Melanie Sykes has revealed she didn't have sex for a year after admitting she used it as a "Band-Aid" to mask problems in relationships.
The presenter, 52, also revealed that despite a period of celibacy her libido remains "high" and that she learnt a lot about herself after she abstained from sex for 12 months.
"I’ve always had a high libido," she tells Sam Baker from the The Shift, a podcast aimed at women over 40.
"Because I wanted to have sex with someone, I would. But it wasn’t necessarily good for me, or they weren’t particularly nice people.
"But if you’re driven by your libido, which men are notorious for and women not so much – which I think is bull**** because I think loads of women just want to get f***** sometimes and there’s nothing wrong with it – but I also realised that I needed a connection."
Sykes was reported to have split from her boyfriend Riccardo Simionato in September 2022, after meeting him on holiday in Venice in 2020. She was married to actor Daniel Caltagirone from 2001-2009, sharing two children, Roman, 21, and Valentino, 18, and was also previously married to Jack Cockings from 2013-2016.
She isn't currently known to be dating anyone.
The mum-of-two said sometimes having sex was tantamount to "putting a Band-Aid on something", but actually it wasn't solving the current issue.
"If you can resolve an argument with a really great session of sex, it doesn’t mean the problem has gone," she explains.
"And I thought if I withdraw the sex, then the problems I can just avoid.
"And so I've just avoided. And after a year I was so much more understanding of myself and had more respect for myself."
The presenter also figured out during her sex-free period that she wasn't a fan of casual hook-ups.
"I won’t lay with anyone that isn’t my equal ever again," she continues.
"It’s as simple as that because I don’t like casual sex. I tried it, I don’t like it.
"But it doesn’t stop me wanting to have sex because that’s just me being a full-on woman who likes it. What’s wrong? There’s nothing wrong with it."
Read more: How a woman can enjoy sex whatever her age
Benefits of a sex drought
There are many reasons someone might go through a period without sex from enforced celibacy, to a sex drought brought about by a period of ongoing singledom, or just not finding anyone you actually want to have sex with.
But while going through a 'sex break' is often spoken about in negative terms, there may be many benefits to taking sex off the table for a while.
“We’ve all been through a dry spell at some point in our lives – figuratively speaking – whether it’s involuntary after a break-up or through personal choice," explains Adeline Baldus, of sex toy and lingerie brand, Harmony.
"But despite what they tell you on TV, it doesn’t turn you into Miss Havisham... or make you completely undesirable. In fact, with the right mindset, you can turn your period of abstinence into a time of growth and reap the benefits."
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According to Barbara Santini, psychologist and sex and relationship advisor at Peaches and Screams, making a conscious decision not to engage in sexual activities can help couples identify and address underlying issues that may be affecting their sexual connection, including stress, anxiety or past traumas.
"Taking a sex break in order to address these issues can help improve sexual compatibility and create a more fulfilling and enjoyable sex life afterwards," she explains.
A sex drought can also be a way to respect personal boundaries and preferences.
"Individuals have different levels of sexual desire and a break from sex can help identify other ways to show affection and connection that align with personal needs and values of those in a relationship," Santini continues.
And of course this can help couples to prioritise other aspects of the relationship.
"While physical intimacy is a critical aspect of a romantic relationship, it is not all that is needed," Santini adds. "A sex drought helps identify and prioritise other essential aspects of a relationship, such as emotional connection, shared interests, and mutual support.
"By focusing on these aspects, you can develop a more well-rounded and fulfilling relationship."
Read more: How often do married couples have sex?
Taking time out of the bedroom can also lead to a renewed appreciation for physical intimacy.
"It can create a sense of longing and anticipation, which make the experience more intense and pleasurable when you do eventually engage in sexual activity," Santini explains. "This can also help to break any negative patterns or routines that may have developed in the sexual aspect of the relationship, leading to a more exciting and fulfilling sex life in the future."
And taking a break from getting it on isn't just beneficial to those in couples either, singletons can also reap the plus points via the medium of solo sex.
"Masturbation is not only completely normal but also a very healthy way to appreciate your body, feel more desirable and release your craving on your own terms," Baldus explains.
“As your body changes throughout your life, so do sexual preferences. Masturbation gives you the chance to learn or re-discover what you enjoy at this moment in time."
Baldus suggests using your dry spell to educate yourself about your body, improving your sexual confidence and finding your own erogenous zones.
"When you return to having a sexual partner again, you will value your new-found knowledge which can only lead to better sex.”
Abstaining from sex can lead to personal improvements as well.
"By becoming more attuned to their own bodies and needs, individuals can benefit from increased energy levels due to improved hormone regulation.
"Redirecting energy towards work or exercise can result in a sense of accomplishment and empowerment, which can have positive psychological effects."
Navigating a sex drought if you have a high libido
For those with a high libido who are currently navigating a sex drought, Santini recommends first acknowledging that it is okay to go through a period without intercourse.
"It's an opportunity for personal growth because refraining from acting on every urge or desire for sex teaches us about our own self-control capabilities and how we relate with others sexually beyond just having sex," she explains.
"Practicing self-control can build resilience and improve emotional wellbeing, helping you maintain healthier relationships in the long run."
She also suggests using the period as an opportunity to refocus your energies on other aspects of your life, such as friendships, career goals or hobbies.
"During this 'drought' phase, you can rekindle lost relationships while investing time into new ones that could bring positive changes into many areas of your life, including the bedroom later down the line," Santini explains.
"By prioritising personal growth and development, you'll be in a better position to build stronger and more fulfilling relationships in the future."