"In trouble with the old lady" is the only way Bruce Willis knows to be married. In fact it has been argued, most notably by us right now, that Bruce Willis is the only person who could have played the child psychiatrist in The Sixth Sense. In the first scene, the character's happily married and getting ready to bone his wife when he's shot. If it had been anyone else, we would have immediately wondered why his wife was refusing to look at him or even answer his questions in every scene after that. With Bruce Willis, we just clucked our tongues and thought, "Just like Holly. I wonder what he did this time."
Usually appears in fiction (and real life
) in the form of furiously whispered rumors. "I hear Alice and Bob
don't even sleep in the same bed anymore." Mostly used to indicate a marriage that has hit the rocks for whatever reason - sometimes a particularly bad betrayal of a spouse, sometimes serial small betrayals, sometimes simply a marriage where the love has died over the years
There are a few times where this trope can be in play for other reasons. Sometimes there are uncomfortable sleep issues involved (snoring, etc.) and one side will be banished from the bed
. The trope will also occur with either a Citizenship Marriage
or someone who has Settled for Gay
, although in those cases this may be the default state of the marriage. In neither case does this trope suggest the romantic problems that it will under the more stereotypical circumstances. In one case because the romance is fine - it's just the sleeping patterns that are bad, and in the other because there wasn't supposed to be any romance to begin with. Another possibility is that one or both of the couple are having medical or other problems that interfere with having a sex life. In even rarer cases, the married couple may be asexuals
who don't find the sexless nature of their marriage an issue in the first place.
Note that characters who are implied to have sex and simply aren't shown sleeping in the same bed for propriety reasons
are covered under Sleeping Single
, although nowadays, the default assumption tends to be that a couple that doesn't sleep in the same bed falls under this trope, unless sex between the two is explicitly mentioned on camera. However, for this wiki's purposes, the reverse holds - unless it's explicitly mentioned that it's a Sexless Marriage, it goes under Sleeping Single
. If it's subverted, then there still needs to be an explicit mention somewhere in the work itself that the couple is thought to be in a Sexless Marriage.
If sex is not included in a marital relationship in order to demonstrate the purity of the love the couple has
, or due to some other restriction such as a Self-Imposed Challenge
, it should go under Chastity Couple
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- A surprising lot of anime and manga are indirect examples. Some may argue that's because this trope is often Truth in Television in Japan due to keeping public decency note .
- At the end of Turn A Gundam this is how Loran and Dianna end up.
- Lucy and Stephen Steel of Steel Ball Run. Given their respective ages and the circumstances behind their marriage, this is played less as a demonstration of a lack of romance between them, and more as an incredibly strong Intergenerational Friendship.
- In Vampire Game Ashley admits to never having slept with Leene, presumably because of her love for Yuujel. This has clearly changed by the epilogue, as they have a kid.
- A tragic case for Lady Ramia, whose husband refused to have anything to do with her due to their relationship. As a result, all three of their sons are adopted. And Seileiz, the eldest, is The Unfavorite for being the king's bastard son - seeing living evidence that her husband was perfectly willing to sleep with OTHER woman has pissed Ramia off for decades.
- As of 2002 in Baccano!, Firo and Ennis take Twice Shy beyond humanly possible levels: they have lived under the same roof for seventy two years, have been married for about twenty of those, and still haven't gotten as far as second base.
- In Fate/Zero, the marriage Saber (aka Arturia Pendragon) had with Guinevere was devoid of sex due to the fact that Saber had to conceal her gender in order to be King. It was because of this that Guinevere started looking for love in other places - Lancelot, for example. Saber was actually alright with Guinevere's affair because she wanted her to be happy, but was forced to act when it became public to preserve her image and authority. In the end, all three suffered as a result.
- Mika and Takeshi Yabuki from Futari Ecchi haven't had sex in over a year. Turns out to be a medical problem on Takeshi's part.
- This is the reason Kusuhara's wife hires the eponymous girls of DNA Hunter: they married strictly for business purposes, and she wants a child as security to avoid being abandoned.
- Ikuko Tsukino and her husband Kenji Tsukino in Sailor Moon. They have separate beds.
- In the French comic Blacksad, the second arc features the chief of police who's part of a white(-furred) supremacist group, about whom rumors of pedophilia abound, because of further rumors that he and his wife have never slept together. The former are false, but the latter are most definitely true: It's because she knows, but he doesn't, that he's actually her father; their marriage was part of an elaborate plan by the daughter to get revenge on him for the way he treated her black mother after he started buying into white supremacist rhetoric. In this case the romantic implications are brought up, but that was kind of the idea to begin with.
- In Finally Harry suffered through five years of sexless marriage before asking for a divorce because Ginny was terrified of physical intimacy.
- In If Thems The Rules Melania and Arcturus Black only slept with each other twice in their marriage but only to conceive and the second time happened because their first child was a girl.
- In Dauntless Lelouch is forced into a political marriage by the Emperor but refuses to consummate the relationship. He's eventually coaxed into having sex as the price of getting her political support.
- Bruce and Grace's marriage in The Dark Knight fanfic Question of Honor starts out like this. Which makes sense because Bruce married her to get her out of her war torn homeland and they plan on getting an annulment in a few years so Grace can stay in the States.
- Archie and his wife in A Fish Called Wanda
- Mean Girls: One of the secrets that Gretchen lets slip about Regina is "her parents totally don't sleep in the same bed anymore".
- In the movie Pleasantville, it was revealed before the main characters arrived in town, sex was a concept no one could understand. When the mother was told teenagers were having sex, she had to be given a talk from her teenage daughter about what it was.
- The lead couple in Eating Raoul lead a life without sex, before their mercenary involvement in the orgy scene. They seem happy, though, and if the man were into sex he seems like he'd go a different way.
- In City Slickers Phil had an affair with one of his employees because he and his wife hadn't had sex for twelve years.
- Malcolm and Anna throughout The Sixth Sense (if you've seen it, you know why.) They do seem willing and able in the first scene, but then Malcolm's vengeful former patient breaks in.
- Dr. Menville in Death Becomes Her is, ahem, physically unable to sleep with his wife.
- John McClane is separated from his wife, and thus not sleeping with her, in Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance.
- David and Audrey in Unbreakable, even sleeping in separate beds.
- Wonder if Bruce Willis is trying to tell us something?
- The protagonist in Extract has a great deal of sexual frustration due to this trope. In one scene he laments that if he doesn't make it home by 8, his wife will put her sweatpants on and his chances of getting sex that night become zero.
- Lester and Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty, hence Lester's morning habit (and Carolyn's afternoon habit). They do attempt to get it on once, but Carolyn's desire to keep the sofa clean puts the kibosh on that.
- In the 1981 comedy The Incredible Shrinking Woman, as the tiny housewife struggles onto the bed next to her full-sized husband, she pauses to look at the book he's been reading: Marriage Without Sex.
- Lloyd and Caroline from The Ref have had a sexless marriage for years, apparently.
- In A Brother's Price a man marries all the sisters of a family, but as the younger wives may not yet be interested in men, they can have a sexless marriage with him until they come of age. Or forever, considering that some wives may still be toddlers when the wedding takes place. With between ten and thirty women sharing one husband, it is presumably no problem if one or two sisters want to be celibate.
- Emperor Paul Muad'Dib and Princess Irulan in Dune, while Paul's "real" wife, Chani, is a Hot Consort who is his wife in everything but name. Of course, Paul and Irulan were never in love in the first place (at least on Paul's side) and they both knew that the marriage was purely political, not to mention that Paul knew that sleeping with her would just play into the Bene Gesserit's plans. Despite mostly ignoring her he does seem to at least somewhat care for her, and in Dune Messiah spares her when the details of the conspiracy she was involved in, in particular Chani's infertility due to Irulan feeding her contraceptives and later Death by Childbirth, come out into the open, and he has to talk Chani out of having Irulan killed with the rest of the conspirators. It seems that at the very least he values her as an adviser, and after he exiles himself Irulan refers to him with some affection and helps raise his children.
- In Wizard and Glass from The Dark Tower series, mayor Thorin and his wife Olive stopped sleeping together a long time ago, as he began pursuing younger women.
- In Carrie, Carrie's Christian fundamentalist parents wanted to have a marriage like this, because they believed that Sex Is Evil. Her father once couldn't resist the temptation, and raped her mother; that's how she was conceived.
- In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Esmeralda marries Pierre Gringoire only to save his life, and doesn't let him touch her. He accepts that pretty easily.
- In Tobacco Road, Lov's wife Pearl refuses to sleep with him, and doesn't even let him touch her.
- In The Mercy Room, the protagonist is in a completely sexless unromantic marriage. It's not that they don't like their spouse, it's just the protagonist simply never felt anything for them. Eventually the spouse commits suicide and the protagonist goes on rather unaffected.
- Karl Oskar and Kristina in The Last Letter Home after it becomes clear that Kristina won't survive another pregnancy. It doesn't last for long however.
- Implied to be the case in Laura's Arranged Marriage in The Woman in White — her Gold Digger of a husband assures his friend there's no chance of his wife limiting his access to her money by producing heirs.
- Scarlett in Gone with the Wind decides that she doesn't want any more children, and tells Rhett that their marriage should become this. It does...mostly. Melanie has a delivery go very badly, and is warned not to have more children; consequently, she and her husband sleep apart. We discover — tragically — that Melanie and Ashley weren't entirely sexless either.
- In Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War series, the Duke of Bedford arranges one of these with the much younger Jacquetta of Luxembourg because he believes a young virgin girl can help him with his alchemical experiments. There's no Real Life evidence to suggest this, although their marriage was short and childless (and it certainly wasn't due to infertility on Jacquetta's part, as her second marriage produced fourteen children).
- Jacky and Higgins in The Wake Of The Lorelei Lee - which is to be expected, since Higgins is gay and Jacky is promised to another.
- In Death series: Imitation In Death reveals that Pamela and Niles have this sort of marriage. They pretty much hate each other's guts. Here's the kicker... Pamela is an Ice Queen with a total Lack of Empathy who knows that her husband is the psychopath and a Serial Killer, as well as knowing that he rapes the nanny, using his wife's frigidness as an excuse. Pamela does not care, because at least it doesn't affect her own little world. To add to the heinousness of the situation, they have a kid, and while the kid hasn't been harmed, Pamela didn't even think about kid's safety and well-being once!
- In Tales of Kolmar, Lanen's cousin offers one of these to her after her father dies; he's the one with the passion to run the horse farm, she's the one who inherited. Lanen is offended by this and hits him, then decides to turn the farm over to him, keep a share of the profits, and go adventuring.
- In A.S. Byatt's Possession, the wife of Randolph Ash is terrified of sex and can't bring herself to sleep with her husband. Later when she agrees to try he's careful, but she has vaginismus (a painful cramping of interior muscles, often stress-related). He's actually pretty accepting of it, and though he later has an affair with the poetess Christabel La Motte (which makes up the crux of the book) he never considers leaving his wife, and ultimately tells her that they had a sucessful marriage since never once in all those years did they have an argument.
- This is the premise of Julia Valerian’s relationship with her third husband in A Voice in the Wind—he is gay and has a live-in catamite, and she is using the marriage as a cover to carry on an affair with a gladiator. It is superficially beneficial to them both (although it backfires on Julia; her lover isn’t exactly thrilled to hear that she’s gotten married), but they hardly interact with one another at all.
- One of the leading couples in Larry Niven's novel The Legacy of Heorot becomes this after the husband is rendered paraplegic in a fight with an alien monster. He ends up giving her permission to seek "outside assistance" when it came to her physical needs, as long as she didn't sleep with the book's main character. She keeps the promise until the climax of the book: a massive battle against thousands of the monsters during which the paralyzed character dies in a Heroic Sacrifice. In the sequel, Beowulf's Children, which takes place nearly twenty years later, its revealed that she went ahead and married the hero in between books.
- Such marriages are common in the alternate world in Gene Wolfe's There Are Doors. Due to that world's biology, men die if they reproduce, so asexual or celibate men are married to help raise children.
- This is a possibility in the marriage between Sasha and Joe in The Tenets of Futilism. They do sleep separately at the beginning of their marriage, but that's understandable given they were more or less forced to get married. It's not explicitly said whether or not their relationship becomes physical after they fall in 'love', but its hinted that it might not have. They're not prudes in the traditional sense. However, said hints combined with their romantic awkwardness and Sasha's resentment for men wanting her only for sex makes this trope rather likely.
- In The Giver, every marriage is this, since sexual desires are suppressed by pills.
Live Action TV
- In Frasier, Niles and Maris don't even sleep in the same room.
- In Kaamelott, Arthur hasn't touched Gueneviere since their wedding, which hasn't stopped him from sleeping with just about every other woman in the castle or his in-laws from repeatedly slipping them fertility potions.
- Monk is a highly germophobic man, and it was implied that he didn't have sex with his wife, though they loved each other.
- Note that later in the series he regrets never having children with her.
- Also later in the series, when Monk is reunited with an old crush, he tells her that he was married and that they "went all the way." So it's probably a safe bet that they did it at least once.
- Ned and Chuck's relationship in Pushing Daisies. For special reasons...
- Most likely, Basil and Sybil in Fawlty Towers. They sleep in separate beds, and once, when he kisses her on the cheek (to throw her off), she tells him not to. In "The Psychiatrist", Basil claims that they "go for a walk" together two or three times per week, but he's probably lying.
- Trey and Charlotte from Sex and the City. Early in their marriage, it becomes apparent that Trey struggles with impotency, and they sleep in the same bed but don't do anything with it. Over time, their situation becomes more strained, particularly as the struggle shifts from Trey's impotency to Charlotte's infertility, and in the weeks before their separation, Trey moves to the guest room.
- Jack's Citizenship Marriage to Rosario in Will and Grace.
- Also, Grace's mother tried to push Will and Grace themselves into this. When both of them try to explain why this won't work, she simply says that sex in a marriage will disappear anyway and, apart from that, they were perfect for each other.
- Tobias and Lindsay in Arrested Development. Tobias is heavily implied to be in the closet or in serious denial.
- Lindsay's nephew George Michael has a crush on their daughter Maeby, and is tantalized by the possibility that she may be adopted. He and Maeby accidentally got married, but never became an official couple.
- Heavily implied between Salvatore Romano and his wife in Mad Men. In fact it appears that the two of them barely even speak.
- Klinger and his first wife, Leverne, from Mash. Klinger marries his Toledo sweetheart while in Korea, and the divorce happened before Klinger has a chance to return.
- Londo Mollari, the Centauri Ambassador to Babylon 5, has three loveless marriages. He purposefully left all three of them back on Homeworld when he went to Babylon 5, and no matter how bad things seem at the station the thought that the three are back home waiting for him makes him firmly want to stay there.
- This is normal for the Centauri aristocracy. All marriages are arranged for political reasons. Love is not a factor. Divorce is not allowed, except under special circumstances. One episode deals with Londo being granted favor by The Emperor and asks to divorce his wives. The Emperor allows him to divorce only two of them in order to ensure that Londo's line continues. Cue two of his wives trying desperately to please him (including a night that averts this trope), while his oldest wife doesn't change her attitude of disgust towards him. Of course, being Londo, he ends up picking her because he knows exactly where they stand.
- In How I Met Your Mother, this happened to Robin's boyfriend Don and his ex-wife, and they eventually got separate twin beds. He then found out she was cheating on him with her personal trainer. Lily and Marshall decided to get twin beds for themselves because they found it to be more comfortable, though they were still sleeping together (euphemistically), and went back to sleeping together (literally) at the end of the episode.
- Horace and Hilda Rumpole in Rumpole of the Bailey had sex once on their honeymoon, which produced their son. They still share a bed, but that's it.
- In The Good Wife, Alicia and Peter's marriage went through a number of rough patches, especially after it was publicly revealed that he had sexual relations with several women on his staff. After he is released from prison, they reconcile, but then Alicia finds out that one of those women was her new best friend Kalinda. She immediately buys him an apartment and forces him to move out. She even has a brief sexual relationship with her boss Will. They then get back together until Will is shot and killed by a client, causing Alicia to suddenly lash out at Peter that she has never forgiven him about his earlier indiscretions. They resolve to stay married for their careers and show up for each other's official functions, but that's it. Their son even calls them Bill and Hillary.
- In the Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Inspector Robinson reveals half-way through the first season to be in one such marriage. They eventually divorce.
- In A Little Night Music, Fredrik and Anne's marriage lasts for eleven months without being consummated, though they both consider attempting it.
- In The Little Foxes, Regina has not let her husband sleep with her since ten years before the events of the play. She claimed that there was something medically wrong with her, and hated him for believing her lie.
- Stewie and his "wife" Olivia in Family Guy.
Stewie: No, no, it's... it's nothing, just had Play-Doh spaghetti last night (pauses) (under breath, looking away) and that's all we had last night.
Olivia: What does that mean?
Stewie: Oh, I don't know, Olivia, uh... maybe that we are in a sexless marriage, we have yet to have sex...
Olivia: Do you even know what sex is?
- In the episode "The Perfect Castaway", when Peter disappears at sea and declared dead, Lois and Brian get married but don't have sex (though he would really like to).
- In an episode of The Simpsons when Milhouse's parents Kirk and Luann were still married, after purchasing some of Grandpa's tonic, Kirk remarks: "Tonight, we'll push the twin beds together." This may have been foreshadowing of the upcoming divorce storyline.
- After Apu cheated on Manjula, they still slept in the same bed, but with considerable distance between them.
- A Christmas Episode had Abe Simpson meet his brother Cyrus in Tahiti. When Grandpa makes a comment on his brother having lots of sex due to now having multiple wives, Cyrus angrily replies "They're wives, not girlfriends!"
- Double D's parents in Ed, Edd n Eddy, based on the single beds in their bedroom and Double D's statement that "displays of affection arent allowed in his parents bedroom". If theyre anything like their son, its related to germophobia.
- Moral Orel's parents are this. They even sleep with a wall between them.
- In the South Park episode "The Ring", Kenny's new girlfriend has him wearing a purity ring as a promise that they won't have sex until they're married. When Butters learns about this, he remarks:
Butters: A ring that says you'll be together but not have sex...isn't that a wedding ring?"
- Dexter's parents in Dexter's Laboratory are heavily implied to have this kind of romance. One episode has Dee Dee disguised as her mom and when her dad gets romantic with her she gets understandbly grossed out. Her dad simply shuffles away and grumbles "What else is new?". Another episode has Dad mistaking Mandark for his wife and asking her to go to bed, but when Mandark declines he says shen"always says the same things" It's unknown if it's related to Mom's mysophobia but they're a fairly affectionate couple.. That explains the cheating joke and "special bathroom privacy time" line.