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What are unconsummated marriages/relationships?

When a heterosexual couple is unable to have penetrative vaginal intercourse, their relationship may be called unconsummated.

The term unconsummated marriage is typically used in cultures where intercourse before marriage is taboo. However, in cultures where sexual relationships outside of marriage are more accepted, the term unconsummated relationship may be used. (Other common terms are honeymoon impotence or wedding night impotence.)

Scientists aren’t sure how many couples are unable to have intercourse. Some couples do not seek help because they feel ashamed or embarrassed, and the situation may continue for several years.

Unconsummated relationships can have a great impact on relationships. Partners may feel confused, rejected, or resentful.

Both male and female sexual dysfunctions can contribute to unconsummated marriages/relationships. Here are some examples:

Learn more:

What is pelvic floor physical therapy?

What are vaginal dilators?

What is erectile dysfunction (ED)? What causes ED? How is ED treated?

Couples can have difficulties consummating their relationships for a variety of reasons:

Learn more:

Are men with anxiety disorders more likely to develop erectile dysfunction (ED)?

How can I manage performance anxiety and psychogenic erectile dysfunction (ED)?

Fortunately, couples in unconsummated relationships do have treatment options. Discussing sexual issues with a healthcare provider might feel awkward, but it is an important first step.

Some couples undergo sex therapy, where they learn more about sexuality, such as the details of their own anatomy and their partner’s. They may also learn about how human bodies prepare for sex. For example, a woman who fears pain during intercourse might not be aware that the vagina lubricates for more comfortable penetration. Having this knowledge could help her feel more confident.

During therapy, couples can also practice relaxation and communication techniques that can help them feel more comfortable with sexual situations and with each other as sexual partners.

Issues such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and vaginismus can be addressed during sex therapy as well.

Learn more:

What are sex therapists? What do they do? How does one choose a sex therapist?

What happens during sex therapy?


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