Can choosing celibacy improve your relationship?


Choosing when and who you have sex with is a private matter, but more and more couples are taking this decision more seriously. Recently, Nick Cannon, a popular entertainer, talked about the recommendation from his therapist for him to take a break and choose celibacy to enhance his focus, and help him gain clarity on choices on important life choices. Psychologically, choosing to be celibate helps boost mental health, especially when sex becomes a distraction, a source of recreation, or a fixation.


Practicing celibacy is the decision to not have sex. It can or doesn’t have to include kissing, holding hands, or other sexual contact. One’s faith is often associated with choosing to be celibate, but it’s also helpful during times of high stress or feeling emotionally numb. In fact, more couples are choosing celibacy for a specific amount of time to deepen their friendship, take a break from childbearing, and deal with problems head on instead of silencing them with sex. These couples report deeper intimacy and a connection they hadn’t experienced before. Here are five reasons choosing celibacy can enhance your relationship.


1. Practicing celibacy lowers stress. The chance of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease are stressful risks many people take. When you aren’t having sex, these stressors vanish.

2. You gain focus. Choosing to abstain from sex frees your mind and helps you focus on your career or what’s important to you. In relationships, couples may not deal with the real issue and use sex to connect instead of resolving underlying struggles. Choosing not to have sex helps both partners focus their energy on resolving the issue and developing a closer friendship of emotional connection. Ultimately, this deepens intimacy.

3. Choosing celibacy can help you and your partner deepen your communication and improve your emotional connection. For some couples, it seems like their children take over their relationship and shifts their partner’s attention. Sharing intimate discussions gets lost in the day-to-day routine. Deciding to be celibate means focusing on other ways to feel close and connected. After all, sex is only one form of intimacy.

4. Religious commitments. Couples who have strong religious beliefs about sex outside of marriage choose celibacy to support their spiritual lives. Their partner’s commitment to supporting their choice for celibacy can build trust and respect.

5. Practicing celibacy helps those suffering from a trauma or grief heal faster. Working through grief or trauma may cause high conflict with those closest to us. When you practice celibacy, you have more time to focus on your emotional needs. Talking things out with your partner helps build emotional intimacy, which may be lacking during sex.


If you are currently in a relationship and wanting to practice celibacy, below is a general guide to beginning the conversation.

1. Be vulnerable and honest with your partner about what you’re feeling. The biggest drawback to practicing celibacy within a relationship is the way it is communicated. Telling your partner what you are feeling first and then asking them what they think and feel about if you practiced celibacy is crucial.

2. Have a limited time you decide to practice celibacy. Most couples should begin with a two-week practice to enhance their emotional intimacy. During that time, holding hands, touching each other, and spending quality time together is important.

3. If there are trauma or grief issues, work with a therapist. If the reason you want to practice celibacy are for personal grief work or abuse, it’s important you combine your healing with a therapist. Expecting celibacy to cure your issues without mental health help is less beneficial.

4. Be prepared for your relationship to change and self-awareness to increase. When couples practice celibacy, the issues that were swept under the rug become more real. You may find that dealing with old issues is painful and you were using sex to deny the elephant in the room. Suddenly, the pain can be overwhelming. Talking to your partner about what you feel and are experiencing is an important part of practicing celibacy.


The practice of celibacy is not for everyone or every couple, but it can heighten self-awareness and add clarity to important relationship decisions. Sex should never be used as a punishment or weapon; focusing your attention on the emotional connections you have and making more time to talk and work through personal issues can enhance your relationships and deepen your commitment. -Mary Jo Rapini

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