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No Sex? No Problem

You've been told that going sexless for weeks - or even months - is bad for your marriage, but experts tell Sasha Gonzales why a no-sex spell can do wonders for your relationship.

When it comes to married sex, the golden rule has always been: The more, the merrier. It seems almost taboo to suggest otherwise. But as it turns out, there are times in your married life where laying off sexual intercourse for a period can help strengthen your relationship and make it more well-rounded.

Saying sayonara to sexy time

There are no hard and fast rules to skipping sex, but when life throws you curveballs like a bout of illness, a pregnancy, or caring for a sick parent or child, it's perfectly fine not to pressure yourself into having sex. These situations put stress on you emotionally and physically, so putting nooky on the back burner until things go back to normal - and until you can better invest yourself during the act - isn't a bad idea.

A dry spell can be healthy for your marriage - as long as your relationship isn't already riddled with communication issues and conflict.

Pamela Supple, a Sex and Relationship Therapist and Director of Sex Therapy Australia, says: "It can help you appreciate that the sex is great when you have it, and that you can enjoy each other's company without expecting sex all the time. "Then, when you do make love, you know it's because you want to. It can help create a stronger desire for each other."

This no-sex vacation also gives your husband the opportunity to support you through a tough time - or vice versa - and helps you both bond in other ways.

Simply Her reader Shelly* laid off sex for 15 weeks after she gave birth two years ago. She was too tired and wasn't feeling all that self-confident.

"I felt unsexy," she shares. "Plus, I'd had an episiotomy and was afraid of the pain. After 10 weeks without sex, I told my husband I needed more time. He asked if we could be intimate in other ways, such as mutual masturbation. It took a few more weeks before I felt good enough about my body to make love again like we used to."

Talk it out

In a Simply Her poll, 16 out of 30 women said the longest they'd gone without sex was a month or more. For most, their marriages were none the worse for wear.

You need to embark on a sex sabbatical with the right attitude. Discuss it with Hubby; be honest, and consider his feelings and opinions. Talk about how you will manage during this period.

Pamela says: "If you don't know how long the dry spell will last, be upfront about it. Both of you must be agreeable; your hubby should not make you feel guilty for wanting to put sex on hold."

If you are the supportive partner instead, don't take it to heart. "Interpreting it as a sign that your hubby doesn't find you desirable can strain your relationship. Put your ego aside and be understanding," says Juliana Toh, executive director of Counselling and Care Centre. However, if you do feel neglected, speak up but don't complain about it.

Show me the love

No sex doesn't mean becoming strangers in bed. You can continue to be intimate by caressing, cuddling or kissing each other, or just falling asleep in each other's arms.

Pamela also suggests spooning, giving each other a light massage, or just enjoying each other's company in silence. "It's important to put aside some time for just the two of you, in order to keep the marriage healthy," she advises. If your hubby is away on an extended work trip, there is always Skype and other video chats.

Don't confine the closeness to the bedroom, either. Chris Dawson, director of the Australia-based Humaneed Marriage and Relationship Counselling Service, advises talking to each other about non-serious matters, holding hands when you go out and wrapping your legs around each other on the couch while watching TV. Making it a habit to stay connected means that you don't have to make a contrived effort to remain close.

When Simply Her reader Meena* underwent surgery for endometriosis, her doctor told her to take things easy - including going without sex for a few weeks. "It was not easy discussing it with my husband," says the 36-year-old writer. "Because of my endometriosis, sex had always been quite painful and Raj* and I only made love once a fortnight. But now, we had to forgo sex for longer and I wasn't sure how he'd take it."

Raj understood that his wife needed the time to recover. They went for walks and took baths together. The pair also kissed and cuddled a lot. When they got their sex life back on track, it didn't feel awkward and they simply eased back into it because, as Meena says, they never lost their closeness.

It's important to keep in mind that your dry spell is just temporary and that you will soon be back in the swing of things. "You know it's going to happen again really soon, so just look forward to it," says Chris.

If you and your spouse can survive a no-sex period, it also says something about your relationship. Chris adds: "Knowing that your spouse understands and backs you up can strengthen what you both have, as it gives you the security that he'll always be there for you. Marriage, after all, is about staying together through thick and thin. It's about being by each other's side, come what may."

What's the longest you've gone without sex?

We asked 30 women to 'fess up.

One week - 20%
Two weeks -14%
Three weeks -13%
Four weeks - 20%
One month or more - 20%
Two months or more -10%
Three months or more - 3%

Sexless in Singapore

Simply Her readers share how long they went without sex and how they coped.

"My 43-year-old husband had just had heart surgery and we were advised to take things easy in bed. I was paranoid, so I told him we could not have sex until he was completely healed, which took a month. During that time, we kissed and cuddled a lot - nothing too wild, in case it got his heart rate up! When we got the all-clear from the doctor, we booked a hotel room for the weekend and made love like it was our wedding night." - Sharon Ho, 40, teacher, married for five years.

 "I was up to my neck in work and had no energy to even eat, let alone have sex. Initially my hubby thought I was having an affair. When I explained what I was going through, my hubby was a little hurt but said he understood. I had to work hard to make him feel extra special during the two weeks we did not have sex. We engaged in mutual masturbation, spooned or held each other close. When my workload eased up, I was able to make love to Hubby the way we used to - enthusiastically and with a lot of tenderness." - Clarissa*, 37, marketing manager, married for three years with a two-year-old son

"The longest my hubby and I have been sexless was about a month when he was working on a big legal case. He had no time or energy. I was the frustrated wife who didn't understand how anyone could be too busy for sex. When I told him how I felt, he apologised and promised to make it up to me with Sunday-morning quickies. It was the only day he could sleep in before going to work. I think he felt bad and he made sure he spoiled me with roses and little romantic gifts." - Kelly Lim, 30, freelance writer, married for three years

*Names have been changed

Simply Her Magazine - Singapore - September 2012
No Sex? No Problem.