Okay to have sex with separated spouse?
QUESTION: Joe, I am going through a divorce. My wife is Christian. She left me due to her feeling that I am controlling. We have been married 16 years. I feel like the kids and I walk on eggshells to keep her happy, and that life is all about her.
We had been working to develop spiritual, then emotional, then finally physical intimacy. My attempts at spiritual went not so well. Anytime anything negative happened, she would end our prayer/Bible times. Emotional intimacy went ok, with some sharing of innocuous stories from before we met.
We have been apart almost six months, and my sexual desire has been difficult to deal with. My wife has recently confessed the same, although rarely in our marriage has she been willing to discuss sex. Anyway, we had sex yesterday, and it was amazing, great for both of us. She pointed out it doesn’t change anything, and she plans to finish the divorce. I feel like it was a gift from God, but don’t see it stopping the divorce. We had a date after sex, and as usual have gotten along better following the sex.
One final thing, for me sex is never just sex; I think it God designed it to be used powerfully. While I am fine with her thinking it was ‘just good sex’, I really want and crave for it to be much more meaningful. What do you think of sex in the midst of divorce of separation?
ANSWER: It’s actually common for couples who are separated or divorced to continue to have sex with each other. Married or single, we all have a sex drive and most of us need to fulfill that drive. Making love with the former partner removes some of the fears that would come with having sex with strangers – being rejected by potential partners, STDs, bizarre requests or acts, feeling used, violation of moral standards, and more. Therefore, quite a few people continue, at least occasionally, to make love to their former mate.
In my opinion, because you are still married to her, it’s quite alright for you to continue making love with her. You have every right to be lovers. However, as you learned, the mate who wants reconciliation typically views the sexual encounter far differently than the mate who does not want to reconcile. As you said, she views it as “just good sex” while you view it as more. You want it to be the sign that she still loves you and will come back to you, but she’s telling you it isn’t.
Will having great sex with her bring her back?
We know that when humans orgasm oxytocin is released into the autonomic nervous system and into the bloodstream. Oxytocin is a strong bonding chemical that brings people to feelings of closeness and togetherness. Therefore, each time you orgasm with each other, good things are happening within your body that might draw you back together. But it takes more than that to restore a relationship. I suggest that you make love to her as often as she is willing. However, do NOT push her, or try to use the sexual encounters as a way to control her or manipulate her. In short, take it on her terms: It’s good sex, not an indication on her part that she wants to come back.
As you have those encounters – and at all other times you have access to each other – be gentle and loving. Do not try to convince her of anything, but rather listen closely to her emotions, good or bad. Validate who she is and what she feels. THAT may open the door for reconciliation, but you must allow her to be the one who opens it.
There are more things you can do that might work. I suggest you get my Your LovePath Home Study Kit available here and study it carefully.
If she comes back, the problems you described in your marriage will still be there. If she is “all about her” now she likely will be all about her then. She likely will continue to punish you (example, stop Bible study) when she isn’t happy. If she perceives you as controlling, you will probably still be viewed as controlling. Those problems MUST be fixed if you are to have a good marriage. Therefore, if you do reconcile, find a great counselor or attend a marriage intensive. I’d love to have you at the one I personally lead. You can find more about it here.
Whether it is my organization or someone else who helps you, get the help you need if you and your wife do get back together. Otherwise, at some future point you’ll be right back where you are now.