Does No Sex In Marriage Justify A Divorce?

no sex in marriage

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

It’s easy to judge someone for getting divorced because of no sex in marriage.It sounds very trivial to some people when they hear about a divorce caused by lack of sex-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. In other words, it’s not the lack of sex that breaks people up, it’s the underlying causes that lead to lack of sex that break people up.


Colleen Breems, Divorce Attorney, Beermann, LLP


There are many reasons people might not have an interest in sex. These can include depression, menopause, 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, underlying 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 into bed with someone who you feel has wronged you? No way.

A lot of people tell me, “My spouse never wants to have sex with me,” and the first question I ask is: Is there respect in the marriage? Do you treat each other with kindness and thoughtfulness? Do you go on dates?

What I’m saying is, no one wants to have sex with someone who is mean to them, who doesn’t treat them with kindness and respect, who doesn’t show an interest in them, who is moody/hot and cold. Who isn’t thoughtful. Who forgets your birthday or doesn’t do anything to acknowledge it. Who doesn’t want to go on trips you want to go on.

What leads to sex is: respect, kindness, thoughtfulness and dating your spouse.


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 of no sex in marriage:

 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. 


Varghese Summersett



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?


Cherie Morris, J.D. - Divorce Coach and
Founder, Dear Divorce Coach



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. Or, maybe he is gay and unwilling to admit it to her or even to himself.


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? And, I don’t think the woman wants sex just to have sex.

I think sex connects people emotionally. Sex makes you feel like a couple. Sex makes you feel loved and adored. Sex sustains the intimacy part of your relationship. That is why sex is important. In other words, it makes you more than friends.

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. Is he an alcoholic? And/or is he drinking to numb some kind of pain? 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. It’s very sad and I feel for him and the way he is struggling. I see a good man who needs help and who needs to figure out a way to make his wife happy.


Discernment Counseling for couples on the brink of divorce


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 possibly start by getting 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.

This poor woman, who is keeping herself in the best shape she possibly can, is suffering. I want to tell her, “It’s not you!” You are attractive and beautiful and young and you deserve sex and intimacy if that’s what you want, especially from the person you are married to!

So, “Does No Sex In Marriage Justify A Divorce?” I think it does and it doesn’t.

It 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 “9 Signs of a healthy Romantic Relationship”

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at:

    16 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…

      • Robert

        My wife has PTSD from a sexual assault when she was a teen. During the first 5 yrs of our relationship the sex was great. Or I should say I thought so. I’m large, she’s small, and she hid her pain with sex from me. Good intentions, but over the years she developed vaginismus and now penetration is unthinkable. There are good therapies for this condition but they triggered her PTSD and she didn’t make it through her first session with physical therapy. Recently her willingness to do anything at all due me sexually has evaporated. I love her but the resentment is really building. I won’t do an open marriage. We’ve seen a counselor but haven’t talked about sex much with him. It just recently got bad. We were having non-intercourse sex for years. I feel so neglected. I’m handsome, smart, personable, and wealthy. She has me wondering at times if I’m repulsive! I’m about to leave the relationship. I believe she loves me deeply by the neglect is so frustrating and hurtful. Time to put myself first.

    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….

    8. S. Ballgame

      I am looking into getting a sex doll, like Real Doll or something. The dolls are all 10s, clean, and a lot cheaper than a divorce or even an affair – even at $3000-$4000. I must try something. Divorce? Lose half my stuff and house. Affair? No. I do NOT want someone calling here or bothering me. So, I doll becomes an extremely attractive alternative.

    9. Anonymous

      Article doesn’t help with a definitive answer. It just says to stay together at the end.. Reading this article sounds exactly like me and my husband. Except we have been married for 3 and a half years. He has zero sex drive. I was never really that sexual either I could take it or leave it in the past but lately I have been craving it more. I recently got myself a vibrator and trying to explore my body and what it is capable of. My husband is great we do have a great time together and we go on vacations and getaways that he plans. We usually keep busy. We are best friends but thats just it. I feel like we arent husband and wife, but friends or roommates. I’m tired of always being the initiator since we were dating. So I stopped. He said he will try and I wont have to say anything but I’m still waiting.. He does have issues so I know that is why. He is also 11 years older than me and blames that. But I know many men older than him that still want it. I said hes attracted to me I know he loves me but has his own way of showing it. I told him I need more attention in that dept. Like the girl in the article I also feel he doesnt know my body. I feel just so sexually disconnected with him that he doesnt turn me on. I have started to drift away and get turned on from other men that are giving me the sexual attention I need and desire. I do feel guilty and I don’t know what else to do. I am starting to resent him as well and I just dont care anymore. He has noticed I have been distant so I’m trying to not make it too obvious. We dont have any kids so that it a nonissue. We don’t have any excuse. He goes to the gym a few times a week so we can’t do it on those days. He has body issues and is always in pain. We used to have a schedule but we stopped. We’ve been to therapy on other issues and briefly brought up this. I just dont know what to do…

    10. Debbie

      My husband and I are 55 years old. Been married for ten years. The past two years we have had no sex. We argue because I feel frustrated. He finally went and saw a doctor, and found out that he has a blockage that has slowed the blood flow. He had stint surgery for the blockage, but did not work. I have not spoke to his doctor myself. My husband is telling me now, that he can no longer have sex. The past two years and now, he is hateful towards me when I try to talk to him. Their is no affection for me. We longer sleep together. He doesn’t help in paying any bills and is only home in the evenings. I feel like I’m being used. To me, it seems he only wants to find a reason to go to his friends house, come home, eat, then go to bed. I feel like I’m only wanted to provide a roof over his head. I also get the feeling he’s liein to me about what the doctor said. When I tried to talk nice to him about other ways to have sex to please your wife, he says, there’s more to life then sex. He clearly doesn’t want to try and save our marriage. He threats me and talks to me like, this is the way it is and you have to deal with it. I don’t want to spend what time I have on this earth suffering and being unhappy. He makes me feel guilty, nasty for even talking about it. Please give me your opinion.

    11. Larry

      Have a wife of 20 years with dyspareunia. We have not had sex for 10-15 years. We have had foreplay. But I really want sex. She won’t take the initiative to do what the doctors say to fix this. I am very frustrated, to say the least. I have gently suggested she do what the doctors ask for several years, and nothing. I have pretty much given up on intercourse ever again. It really sucks. If she could not do anything, I’d understand. But now she does not even try what the professionals suggest. I suspect it is not important to her. I am not asking her to do anything painful, only to give the hormone gels and vaginal dilators a try, as the doctors suggested. Ugh!`

    12. John

      Married 53 years and I have no use or interest in sex, I’ve been pracrticing social distancing all those years. I’m not gay or have some one on the side. I hate sex why I’m married I have no idea, at the time maybe it was OK. I have no idea what my wife did and it doesn’t matter any more. She could have left but she didn’t, her problem!

    13. Jay

      Been married one year in February. Daughter will be 1 in June. I have a 5 year old in the home as well. I try to make an effort twice a week although it doesn’t always work out. My husband left Saturday and hasn’t contacted me. We had an argument and basically he says if I don’t sexually submit to him as his wife it’s a deal breaker for him. I say well no one is perfect. I don’t complain about his finances not being the best or his 30,000 in child support debt to his ex or his custody battle with the other ex but he makes no qualms about speaking his mind and I respect that. I’m just non confrontational and take the good with the bad. I don’t expect him to be like me I just can’t believe that he left because we aren’t having sex as often as he would like. I said we just had sex 3 days ago and he says it’s been 3 days! I say well take some of this stress off me and make yourself more desirable to me. Laying around the house while I’m busting my butt is not making me want you. But I digress. I’m not contacting him because I’m the one at home where I’m supposed to be
      He left here sexually frustrated and I have no clue where he is for 3 days. I didn’t put him out he chose to leave. I think that is so selfish. Now I’m pregnant and feel like it’s the immaculate conception because we haven’t been having sex that often but I’ve been sick for the past few weeks. In one breath he says he understands and in the next he leaves. I’m confused


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