Grounds for Annulment?


If one spouse has decided, after many years of marriage, that they no longer wish to make love, is that potentially grounds for an annulment?


That is an unfortunate circumstance. No, it is not grounds for nullity.

Nullity means that an impediment existed at the time the vows were exchanged. I would encourage a doctor’s visit and counseling, not thoughts of divorce or trying to find a way to declare the marriage invalid.


To have a sudden change is not normal and it is potentially grounds to seek medical help to ensure that something is NOT wrong and there after a good Catholic based marriage counseling program.

You don’t tell us your age; however, strokes (can occur in even young people), endocrine issues, and so many other medically treatable events can cause a person to either lose interest in physical intimacy or find the act to be uncomfortable, even painful.
Depression is an insidious mental disease that can rob a person and their families from living with and having a good quality of life. and can stem from so many factors that a forum is not a good place to seek help.

So… back to my first paragraph.


Assuming the party in question is female, menopause can greatly reduce libido. If it is also combined with depression it is a libido killer. Speaking from experience, change of body image, decreased energy levels, feelings that love making has been replaced by having sex, are all hurdles that aging women may be dealing with. Understanding on the husbands part, a little romance (that doesn’t contain undertones of ‘sex is expected’), as well as medical help may go a long way to restoring the wifes libido. Are they both in good health? Diet changes and exercise, although they may take a few weeks to show results, have been shown to help reduce depression and increase libido.
But as in all things Catholic, prayer would be the best place to start.


I will admit to being slightly shocked that someone would go right to annulment after a long (and one assumes relatively happy) marriage because of a sexual issue.

All the above posters have given excellent advice from medical intervention to a little romance. All good ideas.

If a husband is going right to annulment, maybe that’s more of the problem than anything physical?

  • I am not shocked… IMHO many marriages have had very little to no proper catecheses and I’ve taken a lot of vitriol from other members here for saying that; however, it just appears to be true. There is a lot behind the physical act of intercourse for some men and in some cultures - so for these men and in those cultures; to be rejected in the bed is to be rejected as a person, as a man. NOW I AM NOT SAYING THAT THIS IS TRUE FOR ALL MEN and ALL CULTURES… just a few.

  • Anyway, hence my two prong advise on this issue, both medical and counseling…

  • I did however neglect the obvious third prong… prayer.

I’ll add OP+Spouse to my prayers… :gopray:


So, what exactly is grounds for an annulment? Spousal abuse?


An annulment isn’t something that changes a state of something. An annulment inquiry simply inquires whether something is or isn’t in existence. One is either married or one isn’t.

Annulments are inquiries into the ability to enter into a marriage, or the correct form of a marriage (proper legality.)

An annulment doesn’t end a marriage. If one is married, one is married. An annulment inquiry only seeks to determine if one is or isn’t married.


It’s necessary to understand precisely what a Catholic decree of nullity is… and what it isn’t!

It isn’t a decree of divorce, that states that something that existed previously has now encountered a circumstance which allows for a dissolution of the marriage.

It isn’t an admission that sometimes, people change, and these changes cause ruptures in a relationship.

It isn’t an assertion that two people have ‘fallen out of love’, and therefore, should move on with their lives individually.

On the other hand, it is a statement that, at the time of the wedding, something existed that caused the marriage to be invalid from the very beginning. There are a number of considerations which can come into play in nullity proceedings – they are, as it were, the absence of considerations which themselves make for a valid marriage (consent, lack of impediments, form) to be recognized by the Catholic Church.

If you’re looking for some basic information about what a Catholic decree of nullity takes into consideration, a good book that’s easily approachable is Foster’s Annulment: The Wedding that Was: How the Church Can Declare a Marriage Null.

(Edited to add: Oh, Ubi… if I hadn’t paused to get the title and URL for Foster’s book, I wouldn’t have posted ten minutes after you said pretty much the same thing… :wink: )


No–grounds for nullity have to be present from the beginning, it’s not something that happens afterwards (no matter how unfortunate–I am civilly divorced, not seeking annulment. There was abuse in the marriage and infidelity on his part). So things relating to consent (any impediment to one/both free consent), not being free to marry (either that individual due to proximity of relationship; or at all due to things like age, being still married to someone else), or inability to physically consummate the marriage, or faults in intent (thinking “well, we can always get divorced if the going gets too tough”) and that sort of thing.

Spousal abuse is grounds for separation and civil divorce when necessary to protect other innocents, like the children; or to protect the innocent spouse from things like the consequences of the abusive spouse’s profligate spending (any debts he incurs now are not my problem–we used to live with an income of $60k per year, but when we separated, other than going on food stamps, there was no difference to our living standard when the income dropped to my $16k … that is a lot of money going into a sinkhole).


It’s a judgment on your part that this someone went “right to annulment”, and that this husband is “more of the problem than anything physical.”

To all the other posters, thank you for the education and the words of encouragement.


With many (if not most) people, there is a tremendous amount of confusion about marriage and its termination.

When discussions arise concerning the Catholic perspective on marriage, too often people attempt to answer questions, but use language that causes more confusion, rather than clears up issues.

Both the State and the Church have an interest in marriage. The two interests may be somewhat parallel, but they are not identical.

The State will issue a marriage certificate, and one who enters marriage will have that recorded in the county records. The State approves a number of people to “marry” a couple, including judges and ministers.

In the Catholic Church, if one of the parties is a Catholic, then (subject to limited exceptions) one must have the marriage witnessed by a Catholic priest or deacon. If there were impediments to marriage on the day of the marriage, or the couple did not have a priest or deacon as official witness, then there may not have been a sacrament (of marriage), and this is what the tribunal will look at, if one or both parties, after a divorce, approach the Church requesting a decree of nullity. It is often called an annulment, but the better term is a decree of nullity.

The decree of nullity says that there was no sacrament. It does not say that there was no marriage. That issue is a State issue.

So it would be far better to say that if a decree of nullity is granted, what that states is that no sacrament occurred on the day of the wedding. To say there was no marriage is to confuse the conversation, because there certainly was a wedding that day in the eyes of the State (and the couple).

The State does not pass on the issue of whether or not there was a sacrament. It has no interest in the question, and no competency to answer it.

Likewise, the Church does not pass on the issue of whether or not there was a State recognized marriage - the Church has no interest in that, and no competency to pass on that issue.

Further confusion arises in that in very limited circumstances (which in minor part may coincide with Church issues), the State may declare that the marriage is a nullity; one of the issues is consanguinity (too close in familial relationship) and another may be in the issue of age (which varies by state).

However, if the State were to decree the marriage null and void (that is, there never was a marriage), that has nothing to do with whether or not a sacrament occurred. That is a Church question, and would need to be pursued separately.

People get entirely torquey about decrees of nullity from the Church, presuming that children are illegitimate, or that the Church is saying that there was no marriage (I have been involved in way too may of those conversations, and people get really ballistic over it). The Church is not saying that, period. What the Church is saying is that you were married in the eyes of the State, but there was no sacrament.

Part of the problem people have is extremely poor catechesis concerning what is a sacrament, and specifically, what is a sacrament of marriage.

And part of the problem is helpful people, trying to answer questions about marriage, confuse the issues of sacrament (a Church issue) with issues of contract (a State issue) by the free but inaccurate use of the word “marriage”. If, when referring to decrees of nullity, we were to say that no sacrament occurred on the wedding day because of an impediment that existed at that moment, at least some of the conversation would elicit less emotional response and emotional “shutting down” of the conversation.


:thumbsup:Completely agree with your entire post! :thumbsup:


Speaking of proper terminology…

The decree of nullity says that there was no valid marriage as the Church understands marriage. Only a valid marriage between two baptized persons is a sacrament.

A Catholic and a Hindu who meet all the requirements and marry according to form are in a valid marriage, not a sacramental marriage. The ‘sacrament of marriage’ was not conferred upon them because one is not baptized and only a baptized person can receive the sacraments. The sacrament of marriage is conferred on both or neither, it can’t be split.


You would not say the same if it was a case of adultery. Do not be so judgmental.

Unreasonable denial of sex is a grave sin against chastity. If one spouse has completely shut off marital relations, it is not difficult at all for me to understand that the other spouse could become quite desperate for a solution.

To the OP: is your wife Catholic? At some point, she needs to know she is putting her soul in jeopardy. If she is Catholic, this may make it easier to explain.


I wasn’t judging - I just thought that is what the OP meant - that everything else was relatively ok, except the sexual situation. I have absolutely no basis on which to judge anything - nor any right to do so.

I don’t understand the comment: *You would not say the same if it was a case of adultery. Do not be so judgmental. * Our OP wasn’t saying there was any question of adultery, at least as I read it (and I did assume the OP is a man - ).

Two people called me out for *judging * another so I think I will bow out. Perhaps I need to examine my conscience…:o


What I meant by the comment “you would not say the same if it was a case of adultery” was that if the violation of chastity was adultery as opposed to complete refusal of sex, you would likely be more understanding/empathetic of the OP. Do I think that complete refusal of sex is just as bad as adultery? No, but it is still bad. Very bad. Hard to see how a marriage can be judged as “relatively OK, except for the sexual situation” in that scenario.

If the OP’s spouse was committing adultery, we would not say his marriage is relatively OK except for the sexual situation.


As to the OP’s original question: I think many have been too quick to tell him it is not grounds for annulment. None of us know the situation well enough to say one way or the other. However, it seems to me that if one person enters into a marriage without a proper understanding of the commitments they are making, or a denial of those commitments, a lack of proper intent is possible. It seems possible to me that one spouse would enter into a marriage explicitly rejecting the marriage debt, however the spouses sex life is normal for years, and then the spouse in question decides why continue with sex since he/she never felt any obligation.
Not saying this is the case, only saying I am not for sure the categorical “no” answers may be not accurate. And of course, any marriage is presumed valid until the church explicitly rules otherwise.


That’s not an impossible scenario; and yes, given the OP’s one-sentence description of the situation, it’s difficult to give an absolute answer. However, the OP asked a particular question: “my spouse won’t have relations anymore; is that grounds for annulment?”, to which the proper answer is ‘no’. It’s not that there isn’t a possible situation that could be constructed which includes the OP’s brief statement of the situation, but only that the situation, as he’s phrased it, doesn’t lead to the conclusion that an annulment is the answer.


Sheesh, sorry for all the confusion. I asked a direct, one-sentence question because I was hoping for a specific answer to that question. What I got was a fantastic explanation about the purpose of annulment, which has been very helpful in determining that I do not have a case for annulment.

I’m leaving out a lot of details because I’m not prepared to receive a lot of advice about this situation from people I don’t really know. While I very much appreciate everyone’s intent to be helpful, marriage counseling is not going to be very effective via a forum.

I have learned a lot about this subject and I thank you all.

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