Is Sex a Requirement for a Marriage to Work

Updated on May 29, 2012
A.S. asks from Dallas, TX
27 answers

My husband and I have been having a long ongoing conversation involving a few friends of ours regarding this same topic. Apparently the wife feels that sex is uncomfortable and the husband is continually frustrated with her. I feel that being intimate with my husband actually makes our relationship stronger because you are letting them see a side of you that no one else sees. Apparently she is nothing but cold to her husband and they have only been intimate together twice in the last 12 months. He wants to go to counseling. She agreed once before and the counselor pretty much told him that if she didn't want to be intimate then he would just have to deal with it. She does not feel there is a problem that needs to be addressed but they are obviously not close anymore. They don't hug/kiss in front of people and barely even acknowledge the other one is there most of the time. He talks to my husband a lot about their problems so I don't have a personal say in it but was wondering if being intimate is a requirement for a marriage to work? I admittedly believe there are several layers involved in their relationship that they need to work through but it generally comes down to this. He wants to be intimate with his wife and when they do she acts unfeeling and distant so he doesn't ask and is losing a connection with his wife. He has toyed with the notion that she has been cheating but there is no evidence to support it just a feeling. My husband and I don't seem to have an issue with intimacy but he asks me all the time what he should tell this friend because he needs a women's perspective but this is beyond my scope. I admit that I am not getting the situation from both sides and mainly as an outside person.

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So What Happened?

Maybe some pertinent background on them: They are both very religious. She grew up that way and her family continues to have a large emotional bond in their relationship. He didn't grow up in a very religious family but found religion when he became involved with her. They dated for 5 years before getting married and he respected her wishes of no sex, living together, until they were married. The times they have been intimate she will ask if they can just get this over and done with. It is this attitude that has him feeling like she just doesn't care. When she was pregnant with their son he respected her wishes and did not push sex but tried intimacy (cuddling, being together, etc) but she was did not want that as well. He has not stepped outside the marriage at this point because he feels that while that will get him the sex it won't get him the intimacy. I understand that it's a very personal problem for them and because I don't know the whole story I am trying to stay out of this. If she has been abused in the past it wasn't from immediate family (there are no warning signs). If there is a physical problem she isn't communicating with her husband. He can't get her to talk about it most of the time and that is what is most frustrating to him. He is currently a stay at home dad and he is afraid that if he leaves she will take the kids and he will never be allowed to see them. Same thing if he does go outside the marriage and she finds out. It is a touchy situation. My husband has been friends with him since they were in 4th grade and that is why he is coming to him for advice.

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answers from Phoenix on

Without sex or intimacy, isn't it just really a friendship at that point? Yikes.

If she's that opposed to having sex with her own husband, then she should let him seek it elsewhere, IMO. Or, be prepared for him to cheat or leave her at some point.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

Sex, no. All of us will stop having sex eventually... I'm kinda at that spot in my marriage now. It doesnt stop hugs, and cuddling in bed, or holding hands tho.... that's the real important stuff.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

A friend of mine withheld sex for five, yes FIVE YEARS from her husband and they are now going through a divorce. Definitely sex is a requirement for a marriage to work in my opinion!

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Charlotte on

I admit that I actually DO believe that sex is a requirement for a marriage to work. UNLESS both people come into the marriage with the understanding that neither wants it.

I have to say that if I didn't want to have sex with my husband, I wouldn't blame him if he divorced me. If he stopped having sex with me, I'd be devastated and I don't know how we'd stay together. (Mind you, I'm not talking about a medical condition that would render him unable to perform.) Unwillingness to do what people tie the knot for seems to me to be marrying under false pretenses.

Your friends need to see a sex therapist. She needs to try for both of their sakes, or they need to get a divorce. He deserves to be able to have sex and have a trusting and loving relationship with a woman who will not pretend to provide it until she has a ring on her finger.


11 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I think whether or not it is so important that you would break up an otherwise fine marriage is a choice.

In my marriage sex is not required, as a matter of fact our relationship has VASTLY improved since we stopped having sex about a year ago.

My dh always had a weaker sex drive than myself, so our entire sex life was basically only happening when I initiated and more often than not he would reject me.Even when he didn't reject me the sex was mediocre at best: mechanical, no passion...
I was sure that my marriage was doomed, it had been rocky since the birth of our DD and the constant rejection made me feel awful.

I thought for the longest time (we have been together for 15 years) that sex was required, that "I" needed it to feel connected. Well, turns out I don't.
Since I thought it was the end of our marriage anyways I decided that I would no longer "beg" for sex. I figured it would just peter out and we'd eventually separate - but quite the opposite happened: we actually started liking each other again.

I guess not being constantly rejected made me a lot happier which in turn made it easier for me to react positively to DH. Because of his low drive he doesn't miss it and surprisingly neither do I (at least not as much as I thought I would)

Is it the ideal solution... NO! But we have a lot of other things going for us: our daughter, our home, financial security, we like spending time together and have shared interests. We don't fight very much any more either and enjoy being a around each other.
Yeah, I would like the perfect Hollywood husband that has the hots for me and can't keep his fingers off me - but I will not leave a perfectly good marriage to a perfectly good man and wonderful father to chase some selfish physical desire. I made a commitment for better or for worse and I guess I good a good mixed bag.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

There is such a thing as a sexless marriage.
If both parties don't desire it, then everyone is happy.
They can still be warm, friendly, understanding and emotionally close - best friends without the sex.
It's when one wants more than the other that causes lot's of stress and unhappiness.
What our husband should tell his friend is:
"I don't have these problems, I can't really relate and I'm not qualified to give you answers that might help you. Maybe some counseling might help you get some of the answers you need.".

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Theoretically--no--it's not a "requirement" for a marriage.
But if there's a lack of agreement about whether it will exist, and/or how often it will exist...then obviously it's a problem. Sounds like it IS a problem in their marriage and NOT a problem in yours.
All we need to be concerned with is our own marriages, right?
I think all your husband's friend is doing is whining about his marriage to someone who is not equipped or able to really make a difference.
Blowing off steam is O. thing--unending complaining is another!
Personally, MY advice to MY husband (were he in such a situation) would be to advise him to tell his friend that he would prefer not to be dragged in to their marital issues.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I absolutely think sex is a must in a relationship. Obviously if one spouse is injured in a car accident or some other medical situation temporarily impedes sex, ok. But in general, in a good marriage, you are having regular sex. I am surprised to hear how many of you are not! No wonder so much bitchiness happens on this forum!! LOL!

Seriously, it is bad for both partners. Sex is a very important part of a marriage.
I think the wife needs to see a doctor. Sex being physically uncomfortable is not normal, maybe something is wrong, and it should be addressed.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

She said sex is 'uncomfortable', but what does that mean?
Is she physically uncomfortable, or emotionally uncomfortable? These are two entirely different issues.

As for 'is sex a requirement for marriage to work', it really depends on the individual. There is a huge variety of proclivities regarding sex. Some people will view masturbation as a reasonable substitute; others think that self-satisfaction is wrong. That's just one example, but a very considerable one....

"He wants to be intimate with his wife and when they do she acts unfeeling and distant so he doesn't ask..."He is anticipating rejection. That is a pretty emotionally difficult situation to deal with, especially if this is her response. That would be a huge emotional blow to anyone, man or woman. It's not just that it's her time of the month or she's not up for it...if she's always not up for it, and there's not a medical/hormonal reason for lack of libido, I can see why a man would feel rejected. It's complicated, to be sure, but what kind of person would want to live in a marriage where there is constant rejection of intimacy?

No one is right or wrong in this situation... I really feel for them. When I asked my husband "If you were in a relationship where your partner never ever wanted to be intimate...?" and he replied "That's not a relationship." Just for a male perspective. I pretty much feel the same way, if the roles were reversed.

In short, your husband's friend does need to 'deal with it' and decide if he wants to stay in the marriage without a guarantee of sexual relations or to move on. He's not a horrible person for wanting to do so.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

If he wrote to Dan Savage, Dan would tell him to DTMFA. This is not an arrangement that will work in the long term and be healthy. She needs to let him have sex outside the marriage or let him go so he can find what he needs. I think what she is doing is cruel. And yes, I think it's very possible she is cheating, or has in the past.

My dh and I have gone through times when we didn't have sex, there was always a reason we had agreed upon beforehand. Mostly, it had to do with me being pregnant and nursing and feeling touched out. I wasn't "denying him" sex, I went to him with my feelings and he agreed not to pursue it until I was ready again. Sometimes this lasted months. It never ever came between us because we never lost that intimacy. To hear him talk about, it was something he should have done simply because that's what a spouse does, period. You take care of your lifemate. This woman is not taking care of her husband, and I would venture to guess she is pulling away from him physically because she's into someone else emotionally.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

She's not just denying him sex, from your description, she's denying him any form of intimacy. A marriage can't last without intimacy.

And, yes, I think sex is an absolute requirement for a marriage to work. Unless one or both partners has a medical issue that makes sex not possible, it is part of an intimate relationship. If I couldn't have sex for a medical reason, I would give my partner/husband a pass to have sex outside our relationship. That's how important I believe sex to be to a person - it's the same level of need as food, water, and shelter.

There are a lot of bad counselors out there...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Wow up until the twice in 12 months, I thought you might be talking about my marriage, especially since we're in the metroplex as well.
My husband believes sex is a requirement. I have tried to explain to him that I don't think that way, that I see it as a bonus to a loving and caring relationship. Because of his thinking, sex feels like a chore to me, and he does nothing to try to put me in the mood. It's just on the schedule. I completely lost my sex drive right after my son was born. Now that I have put on weight as well, it's in the negative. It's not at zero, it's below zero. I love my husband dearly, with all my heart. I never have and never would cheat, so that's not even a factor. I, too, am uncomfortable, both emotionally and physically. I do what I can when I can for him, especially since I work nights and watch our son during the day. I have asked for counseling and he'll agree but when it gets down to choosing a doctor he goes back on it. So I just suck it up, put out, fake it, and just keep hoping that since I'm almost 36 my sexual peak will hit and I can give him more of what he wants. I don't want to lose him over something as stupid as sex. I mean, it wasn't a requirement to GET married, so why is it a requirement to STAY married?
Good luck to your friends. Will keep looking for your SWH to see what comes from all this.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Depends on what each couple wants for their marriage. I don't feel it's a requirement that my husband and I have to have sex in order for our marriage to work. That's because we are friends who enjoy being together and the only way/reason we would not have sex would be for medical reasons. Yours and your husband's friend needs to think about what he wants and feels that he needs in his marriage, from his marriage and for his marriage to work and go from there. If the wife is not open to communication then he may need to seek the help of a therapist to help him determine what his next step will be. Best wishes.
ETA: Just wanted to say that just because they don't do PDA that is not a red flag. I kiss and touch my hubby all the time, but not in front of others. I had a giggle fit at our ceremony when the minister said for us to kiss. Even after 11 years of marriage, I still don't kiss him in front of other people. And I'm nowhere near frigid. ;)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Well, I think you clearly have your answer with your own example. They are not having sex, and their marriage is clearly not working.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sherman on

this sounds like counseling and maybe even a doctor is needed.

Some marriages may work with out sex, but only if it is a choice with both. Denying all intimacy with ur husband is cruel. if you dont like sex, find another way to make your husband feel special.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lima on

Well yes and no! You have to have that "bond" in marriage for it to work. And YES sex is a part of that. My husband and I don't have sex very much, but we have 3 small children and at the end of the day, we are both so exhausted we just want our bed to sleep in!

Aside from that, I do think that you NEED sex in your relationship in order for it to work, but I don't think it is a requirement. There are a lot more things involved. I would say if he thinks she is cheating, he is probably right. Otherwise, since she won't work on it, honestly, it sounds like she doesn't even want to be married to him and is probably doing this to tick him off to the point of getting him to divorce her so he will look like the bad guy. Since counseling has been done, I'd honestly say if she is not willing to listen to him or talk to him and treats him like dirt, he needs to divorce her. Period!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

No, sex is not a requirement for a successful marriage.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

What a sad situation. Sexual union is a HUGE part of a marriage, barring any physical impediments. If he is feeling that his wife is cold, he needs to tell her how serious it is. That it is destroying their marriage, but he doesn't want their marriage to be destroyed.

Since they are religious, they could talk to their pastor, or perhaps they could do some reading about "The Theology of the Body." It doesn't sound like they're Catholic, but the "Theology of the Body" is an eye opening way to look at the "one flesh union" between a husband and a wife.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I don't think sex is necessarily a must, but intimacy is.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

Maybe I am reading more into this, but you mention she is uncomfortable and that she acts unfeeling and distant. Is she in pain? Because that is how I first read your post, however, toward the end I am seeing this is an emotional thing.

Counselors are great for those who are in such bad shape they cannot communicate on their own. If she is uncomfortable, has he tried to ask her what is bothering her or is he just asking for sex over and over?

Perhaps her sex drive is down since she gave birth and if she tries to be intimate he gets the wrong idea.

I am thinking you have half a story and it is his. Who knows what is going on, unless you live with them. Maybe he is calling her a fat assed slob and then asking if she wants to go knock some boots...followed by a sad story to your husband how she won't take care of his needs.

Really, the only perspective you should offer is one that says try to be supportive of your wife, unless you know what is going on.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

From what I understand of men, her thinking sex is not a requirement is like a husband thinking spending time together is not a requirement in marriage.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dover on

IMHO, unless BOTH parties are ok with the whole 'no sex' thing, then yes, it's a requirement. It almost sounds as if she showed him long before they got married that any sort of physical relationship was out of the question for her, so he probably should have headed those warning signs. Nevertheless, he's unhappy & she's unwilling to compromise or give one iota of care or concern for her husband's happiness. If I'm reading this correctly & she's always been this way, she sounds extremely selfish to me. If not, maybe it's a medical issue if not psychological, but either way, her unwillingness to correct the issue doesn't sit well with me.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

It depends on the individuals involved. For some people, sex is a requirement for them to stay in a relationship, for others it isn't. It sounds like this is a case where an Is has married an Isn't.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

It is right up there with the air your breathe. Most people have different sex drives or desires however you find a way to meet each other's needs. Yes medical issues cause a problem but you find a way to please/pleasure each other.

This wife has had some issues prior to meeting her husband. I don't know of many men that would wait 5 years prior to marriage to have sex with their intended. Perhaps she spun a good line and hooked him in and now he is regretting it.

If they don't get help, this marriage is/will fail.

I hope that counseling is in order for both separately and jointly.

The other S.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

there's just too much that can play into that to make it a simple question.
in this situation it doesn't sound like the marriage is working very well. the lack of sex sounds more like a symptom to me than the cause.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Women can go with sex but withhold sex from a man and watch what happens. Because if he not getting it at home he will get it from somewhere else, men are just wired differently.



answers from Dallas on

Gosh this is a touchy subject for me because it is one in my marriage. I have a history of issues, being raped so sex is not important to me but intimacy is. My husband sees sex as intimacy so it creates a problem. So to respond, I think it depends on what sex represents to the individual in the couple. I wish them luck,

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