No longer fancy your partner? You’re not alone. But don’t worry, 8 in 10 say it’s not grounds for divorce: That’s just one of the illuminating findings in Femail’s exclusive new marriage survey…

  • Femail asked more than 1,000 people aged 18+ for their views on a raft of issues
  • READ MORE:  Number of marriages plunged to lowest since 1838 as Covid wreaked havoc in 2020 – with the rate of unions lower than divorces for the first time EVER

Whenever Karen Jones has sex with her husband she imagines she’s making love to someone else.

‘I don’t find him sexually attractive any more,’ she admits. ‘We get on really well, but I just don’t fancy him — and I haven’t for the past decade.’

Karen, 55, says that if she didn’t imagine she was in bed with somebody younger and sexier, she wouldn’t want to have sex with her husband at all.

How depressing, you might think. Surely, it’s only a matter of time before their marriage breaks down all together.

But Karen, who has been married to 62-year-old John for 30 years, takes a more pragmatic view.

Karen Jones, 55, says that if she didn’t imagine she was in bed with somebody younger and sexier, she wouldn’t want to have sex with her husband at all

‘What am I supposed to do?’ she asks. ‘Divorce the man I’ve raised two kids to adulthood with, have shared the larger part of my life with, and who has, over the years, become my dearest friend — all because I don’t fancy him any more?

‘That feels incredibly shallow, and just wouldn’t make sense to me. No longer finding your partner attractive doesn’t seem like very good grounds for divorce.’

Perhaps surprisingly, she’s not alone in her view. Far from it, in fact. 

For though we’re encouraged to believe a fulfilling and enthusiastic sex life is vital for a happy marriage, it seems that many of us are willingly living with spouses we are no longer sexually attracted to — with no intention of changing the situation. 

In a groundbreaking new marriage survey conducted by Femail, which we can now share with you in an exclusive two-part report starting today, a staggering 78 per cent of married people said they would not end their marriage if they no longer desired their partner sexually.

One might assume that it’s only older couples long past the first flush of romance who feel this way. But that is far from the case.

In fact, 67 per cent of those aged 25 to 34 agreed with the sentiment; 63 per cent of those aged 35 to 44; and 66 per cent aged 45 to 54. 

Even among those aged 18 to 24, 38 per cent reported that a lack of sexual attraction would not cause them to end their marriage.

And forget gender stereotypes about who places more importance on their sexual urges; more men agreed than women, with 84 per cent of males saying they would not end their marriage in this instance, compared to 73 per cent of women.

Meanwhile, only 7 per cent of all men, whether single or in a relationship, believe a fulfilling sex life is the most important ingredient of a successful marriage; they put respect top, with 54 per cent prizing this attribute most.

Fading desire: Dina Marais, 63, enjoyed a happy and loving 40-year marriage with her husband before he died suddenly in February. But, for the last 13 years, their relationship was completely celibate

Intrigued by the plummeting number of marriages recorded by the Office for National Statistics — down by almost 37 per cent since 1989 — and soaring divorce rates, we commissioned a comprehensive study into marriage, asking more than 1,000 people aged 18 and over for their views on a raft of issues including:

  • Whether marriage still has a place in the modern world;
  • Whether marriage is still considered to be a life-long commitment;
  • What it takes to make a modern marriage work;
  • Whether sexual attraction becomes optional in a long-term relationship.

Our results suggest that matrimony, a state once considered the glue that holds the fabric of society together, faces assault on several fronts.

Many young people lack conviction in the institution — 33 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds say they don’t believe it is relevant today. 

Of the participants who had never been married, 44 per cent said they did not want to get married in the future; among 35 to 44-year-olds that rose to 53 per cent.

Yet despite this, and ever rising divorce rates, there is also a heartening consensus that marriage can withstand slings and arrows such as waning libido, with just 8 per cent saying they would end their marriage if the sexual sparks stopped flying.

Overall, the findings provide a fascinating insight into modern attitudes.

Our results suggest that sex isn’t as important to couples as society would have us believe — and that in our supposedly porn-obsessed age, old-fashioned principles of respect and empathy persist above all.

More than ever we are bombarded with the message that a fulfilling sex life is vital to contentment — that your libido can, and should, retain its potency right up to old age and beyond. 

Dina says that when they stopped having sex, it encouraged her and her husband to look for deeper meaning in their relationship 

But our survey results beg to differ, with people not only expecting a dropping off of desire — but not viewing this as a disaster worthy of divorce.

Karen Jones, for one, agrees. The mother of two from Nottingham runs a gardening business with her husband and, although they still enjoy each other’s company, lust is long gone. 

But as far as she’s concerned, after three decades of marriage, that’s nothing to worry about.

‘We share a sense of humour, and we both love hiking. You don’t have to feel the urge to rip someone’s clothes off to be able to enjoy sharing your life with them,’ Karen explains.

‘I used to find him incredibly attractive; more so than any other man I’ve been in a relationship with. Having kids, the stresses of juggling raising them and holding down our careers didn’t get in the way of that.’

But, ten years ago, things changed. ‘It’s happened as he’s aged. His hair is grey and thinning, his face has become quite gaunt and he’s lost muscle and gained weight.

‘The sexual spark he used to be able to ignite in me so very easily has gone.

‘Men his age never appealed to me when I was younger, and even though I’m in my 50s now, they still don’t.’

This might sound hurtful — but Karen says she’s sure the feeling is mutual.

‘I don’t think he finds me sexually alluring now either. He certainly doesn’t compliment me the way he used to. I can’t remember the last time he noticed my appearance. 

‘But then, I don’t have a yoga body, and I haven’t particularly held onto my looks as I’ve aged.’

 In common with 67 per cent of married people we spoke to in her age bracket, Samantha Bochenek, 27, says she wouldn’t end her marriage if she stops finding her husband attractive

Yet Karen’s lack of attraction for her husband doesn’t mean sex has dried up altogether, thanks to her somewhat controversial solution: imagining she’s with somebody else.

She insists it does not constitute ‘any sort of betrayal’ because she doesn’t ‘imagine men who actually exist’ but ‘invents fantasy partners’.

And she insists she’s happy if her husband does the same: ‘He probably turns me into his own fantasy woman in his head when we’re having sex, which is fine by me.’

Despite her acceptance of the situation, Karen has never opened up to her husband about this. Some things, she insists, are better left unspoken.

‘This works for me, and it means we still have an enjoyable sex life. I’ve no desire to be unfaithful, and I hope he hasn’t either. Sexual attraction has been replaced with deeply felt love and affection — for me, that’s more than enough.’

As for why they don’t just stop having sex altogether, Karen says her libido may have waned but hasn’t disappeared entirely.

‘We have sex a couple of times a month and I enjoy it. I wouldn’t consider giving it up; that would hurt our relationship in a way that’s just not necessary.’

Some may be startled by Karen’s candour but relationship expert and behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings says falling out of lust with your partner is to be expected. 

Though, admittedly, she doesn’t think it should be swept under the carpet.

‘Desire tends to ebb and flow through a long marriage,’ she says. ‘As much as you like to think you’ll always want to rip your spouse’s clothes off the way you did at the start of your relationship, it rarely stays that way. And that’s completely normal.’

So, she argues, it’s right that spouses shouldn’t walk away at this point. But, as for fantasising you’re with someone else, Jo believes this is merely ‘a temporary fix’. 

Despite greying hair and burgeoning waistlines, it is possible to rekindle attraction.

Dina would would never have considered divorcing her husband because of the sexual situation

‘It can help to stop having sex altogether for a while, and focus more on shared intimacy — so cuddling and snuggling up together without it leading to sex, sharing new experiences and generally focusing on being loving towards each other.

‘Intimacy and sexual attraction are deeply bound; put the work in on the former and the latter might well come back, which is surely better than pretending you’re in bed with someone else.’

And while she welcomes the fact that younger couples are seemingly realistic about the fact that desire can have a shelf life, she urges them to ‘work at maintaining intimacy, which will help keep the sexual side to their relationship alive’.

Samantha Bochenek, a 27-year-old speech and language therapist from Edinburgh, is in the first flush of marriage, having tied the knot last summer. She and her 30-year-old husband have a four-month-old daughter. 

In common with 67 per cent of married people we spoke to in her age bracket, Samantha says she wouldn’t end her marriage if she stops finding her husband attractive.

‘My husband goes to the gym and has broad shoulders and a muscular body, which I find very attractive,’ she says. 

‘It’s great that we have that physical attraction right now, but as we support one another through life’s inevitable difficulties, I’m sure sex becomes a much smaller part of who you are together. 

‘Practically thinking, if I suddenly wasn’t attracted to my partner on a sexual level, why would I go looking elsewhere for that? Someone else might not have the same morals and values that my husband has. And, eventually, I expect I’d stop finding them as sexually attractive, too.

‘That said, I would actually be really hurt if I thought my husband had stopped fancying me — it would make me feel insecure. I’d hope he wouldn’t let me know! I’d rather he just keep up the pretence.’

Willing to accept a sexless marriage, she adds: ‘The only reason I’d divorce my husband would be if he were unfaithful to me. That, for me, would be the ultimate betrayal.’

Dr Catherine Hood specialises in psychosexual medicine, working with NHS clients in London and in private practice in Berkshire. She says that what changes in a long relationship is the shift from spontaneous to reactive arousal.

‘At the start there’s a huge amount of spontaneous desire,’ she explains. ‘It really doesn’t take much to get you both fired up; if you’re lucky that lasts for a couple of years.’ 

Then, she says, life tends to get in the way. Spontaneous arousal at the mere sight of your partner begins to happen less often. But that doesn’t mean you’ve stopped fancying them.

Samantha says the only reason that she would divorce her husband would be if he were unfaithful to her

‘You just have other stuff you need to get on with,’ she says. ‘If you’re trying to remember what day which bin goes out, or worrying about a report that’s due in front of your boss tomorrow, your partner giving you a certain look isn’t going to have you falling into bed the way it once might have done.’

The flashpoint for a marriage is when spontaneous desire reduces for one partner before the other. This can be misinterpreted as you not fancying them any more.

‘But that’s often not the case,’ reassures Dr Hood. ‘It’s usually much more that they’ve begun to need the situation to be conducive to sex — no distractions so they can switch off from all the other stuff and enjoy making love.

‘We call that a reactive drive for sex, which is more about taking advantage of windows of opportunity for sex.

‘It’s why couples with children often reignite their sex lives when they go away for a weekend and can enjoy being lovers instead of parents for a couple of days. 

‘Often, at this stage in a relationship, it’s not until you actually start engaging in sex that you suddenly think, “Oh this is nice, yes I do want this.”

‘But if you ask that same person whether, in the cold light of day, they fancy their partner, they’ll probably say, “Not as much as I used to”.’


• Almost one in three people think marriage is no longer relevant.

• A fulfilling sex life is the most important ingredient in a successful marriage for just 6 per cent of our respondents.

• 55 per cent of people believe respect is the most important quality in a successful marriage.

• Of those who have never been married, 44 per cent say marriage isn’t for them.

• 12 per cent of respondents see nothing wrong with someone having an extra-marital affair — as long as their spouse doesn’t find out.

• One in five people have had more than ten sexual partners.

Questionnaire carried out by Survation, who reviewed a sample of 1,012 adults across the UK over the age of 18


• I would end my marriage if I no longer desired my partner sexually……………. 8%

• I wouldn’t end my marriage if I no longer desired my partner sexually…………….78%

• I don’t know……………….14%

Answered by 452 married participants

In some instances, however, she says sex can be redefined as ‘a kiss, a cuddle and an affectionate caress’, rather than full intercourse, where both parties are happy with this.

This is what happened in author Dina Marais’ marriage. Now 63, Dina enjoyed a happy and loving 40-year marriage with her husband before he died suddenly in February. But, for the last 13 years, their relationship was completely celibate.

‘We had sex several times a week during our 20s and 30s, and were still very active into our 40s,’ says Dina. ‘I found my husband very attractive and sexy. He was 5ft 11in, well-built with beautiful eyes, a stunning smile.

‘But when I turned 50, I lost my desire for him, even though he insisted nothing had changed as far as he was concerned.

‘Menopause may well have played a part in that. We talked openly about it at the time, and mutually agreed to respect my wish to stop.

‘I felt glad we were able to do that. It felt like a mature and even wise way of looking at things, and it also encouraged us to look for deeper meaning in our relationship.’

Like Dr Hood says, they still took joy from non-penetrative intimacy: ‘We maintained intimacy by cuddling up and watching movies together.

‘We always held hands when we were out in public, and we loved walking along the beach near where we live.

‘I would never have considered divorcing him because of the sexual situation.’

Neither did they retire to separate bedrooms. ‘When you stop fancying your husband it’s nothing to feel guilty about,’ she says. ‘To me, it’s the next and natural progression in love.

‘And it’s heartening to read that 78 per cent of married people seem to agree, After all, there’s much more to emotional intimacy than sexual attraction. Compassion and kindness is so much more valuable.’

  • Some names have been changed
  • Additional reporting: Samantha Brick

Source: Read Full Article