficient sex drive, things can become boring, quickly. Sex may begin to feel like a chore and transactional. The sex has become routine and vanilla.
Major life changes such as experiencing a loss or death, changing jobs, having a baby, or any significant life transition also impacts a couple’s sex life. Major life changes or transitions are very stressful on couples.
When a partner or couple is experiencing a major life change that is stressful, the last thing on their mind is sex. However, this can become problematic if left unaddressed. Life changes occur throughout the lifespan, so it’s important to find ways to cope to prevent further deterioration.
A decrease or loss of sexual intimacy can also be the result of medical conditions. It is important to speak to a medical provider that can help determine if there are underlying medical conditions affecting a person’s sex drive and libido. For example, men may experience erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation which has negative effects on sexual interest, while women may experience hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) or hormonal changes during menopause.
Other physical causes that can affect a person’s sexual function and libido are chronic pain – where pain can make sex uncomfortable and for some people unbearable and a chronic illness such as diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis or any other autoimmune disorder can affect sexual function and libido.
Other physical conditions that can result in a dead bedroom include::
- High blood pressure
- Alcohol addiction
- High cholesterol
- Medication side effects
- Erectile dysfunction
How to Fix a Dead Bedroom
If a couple is experiencing a dead bedroom, it doesn’t mean that sexual intimacy can not be remedied. It certainly can if both people want to take the steps to increase intimacy in the relationship and increase the frequency of sex. There are several ways that partners can reignite this part of their relationship so they can feel hopeful.
However, it is important to keep in mind that fixing a dead bedroom takes effort, time, intention, and patience. Be patient with yourself and your partner as you both take the steps to rebuild intimacy in the relationship together.
Try the following tips for overcoming a dead bedroom:
In both men and women, better and more frequent communication has been associated with high sexual and relationship satisfaction.1, 2 Thus, communication is key. An important first step in addressing any relationship issue and especially something as sensitive as sexual intimacy, is to talk openly and honestly with your partner when you are both in a good emotional space. Share your concerns, feelings, desires in a way that both of you can hear one another without judging. Listen and hear your partner and be open to compromise.
Address Underlying Issues
Identifying the root cause of the problem is inherent in resolving the issue. Often underlying issues such as trauma, health issues, stress, physical or mental health issues affect sexual desire and libido. Creating a space to talk about the underlying issues will help both partners seek solutions.
Decide on Sexual Frequency
When there is a discrepancy between couples in terms of frequency of sexual intimacy, it’s important to talk about this openly. For example, what does each partner need to feel fulfilled? Is there room for compromise? If one person wants more sex, how will they take care of their needs and how does their partner feel about it?
Often when couples fall into unhealthy patterns and experience a dead bedroom, it can be intimidating or stressful to think about engaging in sexual intimacy. However, by starting with intimacy without focusing on sex, you can help reduce stress and find a common place.
Start by increasing emotional intimacy by spending time together, being affectionate by hugging or hand holding. This helps rebuild trust and allows intimacy to grow slowly and towards each partner’s comfort level.
Couples often fall into a routine and this can make sexual intimacy boring and monotonous. Becoming more open-minded to experiment with new sexual experiences and a willingness to try new things can often reignite the spark that has been dormant and add some excitement to the relationship. Share ideas with one another to better understand what your partner needs and desires rather than just having sex the same way.
Seek Professional Help
Despite good intentions, sometimes couples have a difficult time discussing the underlying issues and finding solutions without becoming overly emotional. If a couple is unable to identify the issues, often a trained therapist or a sex therapist either in person or through online marriage counseling services can help couples take the necessary but challenging steps to help explore feelings, communication styles, and underlying issues such as mismatched libidos, or sexual desires in a safe environment. They provide the guidance, skills, and strategies to help couples rebuild intimacy.
What If Your Partner Doesn’t Want More Sex?
If you discover your partner isn’t interested in more frequent sex it is important to first understand why your partner doesn’t want more sex. This can be done by talking with them and hearing and understanding their perspective but also sharing your needs and feelings. This will help create solutions to create more intimacy (not necessarily more sex) and also address any underlying physical or mental health issues.
Couples can discuss polyamory or having a non-monogamous relationship to get the sexual needs of one partner met, but this can significantly shift the relationship. Couples need to take the time to communicate the impact of going in this direction on their relationship.
Below are things to try if your partner is not interested in having more sex::
- Watching porn
- Masturbating (together or solo)
- Exploring other sexual activities like using sex toys or oral sex
- Increasing intimacy without having sex
In My Experience
In my experience, a decrease in sexual activity is a common struggle in relationships. Couples who experience a dead bedroom are by no means alone. A decrease in sexual and physical intimacy is often the one main area that is directly impacted by life circumstances and situations.
One of the most significant challenges couples have is creating a safe space to communicate about what is impacting their lack of sexual desire and changes in libido. This is because it is seldom a ‘one and done’ conversation but a series of conversations that need structure and an opportunity for both partners to share their thoughts and feelings.
Many couples could benefit from professional help when they are experiencing a dead bedroom because often time, resentment, pain, frustration, and sadness has been embedded in the relationship and it’s difficult for couples to get beyond that and talk about the real issues.