Is a Sexless Marriage Something That Can Be Proven and Used for Divorce?
Experts describe a sexless marriage as having sex fewer than ten times in any given year. In contrast, the majority of married couples have sex around 58-68 times per year.
There are many reasons that sex may have fallen to the wayside in a marriage; 12% of married couples report that they have not had sex in more than three months, and more than 6% of married women say they have not had sex with their spouse in over a year. Disagreements between couples, the stress of raising children, and physical health problems are all cited as common reasons for a decreased sex drive or lack of sex in a marriage.
Most couples are able to navigate these natural ups and downs, but if one spouse is unwilling to compromise and instead uses sex as a weapon, it may be time to consider divorcing. But how do you prove you’re in a sexless marriage? And is this grounds for divorce?
Sexless marriage can be grounds for divorce
A sexless marriage can be grounds for an at fault divorce under the charge of “constructive abandonment.” Despite the name, abandonment doesn’t have to be a physical departure from the marital home.
The law recognizes marriage as a partnership that comes with certain obligations. When marrying, spouses are committing to support each other financially and emotionally, participate in child-rearing and show each other love and affection. A willful failure to fulfill those obligations can be considered constructive abandonment; the spouse is considered to have emotionally withdrawn from the marriage.
Sexless marriage is both physically and emotionally taxing. Though the actual denial of sexual release is often physically frustrating, the refused intimacy can be equally damaging to the marriage. The pain of repeated rejections can have serious effects on the confidence and self-esteem of the rejected spouse.
Using sex as a weapon and withholding sex out of spite is a deeply unhealthy way of dealing with marital problems and contributes to the case for an at fault divorce.
Sexless marriage is difficult to prove
Given the private nature of most couples’ romantic life, it can be difficult to prove that a sexless marriage constitutes constructive abandonment. You must prove that the denial of sex or intimacy was willful on the part of your spouse. Dry spells are normal in any marriage, and outside influences like medication, stress, and lack of sleep can all impact sexual desire.
If a lack of sex and intimacy is causing problems in your marriage, talk to your spouse and encourage seeking advice from a sex therapist, counselor or physician. Mismatched libidos are a common marital problem that many couples are able to work through successfully. One of these methods may be able to resolve your marital problems without the need for legal services.
Your spouse must be aware that the lack of sex is an issue for you and still choose to withhold sex for it to be considered willful.
The court has a significant amount of leeway in deciding what constitutes constructive abandonment; arguing for it on the basis of lack of sex alone can be a difficult path. In a marriage where one spouse is willfully withholding sex, the problems in the relationship seldom stop at the bedroom door.
Consider filing on other grounds
Consider the other marital obligations mentioned above: financial support, emotional support, participation in child-rearing. Willful neglect of one of these obligations is often more public and may be easier to prove than that of willfully withholding sex. Evidence that your spouse has willfully withdrawn emotional support from your family or has shown indifference toward your children will bolster your argument for constructive abandonment.
A sexless marriage is a painful situation to be in. Studies say that a happy sex life is the second most important factor in a happy marriage behind fidelity. Though there is no “normal” amount of sex for any given couple, it is important that both partners are satisfied with their sexual relationship. One spouse denying intimacy to the other is incredibly damaging to a marriage.
If you have found yourself in a relationship like this, try to resolve the issue through therapy or counseling first. Should you end up deciding that divorce is the best option for you, showing that you have made good faith efforts to repair the marriage will help support your case for an at-fault divorce if necessary. An experienced family lawyer will be able to counsel you on what the appropriate steps are to free yourself from this sexless marriage.