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Sexless Marriage

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How are we to think about those situations when the marital bed might as well have a NO ENTRY sign on the headboard? I don’t mean a general decline in frequency to once a week or even once a month. Some degree of waning desire is natural over the course of a relationship, and differences in libido are to be expected and managed. I’m talking about partners who have steadfastly been unresponsive to the sexual advances of their mates for years or even decades, even while they remain affectionate and close. Nobody wants to return to domestic rape or duty sex, but we also need to acknowledge that when one partner unilaterally decides there will be no (or very little) sex, that is not monogamy—it’s enforced celibacy.
Esther Perel, The State of Affairs

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. For that matter, people with an Asexual orientation can still experience romantic attraction and have perfectly healthy relationships where sex simply isn’t an interest.

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.

Compare Lysistrata Gambit where one (usually female) partner withholds sex until the other (usually male) does what she told him to do.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • The royal marriage of the Kingdom of Midland in Berserk is shown to be this. The King's first wife died young, and he has not been able to get over it and consummate his marriage with the new Queen of Midland. This makes the Queen cheat behind his back with his younger brother, Julius. This comes up as a minor plot point when Griffith assassinates Julius, and a major plot point later on when the King himself is turned out to be a paedophile lusting after his own daughter, because she's near-identical to her mother.
  • 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.
  • In Fate/Zero, the marriage Saber (a.k.a. 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, which makes Mika feel sexually frustrated and insecure about whether her husband still likes her. Fortunately it turns out that Takeshi just had erectile dysfunction caused by stress at work, which is remedied as soon as he admits the problem to Mika and is advised to take Viagra. They rekindle their sex life, and soon after that they conceive a child.
  • Lucy and Stephen Steel of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure - 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.
  • The plot of My Wife is a High School Girl involves Asami Onohara, a seventeen-year-old high-school student who is married to Kyosuke Ichimaru, her physics teacher in the same high school she attends. However, even though they are officially a married couple, Asami's father forbids them to have any sexual contact until after Asami has graduated.
  • SPY×FAMILY focuses on a Marriage of Convenience between Loid/Twilight and Yor, who are on good terms and take being parents to Anya seriously, but don't see their relationship as sexual and sleep in different beds. Some romantic feelings do begin to develop between the two, but they're not remotely close to having sex—Loid would be fine with it just to advance his personal goals, but Yor is near catatonic when they just have to kiss to make their marriage seem legitimate.
  • 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.

  • A long-married couple visit the state fair. They pass the bulls' enclosure where the bulls' physical stats are displayed, including how many heifers they impregnated. The wife keeps making waspish comments about how often the bulls have sex unlike some men she could name, until the exasperated husband asks if she thinks it was with the same cow every time.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 rumors are false, but the latter ones 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. The wife is also having sex with her husband's right-hand man, less out of attraction and to ensure he'll do as she says, but this also backfires when he murders a woman (unbeknownst to him, the wife's sister).
  • In Alan Moore's Lost Girls, Wendy Darling is married to the older Harold Potter. Their relationship is platonic, due to them being sexually incompatible.

  • 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.
  • In Dauntless (Allora Gale) 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.
  • In Finally Harry suffered through five years of sexless marriage before asking for a divorce because Ginny was terrified of physical intimacy.
  • In If Them's 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 Harry Potter and the Champion's Champion, it's a good thing for the continuation of the Malfoy line that Lucius and Narcissa conceived Draco on their wedding night, because she hasn't let him touch her since, promising that she'll remove the relevant parts and shove them into a nearby orifice. Since she keeps both her wand and a very sharp knife in her nightstand drawer, he takes the threat seriously.

  • Lester and Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty, hence Lester's morning habit of jacking off in the shower (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 Are You Being Served? (released in July 1977), Mr. Grainger claims he hasn't had sex with his wife in 23 years:
    Mr. Grainger: I had to pick up my... passport. I've never been abroad before, you know, and... for some reason, they held it up.
    Captain Peacock: Whatever for?
    Mr. Grainger: Well, my wife filled in the application for me, and where it said "Sex", she put "August 3rd, 1953". She's got a memory like an elephant. (Beat) Come to think of it, she's got everything like an elephant.
  • Carrie (2013): Margaret indicates that she had this with Carrie's father (by her choice), until he snapped, raping her and conceiving Carrie.
  • In City Slickers Phil had an affair with one of his employees because he and his wife hadn't had sex for twelve years.
  • Dr. Menville in Death Becomes Her is, ahem, physically unable to sleep with his wife.
  • Face/Off: Eve's diary relates that she and Archer haven't had sex in months when the film begins, as he's always busy at work, each "date night" fizzling due to this. Castor, reading this, calls Archer a loser.
  • Fanny: When gorgeous young Fanny gets knocked up, wealthy merchant Panisse, at least 40 years her senior, agrees to marry her. Later he admits that he never asked Fanny to have sex with him.
    "I was very undemanding, so to speak."
  • Archie and his wife in A Fish Called Wanda
  • The titular character of Florence Foster Jenkins and her husband, St. Clair, adore each other but have a chaste marriage because she was infected with syphilis by her first husband. St. Clair maintains a discreet affair where his physical needs are met with the film implying that Florence knows what's going on.
  • Mean Girls: According to Gossip Queen Gretchen Weiners, at least part of reason for Regina George's bad attitude is that her parents are having marital problems to the point of sleeping in separate beds.
  • 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.
  • On Chesil Beach: Florence suggests this to her husband Edward, albeit it would be an open marriage in which Edward would be free to sleep with other women. Edward angrily rejects this as the only person he wants to have sex with is his wife.
  • On the Buses films:
    • On the Buses: Olive and Arthur only have it off once a year, a fact that deeply annoys Olive:
      Olive: Oh, Arthur, it's hardly worth me going to bed.
      Arthur: How right you are.
    • Holiday on the Buses:
      • The Briggs are in one, although Wally tries his hardest to change this:
        Wally: Yeah, but, er... while we're still awake, what about, er, you an' me, er-
        Lill: You must be demented. Get back to yer own bed. Saucy old bugger.
      • The Coombs are implied to be in one as well, sleeping in separate beds.
  • A Royal Affair: After giving birth to their son and heir, Caroline stops trying to encourage Christian to share her bed and they don't sleep together for years; she finds sex with him repulsive and he carries on affairs with prostitutes anyway, though the situation is still humiliating for Caroline. This becomes a problem when Caroline finds out she's pregnant with Struensee's child; everyone at court knows she and Christian aren't intimate, which risks her affair being exposed. She and Struensee have to persuade Christian to sleep with her so they can pass off the child as his, though some courtiers are still suspicious.
  • 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.
  • David and Audrey in Unbreakable, even sleeping in separate beds. Wonder if M. Night Shyamalan is trying to tell us something?
  • John McClane is separated from his wife, and thus not sleeping with her, in Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance. For that matter, perhaps 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 before 8, his wife will put on her sweatpants, which will not come off for the rest of the night.
  • Since Eric only married June for her money in the film Fallen Angel, they don't spend their wedding night together.
  • 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.
  • Julia and Pete Thomas in Lust for Gold. When the audience first sees Pete, he is lying on Julia's bed. Julia angrily tells him off, saying the he knows he is not allowed in her bedroom. He attempts to insist on his conjugal rights, but is given the cold shoulder. The implication is that she has cut off sex ever since he lost all their money in a land scam, stranding them in Phoenix, which she regards as a backwater. The situation becomes worse when Julia banishes Pete from the house as part of her plan to seduce Walz.
  • In Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, the sketch "Every Sperm is Sacred" about a Catholic couple having a horde of children due to their religion discouraging the use of contraceptives is followed-up by to a short cut away to a Protestant couple, with the husband criticizing that behavior thusly:
    Harry Blackitt: Look at them, bloody Catholics, filling the bloody world up with bloody people they can't afford to bloody feed!
    Mrs. Blackitt: What are we dear?
    Harry Blackitt: Protestant, and fiercely proud of it!
    Mrs. Blackitt: Hmm. Well, why do they have so many children?
    Harry Blackitt: Because... every time they have sexual intercourse, they have to have a baby.
    Mrs. Blackitt: But it's the same with us, Harry.
    Harry Blackitt: What do you mean?
    Mrs. Blackitt: Well, I mean, we've got two children, and we've had sexual intercourse twice.
  • Bad Boys (1995):
    • At the start, one of our protagonists is griping about this.
      "Please man, I'm not getting my sex at home. Don't deny me this [burger]."
      "What are you talking about? You sleep with a beautiful woman every night!"
      "That's what being married means. You sleep together, but you can't get none."
    • A later scene shows that Marcus and his wife still desire each other, but between Marcus’ late nights and three young children, they can’t find the time.
  • The Man Who Wasn't There (2001): After the doctor congratulates Ed on his wife Doris being pregnant, Ed's nonchalant reply is that they haven't had sex for years, causing the man's awkward reply of "Well, it's none of my business."
  • 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. This is because Pleasantville is an amalgamation of old TV show concepts and tropes from a time when sex was a taboo subject, and so a mother having a child without ever having sex isn't the only thing very off about this place.
  • Lloyd and Caroline from The Ref have had a sexless marriage for years, apparently.
  • In The Story of Luke, Paul and Cindy are at each other's throats most of the time and haven't had sex in a year.
  • In Superdome, football player Dave Walecki hasn't had sex with his wife in ages, due to his drug addiction and the fact that he's Married to the Job. Whenever she tries to initiate, he isn't interested.
  • Terminator: Dark Fate: Carl, a Terminator who Grew Beyond Their Programming and assimilated into humanity, is married to a human woman. The heroes are mildly disturbed by the implications, prompting Carl to explain that their relationship is not physical in any way. In this case, it's not because of any problems in the marriage; they're a perfectly happy couple. They just physically can't have sex, given that Carl is a robot with no genitals or sex drive that weighs 400 pounds, while his wife had traumatic experiences with her previous husband that left her largely disinterested in sex. A purely emotional relationship suits them both.
  • Tristana: Young innocent Tristana lets Don Lope have sex with her, but when a more worldly Tristana marries Don Lope, she won't let him touch her.
  • The Twithamptons from Up the Front have one according to Lurk:
    Lord Twithampton: Well, if it does come to armed conflict, it's going to be terribly hard on me an' your mother, you know. Cooped up here, I hope we don't get on top of each other.
    Lurk: Don't worry. There's no fear of that.
  • Elena Undone: Elena tells Peyton she and her husband no longer have sex, after they failed to conceive another child.
  • Holly Slept Over: Pete complains repeatedly to Noel about his wife Marnie no longer having sex with him since they had kids. By the end, they're in marriage counseling, having started to be sexual together as well again.

  • Darrow/Dundee and Claire in The Anubis Gates. She's not at all happy that he apparently hasn't even tried to consummate their marriage. (He fully intended to have sex with her — siring an heir was a large part of what he married her for in the first place — but he has a physiological impediment. And he can't tell her that's the reason, because explaining the nature of the impediment would reveal too much about his past.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Change Room: Eliza complains how she and her husband now have sex rarely, going months without anything. When she and Andrew finally start to have sex in the book, it's soon interrupted by their sons (who she blames for this overall). Once they do manage later, she's already started an affair.
  • In the Codex Alera novel series, First Lord Gaius Sextus has one of these with his much younger wife Caria. They haven't so much as touched one another since their marriage was for political reasons. Later in the series, Maximus, shapeshifted into Gaius to cover up the real Gaius's failing health, is forced to think fast when Caria puts her 'husband' on the spot, and decides to kiss her passionately in lieu of saying anything that might blow his cover. This gives Caria the impression their marriage might not be so sexless after all — and nearly gives the real Gaius a heart attack when, after recovering, his wife decides to slip into his bath while he's still in it.
  • 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).
  • The Crowner John Mysteries: At the start of their Arranged Marriage, John and Matilda attempted to have children, but this only resulted in several miscarriages. Since then, they have not slept together (more-or-less by mutual agreement). John deals with his urges by having a string of mistresses scattered across the county, while Matilda concentrates on her ruthless social climbing.
  • In Dragon Bones The marriage between queen Tehedra and king Jakoven is this, mainly because he's more attracted to young men. He even appoints her lovers (all of whom he kills after a time, much to her distress, which is probably his intention).
  • Dune:
    • Emperor Paul Muad'Dib and Princess Irulan, 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.
    • There is also marriage between Leto II and his twin sister Ghanima. Said union is purely symbolic and since Leto II becomes sterile after his transformation, Ghanima has to take another man as her real mate to ensure the continuation of the Atreides line. Later in God-Emperor of Dune, Leto prepares to marry Hwi Noree out of mutual love, but it's obviously going to be sexless because, in addition to being sterile, Leto is now also a giant sandworm with a human face. They end up dying together on their planned wedding day anyway.
    • Count Fenring and his Bene Gesserit wife Margot are Happily Married, but because the Count is a failed Kwisatz Haderach, he's a gene-eunuch who is physically incapable of sex. It's why he's okay with Margot seducing Feyd-Rautha to preserve his genes before the final duel with Paul.
  • In The Giver, every marriage is this, since sexual desires are suppressed by pills.
  • Scarlett in Gone with the Wind decides that she doesn't want any more children (she also, bizarrely, wants to somehow stay faithful to Ashley, the man she's loved for years even though he's married to Melanie), 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 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 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!
  • Aragon alludes to this with the Duke of Richelieu in La Semaine Sainte. Probably Truth in Television, as the Duke and his wife barely lived together even when they were not at opposite ends of Europe, and both were famously uninterested in sex.
  • 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.
  • 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, it's revealed that she went ahead and married the hero in-between books.
  • In Married Thrice To Salted Fish, Lin Qingyu and Lu Wancheng's Arranged Marriage is this by necessity because Lu Wancheng is too sickly for his body to be able to withstand the vigors of sex and even if he had a healthier body, Lin Qingyu's feelings for him haven't progressed enough yet for him to be receptive to the idea of having sex with him. Lin Qingyu's following marriage to Lu Wancheng's reincarnation Gu Fuzhou also starts out sexless but then throws the "sexless" part out of the window after they finally confess their feelings to each other.
  • 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.
  • Naked Came the Stranger: Morton Earbrow and his wife Gloria live in a house that's in such bad shape that they spend virtually all their free time fixing it, leaving Gloria too tired for sex.
  • In Petals on the Wind, Paul reveals to Cathy that his wife Julia cut him off after they had their son, having always hated sex thanks to "a cousin who'd done something to her when she was four".
  • In Creator/Isabel Allende's Portrait in Sepia, Aurora's marriage to Diego Dominguez becomes this, confirmed when he furnishes their bedroom with twin beds. She can't figure out why, wondering if he finds her undesirable until she catches him and his brother's wife having a Roll in the Hay.
  • 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 (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 LaMotte (which makes up the crux of the book) he never considers leaving his wife, and ultimately tells her that they had a successful marriage since never once in all those years did they have an argument.
  • A number of the political marriages in A Song of Ice and Fire are this.
    • Robert Baratheon and Cersei Lannister hate each other's guts, and it's explicitly stated that the only consensual sex they had happened during their wedding night. Robert fathered a lot of bastards and none of his three "legitimate children" are his. By the time the series starts, the sole reason they still keep the pretense of a marriage is because it holds the Seven Kingdoms together.
    • Tyrek Lannister and Lady Ermesande, due to the fact that the latter is less than a year old.
    • Margaery Tyrell has so far married three different men and remains a virgin. Her first marriage is to Renly Baratheon, who is more interested in Margaery's brother Loras and she knows this well enough. Her second marriage is to Joffrey Baratheon, who dies at his own wedding. Her third marriage is to Tommen Baratheon, who is eight years old.
    • Myrcella Baratheon and Trystane Martell. She's nine and he's twelve. That said, they seem to love each other.
    • Like Margaery, Sansa is still a virgin in spite of having been married. She's unwilling to consummate the marriage and Tyrion Lannister won't exercise the Marital Rape License to force the issue. While age is sometimes cited (Sansa is thirteen), it should be noted that Daenerys Targaryen loses her virginity at age fourteen and no one makes a big deal about it.
    • Stannis Baratheon and Selyse Florent, while not quite as dysfunctional as Robert and Cersei, have a very blatantly cold and loveless marriage. It is noted by multiple characters that Stannis seems wholly uninterested in sharing Selyse's bed, and unlike his older brother it has nothing to do with him sleeping around, but simply that he finds the act of sex undesirable. He sleeps with Selyse often enough to fulfill his nobleman's duty to sire heirs, and nothing more.
  • Macon Dead II and his wife Ruth in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon are believed to have this kind of marriage after the births of their two daughters First Corinthians and Magdalene (called Lena), both of whom were suspected to be children of Parental Incest between Ruth and her father. After a long while of not having had any pleasure, Ruth sought out her husband's sister Pilate, who has her make up a love potion of sorts to give to Macon so that they could have sex. Soon afterward, Ruth conceives and is carrying her next child, which turns out to be her son Macon Dead III (or Milkman), but Macon II after finding out forces Ruth to abort the child. Pilate in turn threatens her brother with a Voodoo Doll, which makes him back off from ever threatening his wife in that fashion. From then on the marriage remained pretty much sexless, with Ruth settling for her husband to hit her just so she could feel something from him.
  • One of the Spenser books subverts this. Quirk mentions to Spenser that after their kids moved out, he and his wife now sleep in separate rooms. Subverted in that though people who know about it think the marriage is in trouble, it's strictly for comfort reasons, and the marriage is actually stronger, as they now sleep together when they want to, rather than because they have to. This was actually Truth in Television for author Robert B. Parker, who lived on a different floor of his home with his wife, and was quoted as saying "I never want to sleep with my wife again, but I hope to continue making love to her for the rest of my life."
  • Tales of Dunk and Egg: King Aerys is said to have no interest in his wife whatsoever. Admittedly, his wife is also his cousin, but he shows absolutely zero interest in having sex with anyone, which is not the best attitude to have when you're a king without issue (and he didn't seem terribly interested in kinging, either). Rumor abounded that he was more likely to sleep with a book than a human being.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Tobacco Road, Lov's wife Pearl refuses to sleep in the same bed with him, and often sleeps outdoors to avoid his presence; she even tries to avoid making eye contact with him. Her response to any and all of Lov's attempts to persuade her to be more friendly towards him is deliberate total silence.
  • In the Colleen McCullough novel The Touch, Elizabeth and Alexander settle for this. Ostensibly because it's too dangerous for her to conceive again—she suffered eclampsia in both pregnancies and nearly died in childbirth both times—but Elizabeth is relieved, as she doesn't love Alexander and hates sleeping with him anyway.
  • 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.
  • Wagons West: In Independence!, Cathy suffers from this, as the one time Otto tried to have sex with her was their wedding night, and he was unable to function.
  • 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 Where Are the Children?, Nancy indicates that after their youngest child Lisa was born, her first husband Carl largely stopped having sex with her. It’s strongly implied this is because he was more interested in Lisa.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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 the first series of Black Adder Edmund is married off to princess Leia of Hungary... who is ten years old at the time, and their marriage is purely one of political necessity. However, all's well that ends well; Edmund quickly becomes a big brother-surrogate to Leia and his apparently deep and genuine affection for her is one of his very few Pet the Dog-traits. The episode where she is introduced ends with Edmund sitting at Leia's bedside, telling her a bedtime story.
  • Black Mirror, "Beyond the Sea": In contrast to David and his wife, who are obviously loved up, Cliff and Lana have a more frigid marriage. Lana has been lonely ever since Cliff uprooted them to live in a rural farmhouse, and even though Cliff can spend time with her in his replica they are aloof with each other. She briefly entertains the seduction of David-in-Cliff's-body before collecting herself because it felt like her husband was back and actually wanted her.
  • In Bramwell, the title character's colleague admits that his wife stopped sleeping with him after the death of their infant son, thus explaining (a) how he never noticed the mass in her breast, and (b) why he regularly visits a brothel.
  • Skyler and Walter White as of the pilot of Breaking Bad, if the fact that she considers a half-hearted handjob that she can't even be bothered to look away from her laptop for to be a special birthday treat is any indication. This changes when Walt's exploits as Heisenberg have him rediscover his confidence (and sometimes want Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex), but later changes back when his deceptions cause a rift in their relationship.
  • Captain Mainwaring and his wife Elizabeth from Dad's Army seem to have one of these. Mainwaring learned to play the bagpipes during his honeymoon in Scotland because it rained solidly all week and there was nothing else to do.
  • In Devious Maids, Evelyn and Adrian share a bed but don't sleep together for over a decade, which is why Adrian resorts to "his disgusting little hobby".
  • In Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Myra indicates to Horace that she's willing to settle for this, "Lots of marriages are just...friendship marriages.", if he can't get over his anxiety about making love to her (he's a virgin, she's a former prostitute). He's so touched by her devotion that they end up finally consummating the marriage after all.
  • Discussed but then ultimately averted in an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond: Marie claims that she and Frank have gotten to a point in their marriage (both are in their sixties) where this trope simply comes about naturally, only having sex once or twice a year "on average". However, when Frank is interrogated on this, he claims that they are in fact still quite active and have sex multiple times a week. In the end Marie admits she was simply lying because she found the topic inappropriate, but now that it's out in the open she decides to own it, much to Ray's displeasure.
  • 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 have sex two or three times per week, but he's probably lying.
  • In Frasier, Niles and Maris don't even sleep in the same room.
  • A French Village: Hortense mentions to Daniel that they haven't been having sex for a while. He rebuffs her advance, and this seems to be the reason she cheats on him.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Cersei reveals to Sansa that she and Robert never had sexual intercourse after their first son had died.note  He mostly spent his nights with prostitutes while she preferred the company of her twin brother. In the extremely rare instance that he would drunkenly burst into her bedchamber demanding sex, she used non-vaginal means to get him off, and he'd wake up the next morning with no memory of what happened. This is why he never realized his three children with Cersei weren't biologically his, because he could never keep track of the few times per year they had sex.
    • Renly and Margaery also had a sexless marriage on the account that he was gay and preferred sleeping with her brother instead. Margaery was well aware of this and it's implied that she had a sidepiece as well
  • Emma and Carl on Glee, mostly because Emma's OCD has made her afraid of sex.
  • 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.note 
  • The Handmaid's Tale: While the Commanders aren't supposed to have sex with the Handmaids outside the Ceremony, it's unclear whether the same goes for their Wives. When Fred can't get an erection during one Ceremony, Serena Joy desperately offers to 'help him' via giving him a blowjob - which he rebuffs. Later they finally do have sex, after what has clearly been a very long time without.
  • 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.
  • In Kaamelott, Arthur hasn't touched Gueneviere since they met (that is, even during the wedding night), 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. It turns out that he does this out of faithfulness to the woman he truly loved and wanted to marry, though she did allow him to take mistresses. And while he's briefly married to one of his flings, Love Ruins the Realm to such a degree that he quickly backs down.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 M*A*S*H. Klinger marries his Toledo sweetheart while in Korea, and the divorce happened before Klinger has a chance to return.
  • In Married... with Children, although Al and Peggy's marriage is not entirely sexless, in a few episodes Peggy has stated that she and Al have often gone several months without sex.
  • In the Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Inspector Robinson reveals half-way through the first season to be in one such marriage, with the implication that he changed a great deal during the Great War and his wife wasn't happy about it. They eventually divorce.
  • When John and Jane start going to a couples therapist for their marriage problems in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2024), it's implied by John in one of the sessions that they haven't been sleeping together like they used to.
  • Referenced in the pilot of Ned & Stacey, when Ned explains his Marriage of Convenience offer. "I mean, it doesn't have to be a real marriage, just a marriage minus the love, sex, and intimacy, which, now that I think about it, is more real than the "real" kind."
  • Novoland: Eagle Flag: Asule and Yu Ran are friends who were forced to marry for political reasons, so their marriage is never consummated.
  • Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams: In "Human Is" Vera and Silas's marriage is implied to be one before his return. After this, he starts showing sexual interest in her, which greatly surprises Vera. After they have sex, she says he never before touched her that way, so apparently they hadn't even consummated it.
  • Ned and Chuck's relationship in Pushing Daisies. For special reasons…
  • 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.
  • Sex/Life: By the time of the series' start, Billie and Cooper's marriage has become largely this, to Billie's unhappiness. This is the reason she starts getting tempted by her ex-boyfriend Brad.
  • Stranger Things: A few remarks by Mike and Nancy imply that this has become the case between their parents Karen and Ted Wheeler. Ted seems to be permanently Exiled To The Armchair.
  • Strange Empire: Thomas and Rebecca have one, as it's just so he can remain her legal guardian. When she grows interested in sex, Thomas is too hampered with his injury for it. Even after he feels that his manhood is threatened and he gets protective about her as his wife, they still never have sex.
  • Implied in season seven of Supernatural, between Daphne and an amnesiac Castiel. The marriage appears to be one of convenience/necessity rather than romance, with Daphne as more of a caretaker than a lover — they likely married simply to stay together so she could look after him. A religious woman, she seems to view her husband as sacred due to his gifts, and while they show of measure of care for each other, there's little displayed in the way of physical affection. And in season nine, when Castiel has sex with April, it's treated as him losing his virginity, so it's more or less retroactively confirmed.
  • Played for Laughs with the Ropers on Three's Company (as well as their own Spin-Off, The Ropers), though they weren't entirely sexless—there were several instances where it was implied that Helen was able to guilt Stanley into sex (still played for laughs, of course), and on at least one occasion, Stanley was even in the mood for it and initiated it himself.
  • Trigonometry:
    • Gemma and Kieran are having trouble with their sex life starting out as his job as a paramedic puts him on night shifts, while he has to sleep during the day so they find it hard getting much time together for this. Then after he's injured, their difficulty (while he's at home recuperating) is then finding a position which won't hurt him. Later they manage to have sex in bed though, and it's solved finally after Kieran switches to day shifts.
    • It turns out Nick and Carolina have been going through this too, as he helps out so little with household chores she doesn't want to have sex with him.
  • Two and a Half Men has a sexless former marriage. Many jokes revolve around how Alan and Judith's bedroom was dead for the majority of their marriage. And things weren't much better when Judith married Herb.
  • Jack's Citizenship Marriage to Rosario in Will & 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.

  • Hinted at in Freda Payne's 1970 hit "Band of Gold":
    We kissed after taking vows
    But that night on our honeymoon
    We stayed in separate rooms

  • Conversational Troping in one episode of The News Quiz, when Alan Coren jokes about being in "a form of marriage" with Sandi Toksvig and Sandi comes back with "I've explained this, it'll be like any other marriage. We won't have sex, we'll just sit in bed and eat burgers."

  • Some really interesting cases of this trope can be found in Catholic Hagiology: Edward the Confessor had a sexless marriage based on mutual religious devotion with his queen Edith. She apparently had no problem with it but it led to a succession crisis that resulted in the Norman Conquest.
  • In The Bible this is implied to be the case with Abraham and Sarah after a long time of being unable to conceive children, when God's angels visit the couple in Genesis chapter 18 and tell them that Sarah was going to have Abraham's child, and Sarah laughs, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
  • Catholic belief is also that Mary and Joseph had a marriage like this, declaring that she was a perpetual virgin. Jesus' brothers mentioned in some verses are explained as being born to a prior wife of Joseph (thus his step-brothers). Some later Catholics who decided to follow this idea thus have what's called "Josephite marriages" (i.e. they get married but vow to not have sex). In this case, though, the marriage would have to be consummated at least once for validity under Catholic canon law (or else it could be annulled). So most such couples agree at some point to stop having sex, rather than simply never doing it to begin with. In fact, mutual agreement is required to have a Josephite marriage since, under Catholic doctrine, neither spouse can just require it of the other.

  • 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.
  • In A Little Night Music, Fredrik and Anne's marriage lasts for eleven months without being consummated, though they both consider attempting it.

    Video Games 
  • Eirik and Blodeuwedd from Dead In Vinland have been mostly this for many years, which is why they only have one child in a time period where that was uncommon. Depending on how you play, they may rectify this with an Optional Sexual Encounter explicitly stated to be their first since arriving on the island.
  • Hard to say just how long it lasts, but definitely longer than it should: In Disgaea 3, after Almaz and Sapphire get married, and part-way through the honeymoon, Almaz complains that he hasn't even had the opportunity to kiss his wife yet. Implied not to be because the couple is not in love, but probably because the husband is the universe's ultimate Butt-Monkey.
  • Female!Hawke could have something like this in Dragon Age II if she romances Sebastian, who took a vow of chastity before meeting her. After Carver mocks this aspect of his sister's marriage, Hawke jokingly replies;
    Hawke: Aww, would you feel better if I slept with him? Because I totally would. Right here.
    Carver: Sister please!
    Sebastian: Yes love… rein it in.
  • Implied in Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns with Alicia, the only bachelorette in the Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons series whom you can marry, but not have children with.

    Visual Novels 
  • Possible in Daughter for Dessert with Moe Mortelli and his wife, given his great interest in other women and the lack thereof in his wife.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Krauss and Natsuhi apparently do not share a bed and sleep in separate bedrooms.

    Web Comics 
  • Daily Grind: Howlett and Jo, Tharka and Gana, Constance and Alban. Mostly due to incompatibility issues - Tharka's sex drive was genetically converted into pure adrenaline for killing stuff.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 understandably 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 she "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 cheatings joke and "special bathroom privacy time" line.
  • 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 aren't allowed in his parents' bedroom". If they're anything like their son, it's related to germophobia.
  • 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?
    Stewie: That's not the point! Don't change the… it's a kind of cake?
    • 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).
  • Dale and Nancy's marriage was like this in King of the Hill, with the two sleeping in different rooms and only having sex on birthdays and Christmas because Dale felt that abstaining from sex would help him live longer. Nancy, however, was getting plenty of sex from John Redcorn. At least until a double date with Hank and Peggy reminds Nancy of why she fell for Dale in the first place.
  • Moral Orel's parents are this. They even sleep with a wall between them.
    • Clay's own parents were like this too-because he was his mother's first child after ten miscarriages, she lavished him with attention at the expense of her husband. This led to Clay having a strained relationship with this father, which only got worse after he accidentally caused his mother's death when he was 12.
  • 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!"
    • In "The Last Barfighter," Moe, privy to the community's darkest secrets due to belonging to a Mason-like circle of bartenders, comments that Reverend and Helen Lovejoy "haven't pushed the ol' twin beds together since before the election...of the senate."
  • 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?"