Does No Sex In Marriage Justify A Divorce?

no sex in marriage

By Jackie Pilossoph, Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling, Love Essentially columnist and author

It’s easy to judge someone for thinking ‘I want a divorce’ because of no sex in marriage.

It sounds very trivial to some when someone says he or she is getting divorced because the marriage is sexless--as if sex is the most important thing to that person and they aren’t grateful for their wonderful marriage. I could not disagree more. Why? Because when there is no sex in marriage, and one person wants it, there are usually many more underlying problems.


Let me back up. There are basic needs every person has: sleep, food, water, love, shelter, clothing, etc. What else is on that list? Sex. (For most people, in my opinion.)




Some people crave sex more than others, and if someone has no interest in sex, it can be for a variety of reasons. These can include depression, bad timing, physical issues, low libido, stress, addiction, medications that might have this side effect, an eating disorder, lack of sleep, or they are having sex elsewhere.


But there’s another HUGE reason why some people don’t want sex: built up resentment and anger. Who would want to have sex with a spouse if they have this secret anger and feel that there are many things from the past that they resent? Would you want to jump someone’s bones who you feel has wronged you? No way.


Here is an email I received from a woman in her late thirties, who has been married for 5 years and is now thinking of separating because her marriage is sexless:

 My husband and I are having sex twice a year. Over the years, I got tired of always being the initiator and the one to make the first move, so I stopped. This lead to us not being intimate, and now me no longer being attracted to my husband. When we do try to be intimate, it is awkward and doesn’t turn me on. My husband no longer knows my body, where to touch me, or what to do to please me. 


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My husband and I have each been to our own therapists, couples therapy, and also have talked endlessly about the topic. He admitted he has had this issue in past relationships, and he said not having sex is not a deal breaker for him in a marriage. I admitted for me it is. I am now finding myself seeking attention elsewhere. I am in the BEST shape of my life, feel beautiful and not getting any younger. The tough aspect of this is I have a wonderful husband in most other aspects. He is respectful, loves me to pieces, is patient, goes out of his way to help me, is always here for me to support me, and he really wants our marriage to work. Others tell me it sounds like he is just merely my best friend.


I keep convincing myself divorcing over sex is not realistic because eventually that aspect fades. But I know in my heart that intimacy may fade, but usually not after such a short period of time. There is so much more I want to do to explore my sexuality and sensual side, and know in my heart it won’t be with my husband. But is that a reason to leave? He is definitely not open to a having an open relationship or infidelity. Can we really have it all…emotional love and physical love?


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Being an outsider and just reading this one email, here is what I see: The husband for some reason does not want to have sex. I do not think it is resentment towards his wife or that he is not attracted to her. I also don’t think he is cheating, but that is always a possibility.


He sounds like a good man and a loving husband in many ways, but something is bothering me about him. He knows his wife isn’t happy, he knows she wants to be intimate with him and he isn’t giving her any options. He isn’t giving her sex, and he isn’t open to her sleeping with someone else. And, he doesn’t want a divorce. So, what is she supposed to do? Accept this aspect of the marriage that has been making her miserable and unhappy for years?


If his attitude is, “Sorry, I don’t want sex and that’s the end of it,” than he is really saying, “I don’t care enough about this marriage to save it.” He might want to stay together because he is complacent, scared to be alone, or  deep down he knows this might happen in his next relationship.


I did follow up with some additional questions for my reader and in her next email back to me, she explained that her husband isn’t active, and that he drinks every night. So, there you go. Something is going on with him and he isn’t willing to really face it. Sure, you can go to couples therapy and talk and talk and talk, but nothing will get solved until he looks in the mirror and gets up the courage to truly lay his issues out on the table. From there, he can begin to get help. In other words, nothing will change or get better until he is willing to verbalize what’s going on with him, no matter how hard it is for him to do that.


Usually, when people tell me they aren’t having sex in their marriage, that is just the end product of years of unhealthy communication, resentment, anger, and sadly, dislike. Or, one person is cheating.


But in this case, I don’t see any of this at all. I see a good man who needs help and who needs to figure out a way to make his wife happy.


I am not saying the wife is perfect. I have no idea what he would say about her if he wrote to me. But, if she is saying that he is “respectful,” “loves me to pieces” “goes out of his way to help me,” than the no sex part is something he needs to answer to, and if it is simply, “I just don’t have the libido,” than get help from a physician to get it.


That said, he might be over-compensating in all these other areas, and treating his wife wonderfully because he feels guilty for the lack of sex. He might think if he is this perfect husband, she will never leave. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like she will accept the marriage on his terms.


In answer to the title of this blog post, “Does No Sex In Marriage Justify A Divorce?” I think it does and it doesn’t. The answer to this question depends on so many factors. But, it all boils down to the reason for the no sex, and if the person is willing to make an effort to give the other what he or she needs. I recently heard a very smart and insightful comment from a woman who has been married for 50 years: “Love is not a feeling, it is a choice,” she said. She is so right! If two people want it badly enough, it will work out. Love will follow the choice.

Like this article? Check out “Women Dating Over 50: Are We In No-Man’s Land?”

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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorce is a journey. Live it with grace, courage and gratitude. Peace and joy are on the way! Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

9 Responses to “Does No Sex In Marriage Justify A Divorce?”

  1. Teresa

    I’m reading the first paragraph thinking: Weird, I don’t remember writing this letter, but I clearly did. I guess my issues aren’t as unique as I thought…

  2. Gina

    what if the husband tries his best to please his wife, but no matter what he does just doesn’t do it for her. I have the same situation and years of resentment that I can’t seem to get rid of has me lacking emotion and desire for him. I don’t feel comfortable with my husband….it is awkward.
    For years, I thought it was me having a low libido….my issue. But after receiving attention from other men, I now know that I have a normal libido. My husband wont tolerate an open relationship of course. I have resentment in that he has been fulfilled in that area for 17 years, and I have never been close to be fulfilled. He never really tried to improve things for me……until I discovered the issue wasn’t my libido….it was him and my lack of attraction to him. So now I resent how he didn’t truly care as long as he was fulfilled. 17 years
    I want to leave him and explore what I feel like might fulfill me.

  3. Susan

    I’ve been married 18 years. We have a 14 year old and our sex life has gone downhill since she was born. The signs were there all all along, even before we were married. He had an addiction to weed and to body builder porn website that was out of control. I broke up with him and then 3 weeks after that he vowed that he would stop and that it would never be a problem between us. He has always been a loner and I was his first real relationship so I thought with me in his life he would close the chapter on that part of his life and move onto a healthy normal relationship. Could I be more naive?? Well, the normality lasted for about 4 years and then after our daughter was born, the sex became less and less frequent. Not that it was great to begin with but I thought that we just need to give it time for us to learn each others needs and wants. Soon after, I caught him on porn sites again and he was back to smoking weed on a regular basis. He eventually stopped initiating. I would initiate but would would be rejected because he couldn’t perform. I took it very personally. We went to counseling together but it barely helped. He suggested that I go outside the marriage to be fulfilled but I could never bring myself to do it. I was hurt and humiliated and knew this is where I draw the line. After that he went to therapy to seek help for his porn addiction but he stopped going after 4 sessions and I lost hope and gave up after that. We decided that he would move out of the house by June 2019. I know it seems like an eternity but we don’t want to turn our daughter’s life upside down during the school year. In the meant time, we stay clear of each other by living in different bedrooms and living separate lives, It’s all so fresh. I think I am ready to date but I’m not sure how to navigate dating.

  4. Dan

    It’s a sucky situation for sure. We’ve been married for 8 years and it’s been like this for most of that time. I’m sick of shoing away co-worker and others just to get rejected by my wife. Sick of her “I’d literally rather do anything else please don’t” tone. If we were dating I’d have broken up a long time ago, because this is clearly a one sided relationship. I’ve tried every approach I can think of and so close to just call it. Hate to sound cliche but the kids and the impact it would have on them keep me trying to figure this mess out. I’m at the point I’d rather be alone than with someone who treats like a brother or the gay roommate…. Everyone deserves to be loved and have basic needs met. I hope everyone who reads this article finds peace and a solution…

    • Jackie Pilossoph

      You are right about everything you are saying. It’s a tough situation and I’m sure for whatever reason she has, it is hurtful to you. Have you talked about it with her (in a productive way or in therapy?) I would be interested to hear her reasons.

  5. Sunshine

    This article made me cry. I feel so alone and as if there is something inherently wrong with me. I’ve been in a partnership since 2013 with someone who has not had passion towards me, and who has avoided sexual intamcy with me. In reality I know they are simply a LL (low libido) person, and in the beginning I told myself that and didn’t let it get to my head and heart, but as time went on I crumbled. To say I’ve taken it personally would be an understatement. I feel bad about myself on a regular basis and can’t seem to pull myself out of it. I have started smoking and drinking when home alone (who starts smoking at 42, so stupid), I used to be a health nut and take pride in my appearance, I used to feel sexy. My ego has been so hurt. I am so in love and my partner is loving and wonderful in every other way. Recently my partner has made attempts to fix the issue but after years of communicating to no avail I can’t seem to allow myself to feel passion or sexual without feeling shame, pain and fear that my partner is only “trying” but doesn’t actually want me. It’s such a mess 🙁 I feel like even if I left the relationship I will be plagued with self doubt going forward even if I keep it at bay. I feel too scared to ever be intimate again because If god forbid this happened again I’d have proof it’s me, that I am just unsexy

    • Anonymous

      I am living the same life. I googled my situation and came across this thread. I was started drinking so much bc of my depression over this I couldn’t stop. I had to get help now he resents me for leaving him and the kids to get help for a few weeks. I started smoking at 39! And I thought the same thing! Who does that!? I can’t believe I let my life spiral like this bc of my loveless marriage. He is upset w me for the drinking and leaving to get treatment yet I feel he pushed me to it. I am better now and regularly attend meetings but the no sex has gotten worse. It is awkward and I feel like I’m bothering him when I initiate he gets angry. I hate it I lhave always loved him but I’m really starting to resent him. I get attention from so many other guys except him. I tell him and he does not care at all. And since I’ve been home he has been so nasty to me all the time. We h e three small children and I don’t want to get a divorce but I do want to be happy and I know I will never be truly happy with him. Hey m scared of what it will do to the kids and I’m scared to be alone. I hate my life with him right now though I’m so miserable and lonely.

  6. Gwen Asiegbu

    Wow so many of your stories sound like my situation. I meet a guy who is wonderful and being a Christian we waited until marriage but the day we married nothing months nothing and come around a year plus still nothing. I throught it was me being a plus size woman i went thru so many emotions until i notice i git bitter. Now almost 3 yrs he attempted to try not succeed on 2 occasions..From that moment i didnt ever want him near my body in my mind out if my heart. Before im judged i tried everything to begging this man to spend time with me ..promises often. Now i sit here day after day and want out no matter how and now. I ask him regularly do yu desire me he say yes but he doesn’t because i offered us help he refused i ask could we do things together he say yes never done..i put up a fight for 3 yrs .i dont have any thing else to offer.
    My truthfulness is i was married before some years ago my husband then was fr another country and had difficulties getting him here it was a battle so we both decided to go our seperate ways abd live our lives in 2 different places because we couldn’t come together in USA. He texted my phone one day i was at my lowest and just said i felt you needed to talk to someone..i cried for minutes he listened to me cry never talked against this husband but just listened…I realized i never stop loving my 1st husband and the 2nd husband knew it when we married but never told me. He throught he would just let me be until i go over my first husband but he left me to myself until thst day and i really know i love my husband dearly Getting divorce and gonna live a life with the one i truely love. again before you judge me . my 2nd husband has ecxepted it and said i dont want u unhappy..We are ok.

  7. John

    Does sex justify divorce? It does and it doesn’t. The piece just became useless….


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