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Can You Have a Happy Marriage Without Sex?


We all know you can have great sex without marriage, but can you have a great marriage without sex?

John: We recently heard from Cassie who said her husband doesn't bother to be intimate unless he's in the mood. I don't envy her situation. It's difficult when you feel like everything has to be on your partner's terms or on your partner's schedule. It really helps when you make a gentle hint and your partner picks up on it and playfully, lovingly keeps the ball rolling.

Cassie states that this is the biggest issue in their marriage and that her husband is not making a good-faith effort to find terms that they can both agree to. In my view, he has thus forfeited the right to complain if she looks elsewhere. Requests for exclusivity are only as realistic as the satisfaction that results. I can either keep working until my partner is happy with our intimacy, or I can accept that she will seek fulfillment elsewhere.

Obviously, we make commitments for good reasons. If my wife is ill or ailing, I owe her whatever compassion and accommodation I can offer. If she becomes unavailable to me because we're fighting, I can only add fuel to the fire by turning to another person for fun or comfort. I cannot pretend that every rough patch is the same as years of going without.

Cassie talks about an affair in terms of the mess it would make of her children's lives. She may be ignoring the possibility that a husband who does not respond favorably when she initiates intimacy may be getting intimacy elsewhere. She may also be ignoring the possibility that the kids sense how frustrated and trapped she feels and think that this is a normal part of marriage.

Continuing on the current course might be just as messy for the kids as any other course.

I admit that having an open marriage takes more trust, communication and relationship-management skills than I could ever muster. I also have to point out that monogamy can be an unrealistic and unhealthy goal for lots of people. Cassie has some hard questions to ask about herself, her husband and how they will change their unsustainable arrangement. My perspective may be an outlier, but I know I join many people who wish her lots of healing and lots of fulfillment.

Harriet: Marriages can be happy without sex, just like some marriages can be happy without kids, without pets, without yachts, a family business, membership in a church congregation or two cars. Two people with low to nonexistent sex drives may well have a happy marriage.

The key factor is both partners being on the same page and honest with one another about wants, needs and expectations. Two people who disagree on the importance of sex in a marriage would probably be happier finding other partners more in line with their thinking. I think it's a little presumptuous for anyone to say, "No marriage can be happy without sex" when what they mean is "I could never be happy in a marriage without sex."

Even then, stop and think. What does this mean if your spouse were to somehow be medically unable to have sex again? Should you stay with your spouse or get divorced so you could have sex again?

Got a problem? Send it to And check out my blog To find out more about Cheryl Lavin, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit



2 Comments | Post Comment
The point here is that if both partners are ok with the arrangement then its fine and it should work for them. The problems lies when one partner feels left out and miserable. In my opinion a woman need to feel loved and what better way for her to feel that than through sex. It is a time when couples can connect and love one another. Forget about the outside world and just concentrate on what makes there partner happy. Coming from someone who feels that way a lot, I know how awful it feels. It is very degrading when a wife is turned away by her husband.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Maribel
Tue Jul 16, 2013 8:24 PM
i had a courtship with out sex only to discover in marriage that my husband cant penetrate a woman and was keeping it away from me. what can i do and for how long will that marriage last cos am very bitter and feel i was taken for a fool. even whan i tried to cheat my consicence is not allowing me i really need some one to put me through.
Comment: #2
Posted by: iveran hembadoon
Sun Jun 15, 2014 3:59 AM
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Cheryl Lavin
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