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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.
Since we can't or at least shouldn't know, No Real Life Examples, Please
Anime and Manga
- In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Krauss and Natsuhi apparently do not share a bed and sleep in separate bedrooms.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the French comic Blacksad, the second arc features a preacher 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- At one point in the 1981 comedy The Incredible Shrinking Woman, her depressed-looking husband is shown sitting in bed reading a book titled "Marriage Without Sex".
- 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.
- In Wizard and Glass from The Dark Tower series, mayor Thorin and his wife Olive have 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.
- 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!
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.
- 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.
- Tobias and Lindsay in Arrested Development.
- 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.
- Stanley and Helen Roper on Three's Company have this, much to Helen's eternal frustration.
- Al Bundy on Married...with Children hates sleeping with his wife Peggy...unless she's been doing manual labor, which turns him on. In other words, if she wants it from him, she's gotta earn it in his book.
- 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.
- Hard to say just how long it lasts, but definitely longer than it should: in Disgaea 3 Absence of Justice, 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;
- Stewie and his "wife" Olivia.
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).
- Joe and Bonnie are implied to have had this since Joe's accident. When he has surgery to give him new, working legs, they're heard having very loud sex for the first time in years.
- 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.
- Double D's parents in Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy.
- Moral Orel's parents are this. They even sleep with a wall between them.