Sexless Marriage/Divorce

We have been married for 25 years, but the last 7 years we haven’t had any physical intimacy. My husband refuses to talk about it and counseling is impossible. My husband has also stopped going to church. Would it be a sin to seek a separation or divorce in this situation? I’m not interested in an annulment or remarriage. If I file for divorce I would at least be able to move back to be near extended family instead of stuck in a city where I don’t have a single friend (We live abroad and I don’t speak the local language).

I’ve run out of Novenas to say.

Utimatum time. He agrees to couple’s therapy preferrably with a christian counselor or you will take steps to end the marriage. You are under no biblical obligation to live this way.

You also need to start taking car of yourself. That begins by making a few friends.

Sorry to hear about this situation. Sounds like communication is an issue too? Will pray for you. Have you talked to a good priest about this? That might be a 1st step.
God Bless!

My heart breaks for you ma’am. It’s hard to imagine a more troubling situation.

I know you’ve probably already thought about this-but remember that divorce, even in the best of circumstances, is a heartbreaking tragedy. I am NOT saying you have no right to do think this way-(quite the contrary, you have EVERY RIGHT to think this way) but please remember that it effects everyone involved-friends, in laws, family, you name it.

I view divorce as warfare. It has it’s place, without a doubt, (abuse, adultery, your situation) but even in the “best” of circumstances, it’s a miserable experience.


I feel for you, terribly. Please hear my story and my advice. I’ll try to keep it short.

In the late 90’s my ex-wife “figured out” she was a “homosexual.” I know better know, but I was not really properly chatechized. The upshot, though, is that she refused to have relations with me and even shrank from any kind of non-sexual physical contact.

It was agony. I had no idea I could suffer that much. Not because I wasn’t “getting some,” as the culture would us believe, but because of the horrible wall thrown up between us.

On the advice of a priest we separated. Later, we divorced. She pursued her same sex lifestyle, and to this day lives and sleeps with a woman. I filed for and we received an annullment. Later I re-married and have a beautiful family. I’m hardly “happily ever after” because I married an unbaptized woman, but that’s another story.

Here’s what’s important: The divorce was horribly painful for me. It solved nothing. If anything, I was the last defense against my ex-wife leaving the Church and falling into a life of what may very well be mortal sin. Although I am happier now, here’s how I would deal with it now that I have reverted to Jesus and really embraced full communion with the Church.

I would not have left her. I would have accepted the agony as my cross to bear, and offer up that agony to be united to the Cross of Jesus for the cure and salvation of my ex-wife. I would pray daily before the Blessed Sacrament. I would have fought for her soul to my last breath. Maybe, just maybe, she would have rejected the garbage and filth being fed to her by her secular “counselor” and “psychologist.”

Now it is too late.

SueB74, it is true that you might (as in maybe possibly) obtain an annullment under your circumstances especially given his refusal to give you what is rightfully yours (i.e., the gift of himself in marriage). However, I urge you to take a higher road and to try to do what I did not.

Your husband might need you now more than ever, even though he only inflicts pain on you and even though he so far refuses to work with you. Offer your pain to be united to Jesus’ cross for your husband’s salvation, and do so daily before the Blessed Sacrament. Continually pray for him. His very soul might depend on it, and by sincerely doing so you will earn merit for yourself.

I also offer you the story of Blessed Elisabeth Leseur as additional inspiration. She never saw the results of her prayers; she went to her deathbed suffering from her husbands scorn. However, after she died he read her diary and not only converted, but became a priest.

I will pray for you. I know your pain, and I know that sometimes all you can do is desperately look for a way out. Instead, look for a way into Jesus’ cross.

God Bless,

I’m not following how separation or divorce would address your need for physical initimacy. Sounds like this could be a case where the cure is worse than the disease.

first, to contego:

I would have fought for her soul to my last breath. Maybe, just maybe, she would have rejected the garbage and filth being fed to her by her secular “counselor” and “psychologist.”

Now it is too late.

no it isn’t too late. your marriage is over but the woman is still alive. salvation can still be hers. so… pray for her soul to your last breath. perhaps you are the ONLY one whose prayers, because they would be SO disinterested, would have so much power.

as for OP, witholding sexual relations from a spouse is a sin. your husband is sinning. but anyone who’s prayed every novena already knows that.

CCC on divorce:

2384 Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:

but then it says this:

2383 The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law.

If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.

talk to a good priest.

You can do remote counseling through

Sex is for marriage, marriage is NOT for sex. There is far more to marriage than sex and you need a good Catholic counselor (if he will not be part of the counseling, you do it yourself).

Do you pray together?

no it isn’t too late. your marriage is over but the woman is still alive. salvation can still be hers. so… pray for her soul to your last breath. perhaps you are the ONLY one whose prayers, because they would be SO disinterested, would have so much power.

Monicatholic, you will be pleased to know that I still do keep her in my prayers, particularly my daily rosary. I keep praying she will revert. We were both cradle Catholics, but it’s hard to believe how far she’s gone. Anyway, I’ve been to confession but still deal with feelings of remorse.

This is still relevant to the OP’s concern. Remember you will have to live with the after effects of divorce, and this just one of mine.

sounds like you have two issues, not one. If he suddenly got a job transfer that took you back home would you still want a divorce?

Divorce is not an option for Catholics outside extraordinary circumstances such as abuse, ongoing infidelity, one partner having already left the home and family etc.

By all means get counselling for yourself to help you find a way to live with your circumstances.

Oh, I can imagine what you have been going through. You joined the right forum. You can make a lot of friends here, I guess. I believe many of us could become your friends.

I will pray for you.

I hope those with experience on such issues on this forum give you proper advice

Thank you all for your responses. You have given me much to think about. Thanks especially for the reminder that divorce affects everyone. We have five living children, including one being treated for serious clinical depression and anxiety (partially stemming from being raped her freshman year in college). A divorce would most likely be detrimental to them emotionally and financially. I hate to sound like a mercenary, but at least my husband is a good provider and staying married would ensure that their college would be paid for. If I wait and my husband asks for a divorce (sometimes I wonder if he’s waiting for his elderly father to die first to avoid his disappointment) I know he will feel so guilty that the financial settlement would be much better than if I asked for a divorce or separation now. I know I sound very calculating, but it’s my husband that has reduced his family role to provider by being a workaholic (18 hour days are common-at least he claims he’s working-I don’t think he’s having an affair, but who knows). .

I know we do have serious communication issues. I should win an Academy Award for my acting abilities since everyone thinks we have a happy marriage, even our kids-though they may wonder why dad chooses to sleep on the couch (yeah, I wonder too). I will look into the long distance counseling (can’t go to a local counselor since I don’t speak the language), though that may need to wait till our eldest graduates from college this spring and we have some extra spending money.

I really liked the thought provoking question of whether I would seek a divorce if I was living back home. I guess I wouldn’t, because I had a lot more other things in my life to distract myself with. I really need to search for some other English speaking expats and redouble my efforts to learn the local language.

Ted-thanks for sharing your story. It’s true-I may be the only one praying daily for my husband to come back to church.

Please understand, it’s not the lack of physical intimacy that is the issue. I think that is the symptom. The problem is the feeling of rejection, the feeling like an unattractive freak. That’s what I daydream about escaping. Believe it or not, overall my husband is actually a kind, decent man. For example, recently he noticed a sick, elderly man walking down the street and my husband flagged down and paid for a taxi to take the man home. That’s what has me so perplexed and why I’ve put up with this situation so long.

One of the best sermons I have heard was about being willing to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, EVEN when we don’t get to pick our cross. We are so willing to suffer for the sake of God’s kingdom in the abstract or if we could only choose our particular sufferings.

Please pray for us. We really do need a miracle (and yes I’ve tried the Novena to St. Rita).

How long ago did your husband start working such long hours? Did that correspond with him withdrawing from you?

He’s been working long hours for as long as I can remember. It used to be just 12-16 hours per day for over ten years, but with his last promotion it’s been upped to about 18 hours per day (since January). Frankly, I’m sometimes worried he’ll just drop dead of a heart attack (he smokes and is overweight too). I know he’s under tremendous financial pressure, and I’d get a job to help with all the school bills for the kids but my trailing spouse visa doesn’t leave me any viable options, employment wise. If we were separated and I moved back home I would be able to get a decent paying job since I have a professional degree.

I’m sure the exhaustion from his long hours contributes to his lack of interest, but he admits that even if he won the lottery he’d still work like crazy because he enjoys it so much. Obviously, he’s getting some much needed ego boost from being a workaholic. I just don’t want to be in the position that he thinks that spending time with me is just one more thing on his To Do list, so I just don’t demand any attention from him anymore. We’ve had two dates in the past year, one of those being to go out for a quick bite on our 25th wedding anniversary (and then he slept on the couch again). I know he’ll be the proverbial guy on his deathbed wondering why he spent so much time at the office and ignored everything that was important.

I think you should demand attention. You seem to think he values the opinions of his children and father. So, it sounds like he gives outside influences some consideration.

He is on a self-destructive course. Why would it be okay to just sit on the sidelines and let him go the distance on that course? Can’t you tease him, cajole him, coerce him to get a life?

Maybe you need to work on developing a life of your own so that you know you are worth the attention, and so that he knows you know. Maybe get some counseling and then investigate what opportunities there are to volunteer, get to know the local culture, and get involved. I can’t see any reason why it would be necessary to give up having a life, no matter where you are. I have alway thought that home is wherever I happen to be at the moment. Create a home where you are in the present moment. It sort of sounds like both you and your husband would benefit from this.

Just a quick update. I got up the courage to finally sit down with my husband for a heart to heart conversation. We were able to discuss our relationship as a whole as well the specific issue of lack of intimacy. It turns out that the underlying cause is medical. Fortunately, he recently started eating healthier and exercising and has promised to quick smoking next. I plan to encourage him to get in for a complete checkup. He’s now at least sleeping in the same bed instead of on the couch. He also came to mass with us this past Sunday.

So, thank you all for your prayers. We have a long way to go, but at least I feel hopeful about the future.


I’m so glad to hear it. :slight_smile: I will keep praying.

Your husband might also consider seeing a urologist or some other doctor. There might be other things that can be done.

Divorce is NOT called for in this situation. One of the purposes of your vocation in marriage to to help each other reach holiness. By abandoning your husband with this promotion you are saying I Don’t love you and I don’t care about you enough to stick it out no matter what. He has not cheated, he sounds completely spent. I lost my desire too when I was working ridiculous hours. My wife shows less interest too now. But fortunately for us I have a sense of chastity in desiring celibacy one day in another vocation. Why don’t you spend your time talking him into downgrading to doing something else so that you can spend more time together? :shrug: Or are you one of those women that want it all but when you can’t get your money and your man you dump him and then take alimony? No offense, but this sounds almost like that’s your intention. Marriage includes sacrifice and suffering. Yes, suffering. Not getting any over the past 7 years is no reason for a divorce or an annulment. Like someone said, marriage is not to get free recreational activity. Remain chaste and pray for him. Have you asked him why he feels this way. Maybe he feels trapped into pressing on because he feels you’re pushing him. Offer to work in his place for a while. So what? You drop your losses and simplify your life drastically. A woman that is willing to sacrifice like that seems unlikely in my family. That’s why I went outside of my state to find a different kind of woman that loves me for me and would be happy if I picked up trash for a living.

If you read my original and subsequent posts you will see that I put up with this situation for seven years and the situation was greatly compounded by my husband’s refusal to talk. My husband has confessed to infidelity in the past and I was suspicious that an ongoing recurrence or an untreatable sexually transmitted disease may have explained his current alienation. Once I found out that it is a medical issue I am 100% percent behind him since now I know he is still committed to our marriage.

As for his long hours, I have begged him repeatedly to change careers to something less demanding. I have even drawn up budgets to show him how we could easily live on far less and told him that I would be happy to go back to work full time. He refuses to downgrade since he is a workaholic that really loves his job.

I posted my question because I was deeply troubled and tired of crying myself to sleep many nights. When a spouse shuts you out like that the rejection that is felt is emotionally overwhelming. You feel as though you are a repulsive freak and it has nothing to do with wanting more fun in your life.

Frankly I was dismayed by all the uncalled for assumptions in your post.

I assume you haven’t read all the posts on this thread otherwise I believe your language would have been more “positive”;).

@SueB74. I am happy for you that things seem to be getting better. Please keep the communication with your husband going.

I will also try to be praying for you (I’m unfortunately not so good at prayers:mad:). So I will be trying

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