Sexless Marriages: Is A Sexless Marriage Grounds for Divorce?

Expert Speak | | , Indic History & Culture Enthusiast
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sexless marriages

Sadly, the happily ever after which we see in movies is far from reality. While marriage might feel like the most important next step in your relationship, it is possible that it might not go as smoothly as romantic fiction might have taught you. Incompatibility, arguments, differences, sexless marriages and feeling distant from your partner are some things that can happen in a marriage, which you probably never saw coming.

Sex in marriages is an important component of what makes the relationship healthy. Once the sexual chemistry is lost, your marriage might be on the decline. Men’s rights activist Shonee Kapoor talks to us about what constitutes sexless marriages, and whether the situation can be used to file for an annulment or divorce.

What Is A Sexless Marriage?

Marriages that have never been consummated or where a couple’s sexual activity has come to a near-complete halt for a prolonged period of time are sexless marriages. The reasons could be many. It could be a lack of interest, a loss of libido, waning attraction or something else completely. But if your marriage is undergoing a dry spell – that is you haven’t had sex more than once or twice in the past year – you might have cause for concern.

Marriage comes with the understanding and expectation that in time it will be consummated. Sexual activity and sexual compatibility are essential to a good marriage. Unlike running a home, raising children or going on a trip, sex is the one thing that a marriage defines to be exclusively for husband and wife to share with each other. Well, at least in the case of monogamous marriages.

So is a sexless marriage grounds for divorce? Yes, it can be. If sexual activity is completely absent from a marriage, legally it is grounds for divorce (though it will have to be proved in the court of law and it can be a long process).

Related Reading: 9 Sexless Relationship Effects No One Talks About

Reasons For Sexless Marriages

Now that we have established what is a sexless marriage, let’s discuss the reasons behind sexless marriages:

  • Male impotence: This is one of the grounds recognized for annulment
  • Female impotence: Though this seems improbable, it is also recognized in a few cases by the Supreme Court and hence accepted as a ground for dissolution of marriage
  • Abstinence: Permanent abstinence to penalize spouse. Abstinence due to spiritual reasons, prolonged illness, lack of attraction between partners can also be contributing factors
  • Mutual decision: A couple may mutually decide to lead a platonic life for whatever personal reason
what is a sexless marriage
Sexless marriages can lead to an unfulfilling married life

Is A Sexless Marriage Grounds For Divorce?

A sexless marriage is grounds for divorce when the lack of sex amounts to cruelty. A division bench of Justice Vijaya Kapse-Tahilramani and Justice PN Deshmukh stated that “Sex plays an important role in marital life and cannot be separated from other factors that lend to matrimony a sense of fruition and fulfillment.”

And that is true. Your happy marriage checklist does include good sex somewhere at the very top. Citing a Supreme Court judgment, the court said a person of normal health, when denied cohabitation by his spouse, will undergo anguish and frustration and it is akin to subjecting him to mental cruelty.

“(Shailesh’s) evidence that Naina avoided physical relations with him is sufficient to hold that he was subjected to cruelty,” said the bench.

is a sexless marriage grounds for divorce
Divorce due to sexless marriage is possible

Legally speaking, both the Hindu Marriage Act and the Muslim Marriage Act recognize male impotence as grounds for granting annulment (akin to divorce though legal status is that of a spouse). Even female impotence is recognized as grounds for annulment.

If withholding of sexual activity due to any reason is a temporary matter, it is not grounds for divorce. However, if withholding sex is a permanent status in a marriage and is used as a weapon to penalize or torture the spouse, then there are grounds for divorce.

The court will seek proof that the spouse is resisting relationship counseling for the same and then take it forward from there.

Related Reading: Our marriage wasn’t loveless, just sexless

Should I File For Divorce Due To Sexless Marriage?

Sexless Marriage

No one else can answer this question for an individual. It depends from person to person, couple to couple and how a marriage has progressed. Countless factors affect a marriage, and hence also the decision to get divorced. For instance, the depth of the love and connection that a couple shares, the level of sexual frustration felt by an individual, how important sex is for the person, will one be able to prove in court that the marriage in fact is sexless, does the couple have children, and so on and so forth…

And what is the reason for sexless marriages? If the abstinence or absence of sex on part of the partner is due to ailment acquired after marriage, it won’t be grounds for divorce and you might have to survive a sexless marriage. Certain kinds of cancers can cause impotency, hence, even that would not be a ground for annulment/divorce either.

What is the right way forward can only be decided by the individual in consultation with a competent person who deals with such matters. Meanwhile, we can only navigate this distressing situation better. If you need to talk to a therapist to understand the problem better or avail of relationship counseling, our panel of experts can help you.

(As told to Aarti Pathak)


1.What percentage of sexless marriages end in divorce?

There is no clear figure however in the US, 15-20% marriages are sexless and the general divorce rate is about 50%.

2. How long do sexless marriages last?

They can last long if one wants them to. If there is a mutual agreement of seeing other people or practicing complete abstinence, your marriage can indeed last. It just depends on what your course of action as a couple is going to be even if it is a no sex marriage.

3. Can a sexless marriage survive?

Yes it can. If one is willing to make the relationship work, it can survive anything. Divorce due to sexless marriage is not necessary and one can continue to be in a marriage with their partner.

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