When married couples live like brother and sister. No sex for years and they insist they are happy. Are they deluded - or just honest? Read and tell us what you think...
Most evenings, with their little girl safely tucked up in bed, Charlotte and Chris Everiss (pictured right) enjoy a kiss and a cuddle on the sofa in front of the television.
Happily married for a decade, the couple cannot bear to even imagine their lives without one another. Yet, astonishingly, they haven’t made love for more than two years.
Both insist that their marriage, which followed a two-year courtship after meeting on a dating website, is stronger than most. It’s just that sex, they say, is not important to their happiness.
‘We still turn each other on but we don’t want to take it any further,’ says Charlotte. ‘We don’t have the time or the energy.
‘I find it hard switching off knowing that our four-year-old, Addison, is in the next bedroom. I think if Chris really missed sex he would tell me, or I’d catch him watching porn on the internet as a substitute.
‘But he doesn’t seem to want to go back to having sex, either.
‘We sound like Darby and Joan, I know - even though I’m only 34 and Chris is 40 - but that, to us, is contentment.'
Charlotte and Chris, it seems, aren’t the only ones whose sex life has dwindled to nothing. A recent survey estimated that 15 to 20 per cent of couples have sexless relationships - defined by experts as making love fewer than ten times a year - while around 5 per cent go without altogether.
Actress Helen Mirren spoke for many of these couples earlier this year when she said: ‘I think the power of partnership in marriage is under-recognised in our society. That’s what makes marriages work, not sex.’
In a sex-obsessed society, where everyone - young, old, male and female - seems to be boasting of how many times a week they ‘do it’, it may come as a relief to many that couples like Charlotte and Chris are happy to admit that sex plays no part in their marriages at all.
Most couples who find themselves at a point where sexual intimacy has died tend to confide their predicament to no one at all. But today three brave couples reveal to Femail how they have learned to live contented lives without sex.
You don’t need a degree in psychology to work out why Charlotte, a social media consultant from Great Wyrley, Staffordshire - who in the early years of her marriage made love to her husband three times a week - may have problems surrounding sex.
Three years ago, when their daughter was 18 months old, Charlotte almost died after an ectopic pregnancy resulted in her having a partial hysterectomy during a six-hour operation. Since then, she and Chris have made love only once, around ten months after her loss, an encounter from which she derived no pleasure.
Chris is understanding about her aversion to sex. ‘It can be hard knowing that our cuddles will never lead to anything more intimate,’ he says. ‘Charlotte is a gorgeous woman and I’m still very attracted to her, but she nearly died and I count my blessings every day that she’s even still here.’
‘I have an hour-long commute at either end of my working day so, to be honest, most of the time I’m too tired for sex anyway.’
Chris, a digital marketing manager, says he doesn’t discuss with friends the absence of sex from his marriage, but believes it is more common than people admit.
‘I don’t know that we’re all that different from other couples, we’re just more open about it,’ he says.
In all other respects, the Everisses have an enviable lifestyle. They live in a beautiful, four-bedroom detached home, have a Mini Cooper convertible and a VW Golf parked on the driveway, and enjoy several foreign holidays a year.
Tracey Dowler, 42, (pictured above with husband) spent several months worrying that husband Julian, 55, didn’t want to make love to her because he was attracted to other women. But she has now accepted that the stress of his demanding job as director of a motor mechanical and haulage company is the reason they no longer have sex.
And, while she admits there have been times when she has felt like walking out of their immaculate, three-bedroom semi-detached home in Rugby, Warwickshire, over the lack of intimacy, Tracey values other aspects of their marriage too highly.
‘We got married in 2007 after only knowing each other for six months, so it was pretty whirlwind,’ says Tracey, a wedding fair organiser. ‘When we were dating, we’d have sex up to three times a night, which was wonderful, but after the wedding we only made love once or twice a week. We started going months between encounters and now we haven’t made love for well over a year.’
Tracey still feels very attracted to her husband, and he says the same of her. The couple are loving in other ways, holding hands when they go out together, kissing one another goodnight before going to sleep and saying “I love you” at the end of telephone conversations.
But Julian has 40 employees under him and says his job has become far more demanding in the years since their wedding. He gets up at 4am to start work at 5am, puts in a 12-hour day and, as he is on 24-hour call, his phone often rings several times during the night with drivers needing advice.
Weekends are no more relaxing as Julian also runs a photography business, which he is hoping will take off enough for him to concentrate on it full time.
They are both keen to have a family together. They’ve had IVF and plan to have another round of it in August.
‘We talk about rekindling our love life but never seem to get around to it,’ says Julian. ‘We had a weekend away at a country hotel a couple of weeks ago and I was so exhausted I spent most of the time asleep.’
Julian regards Tracey as his best friend and soulmate - a fact common, it seems, to many couples enduring sexless marriages - and believes that once he retires they will be able to rekindle some semblance of romance.
Once a couple gets out of the habit of having sex, however, this can be easier said than done.
‘Couples who don’t make love start living like brother and sister or friends and get out of the habit of seeing one another in a sexual way,’ says Relate counsellor Paula Hall.
‘If both partners want to reintroduce sex, we encourage them to do so slowly, learning how to be sensual with each other and gradually building up to intercourse.’
Culled from UK Daily Mail