A close and intimate relationship is the foundation of most marriages, and an active sex life is often important to couples – not only during the initial phase of passion, but also long into married life.
But what can you do if you are in a marriage but there is no intimacy? Is “no intimacy” grounds for divorce? Can I divorce my wife for not sleeping with me?
This article will explain whether you can divorce because of no intimacy and whether divorce is the only answer in a sexless marriage.
Traditional grounds for divorce UK
Under divorce law covering England and Wales from 1973 to April 2022, the grounds for someone to divorce their spouse had to be that the relationship had irretrievably broken down, supported by evidence proving at least one of the following facts:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Desertion for 2 years or more
- Living separately for at least 2 years when both parties consented to the divorce
- Living separately for 5 years or more if one party did not consent to the divorce.
So, although no intimacy as grounds for divorce in the UK was not one of the acceptable facts to prove the petitioner’s case, the petitioner would usually be able use no intimacy in the marriage to accuse their spouse of unreasonable behaviour. In many cases, having to select one of the five reasons cause a dispute and previously family mediators used to manage conversations around this very personal topic.
No-fault divorce from April 2022
However, divorce law covering England and Wales was radically changed from April 2022 and removed the need for one party to be blamed. So, you no longer need to prove “fault” in your spouse’s behaviour, including a lack of intimacy, to be able to apply for a divorce. This is a plus for family mediators, as it frees up time to discuss future plans regarding child and financial arrangements.
How can I keep my marriage going if there is no intimacy?
It is thought by some clients approaching family mediation, that mediators would deal with such an issue, but we don’t, as we leave this type of discuss to relationship therapists, psychologists etc. However, we recognise that there are options open to people facing the question of whether to divorce due to no intimacy. If you do not necessarily want to divorce just because of this, the most important thing is to have an open and honest discussion with your spouse about why the intimacy has disappeared from your marriage.
It is very common for people’s sex drive to change, or even stop completely, at times during a marriage. It is not necessarily that your spouse doesn’t want to be with you anymore. Stresses in life, in work, emotional upsets, depression – there are any number of reasons that could contribute to the problem.
The most important thing is to open up a discussion about it with your partner. This can be a very difficult and delicate topic to broach, and therapy can be a very good way to start the conversation going.
However, if you feel your relationship has ended and you want to sort your family life out post separation or divorce, then mediation may be the way forward. The first meeting is a MIAM (Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting). You would have an initial one-to-one, confidential meeting with the mediator where you can explain the problems that you are facing and what you would like to see as an outcome. The mediator would then have a similar one-to-one meeting, in confidence, with your partner. If you all agree you want to continue the conversation, the mediator will help you conduct your discussions and keep the conversations on track.
The outcome of mediation might be that you agree the terms of your divorce or separation without the needs of a court hearing. Traditionally, family mediation helps separating couples work out times for your child or children to spend with you, and/or how you are going to manage finances in the future i.e., child/spousal maintenance payments.
When a marriage becomes sexless, this does not necessarily have to mean divorce is the only option. Many couples continue a loving relationship and companionship even when physical intimacy no longer forms part of it.
However, if one party is not happy with continuing the marriage without the intimate side of the relationship, it is important for the couple to communicate honestly about the situation. Mediation can be a very helpful way of starting these conversations and being able to express your wishes and needs openly and constructively.
If you want to try to continue your marriage, a referral to a relationship counselling service or sex therapist can help you in your journey to adjust your relationship and get back on a track where you are both happy.
If you decide that the lack of intimacy is too much of a barrier to the ongoing relationship, no-fault divorce makes it easier to end the marriage. There is no need for one party to “blame” the other for the divorce. If you both agree that divorce is the right option for you, you can make a joint application. Even if only one party decides that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and wants to divorce and makes an application on their own, it is no longer possible for the other party to contest the divorce.
Even though no-fault divorce means that a lot of the contention and conflict is expected to be removed from the divorce process itself, there are still important matters to agree on, such as financial arrangements, how to split your joint assets, and childcare arrangements. Mediation is often a very effective way to keep these difficult conversations focused, objective and as amicable as possible to be able to present an agreed position to the court and ask them to convert it into an order which is legally binding for both of you, either at the time of the divorce or afterwards.
Talk to one of our friendly and experienced team on 0113 468 9593 to find out how we can help you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is refusal to have sex with your spouse grounds for divorce?
After April 2022, it is no longer necessary to prove wrong-doing by one spouse in an application for divorce. So, the only grounds required for divorce now are that one of you decides that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. No other reason has to be given.
Does no-fault divorce make it easier to divorce if there is no intimacy in our relationship?
Yes, no-fault divorce is intended to make the process of divorce a lot more straightforward and remove a lot of the conflict and arguments that were caused under the previous arrangements when one party had to be “blamed” for the breakdown.
Do I need to prove that my spouse refuses to have sex with me if we are divorcing?
No. If you feel that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, you do not have to make any specific accusations about your spouse’s behaviour any more.
Is divorce inevitable if my partner no longer wants intimacy in our relationship?
No, not necessarily. As with most aspects of relationships, communication is the key if you want to find ways to continue a loving relationship even in the face of what might seem an insurmountable obstacle. Mediation can help you initiate these difficult conversations with your spouse and help you discover ways to improve and continue your relationship if this is what you want.
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