Wondering if it’s ok to continue being intimate with your wife during a divorce? Spouses can (ethically and legally) have intercourse during the divorce process, as long as they are aware of and correctly managing the sensitive collateral effects. These can include mixed signals sent to children, relatives, and each other. There are also critical legal and religious implications to consider on how intercourse might hinder efforts at moving on for one or both parties.
Divorce, for most, spells a painful ending to a long and complex journey of love and intimacy. But the process is not linear and, as it unfolds, some marital behaviors need to or should continue (like communication), while ending others is necessary but may be difficult. Which is the status of the most intimate physical engagement between spouses?
Deciding on the matter requires careful navigation of the motivation for and arguments against. Below we’ll whip through the pros and cons of swansong sex.
Related Reading: My Husband Wants to Still Be Friend After Divorce
How to Navigate Breakup Intercourse
In the ordinary course of events, sex happens spontaneously between people involved in an intimate relationship. That is how it ought to be. But during divorce, important changes from the norm prevail:
These factors require a deviation from impulsive sex. Instead, couples should engage a more intentional approach, in which an explicit account is taken of the three themes above and how they give rise to factors that determine whether or not to participate in continued sexual activities.
Only after the factors have been individually factored and weighed should a decision be made. No party owes the other a total duty of explanation but, where a decision is taken to go ahead, it is ideal that the spouses discuss their own individual views of the factors with each other.
Explicit, mutual discussion and consent will ensure that compatible assumptions and expectations are held by both sides.
Pros of Sex During Divorce
Positive factors arise when the three themes are suitably ameliorated:
Eight factors emerge from this.
The Pros and Pros of Sex
It is worth commencing with an overall reminder of the benefits of sex. These include:
This raises the question of why a “mere” divorce should deprive you of the benefits.
Happy Divorces and Sex
If the factors are very well aligned, it is hard to find a reason to abstain from sex. This is especially so when there is a mutual agreement in place to proceed with the breakup. Since the parties still are married during the divorce, most religious and moral reservations are satisfied.
Familiarity and Sex With the Ex
Unless you’ve been a philanderer, sex with your wife is likely to be most familiar and comfortable. It could also be the most practical – especially if you’re still living together. It is typically less risky than going home with the cute stranger at the bar. If you are intent on staying sexually active, the home likely is the best and safest option.
Comfort and Divorce
Divorce is generally perceived as a dark, difficult journey – a perception that often proves self-fulfilling. To soften this experience, couples may choose to focus on the working parts of their marital repertoire. Some of these behaviors may unfold between the sheets.
Sex and Communication
In a healthy relationship, sex is the limiting point of a broader physical intimacy that forms part of the couple’s communication. It can allow feelings to be expressed intensely and tacitly. Cutting off sex can have the effect of making the divorce colder and consequently more difficult to navigate.
Divorce and Transition
One of the techniques for managing the pain of divorce is to have a gradual transition to a life apart, rather than an abrupt disengagement. This is the intention behind “trial separations” and many countries/states require a period of separation to take place prior to granting a divorce. Reducing the frequency of sex may be part of this separation and could, in many cases, be preferable to the artificial and immediate cessation of all sex, which might go beyond what the divorce itself requires.
Divorce, Sex, and Finality
While 50% of marriages end in divorce, a study in the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage has shown that in 75% of marriages, at least one of the parties regrets the separation. Because sex is the most intimate engagement, it can be an important way of testing the finality of the divorce, exposing over-hasty decisions to split.
Finally, ask yourself what sexual contact means to you and your spouse; given your knowledge of both your specific behavioral traits, your reasons for divorce, motivation for wanting sex, and the expectations that sexual engagement is likely to engender.
Specifics may create exceptions from the general considerations of caution, which we turn to below.
Cons of Sex During Divorce
When the three themes are unattenuated, we may find that:
Factors flowing from this state of affairs include the following:
Physical intimacy may muddy the understanding of what the partners want from each other. This is especially so when sex is initiated by the party seeking a divorce and where open, explicit communication has never been the norm.
The party who does not wish to have a divorce may (falsely) believe that engaging in sexual activities may help them “keep” their spouse or change their mind. In these cases, there should be no sex unless the parties have a frank, believable agreement to separate sex from the background split.
Don’t remove a shred of clothing without your lawyer’s advice/buy in. In several jurisdictions, sex is regarded as condonation. This means that a party seeking divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences may be held to condone the abhorrent behavior, nullifying his/her claims. Note also that courts have been known to entertain a definition of sex broader than penetration.
Sex, Divorce, Religion, and Morality
If you are practicing in your religion of choice, be sure to consult with a qualified counselor to understand the religious propriety of terminal trysts. Although you are technically still married until the divorce is finalized, some religions view sexual intercourse as, necessarily, a precursor to childbearing.
This would obviate intercourse in the exit stages of a marriage. More secularly, consider your motivation and how you ought to feel if intercourse plays badly with your partner’s fragility.
Sex and Self-Medication
On some life event scales, the death of a child is the only trauma that tops divorce. In the rest, it ranks near the top. This has led to speculation that something akin to post-traumatic stress disorder might be triggered by divorce.
A healthy remedy for this can be engaging in couples or individual therapy with a qualified therapist. Orgasmic release and the appearance of intimacy may lead to sex being abused as a form of self-therapy, which only prolongs and intensifies the underlying trauma.
Divorce and Bargaining
More nefariously, the promise of sex can be used as a negotiating device during the horse-trading that can mark a divorce. This is to be avoided, opting instead for direct deliberation.
Innocent rumpy-pumpy might have unforeseen consequences. You likely do not want a pregnancy at the time you’re bidding adieu to your marriage. Remember also that third parties may not be able to read your behavior as accurately as you do. Children (who generally are aware of what Mum and Dad are up to) may be quick to seize on a sign that things are delightfully back on track.
Related Reading: Is It Considered Adultery to Remmary?
Weighing the plusses and minuses listed here is a deeply personal and contextual business. Making the right decision for your situation requires frank conversation, some soul-searching, the objective eye of intimate outsiders, and expert guidance around the technical complications.
With that in place, the partners are better able to make a decision about executing the sexual swansong.