I received this question from our anonymous Have A Question page about a week ago:
My wife and I are committed Christians, but have not yet been able to go all the way in our marriage. I believe that I should wait, but getting the time and getting into the mood and getting the conditions just right for intimacy is extremely challenging and actually, quite illusive. I went repeatedly to different counselors, but my wife has refused to go. I received conflicting advice from Christian counselors, so I searched for help on the Internet until I found your interesting site. My wife says that there is nothing wrong with her except that she just can’t do it because she is too small. Her doctor has apparently agreed with her and apologizes when conducting vaginal exams. My wife told me that sex doesn’t mean that much to her and that she can do without it in the marriage. I was stunned to hear her tell me that she doesn’t need it. She says that she loves me and doesn’t want our marriage to end, but this waiting situation is pressing me unreasonably. Enough is enough! I didn’t get married to remain a virgin. Have you ever posted a blog addressing the issue of annulling a marriage? How would one go about doing that? How would I prove a case of non-consummation when I don’t have access to my wife’s medical records? I am interested in reading about suggested guidelines.
So, firstly, I think you should go read the post on pain during sex and try to implement as many of those things as possible. Then, we can address the anullment.
So, what is an annulment. Basically it’s a do-over for marriage. It’s not a divorce, where you admit the marriage failed, that you can’t work together and that you formally acknowledge you are breaking your vows. Rather it’s asking that everyone, including the legal system, forget that you were ever married. At least, that’s my understanding of it. Honestly, I don’t think the practice should exist. I think it candy coats breaking your vows by sidestepping the issues and saying that you should never have gotten married.
And you know what? Maybe you shouldn’t have gotten married. I don’t know, but frankly, it doesn’t matter. The fact is you both stood up there and vowed to unconditionally love each other until death you do part. And now, when things are difficult, when it’s “not what you signed up for”. But we don’t say vows of “I promise to love you as long as you do x, y and z”. That’s not what marriage is. Marriage is the long term commitment to the unknown. It’s saying, I love this person and will walk with them regardless of what comes our way, and sometimes what comes your way is from the other person.
Annulments are basically an attempt to cancel a covenant without acknowledging that you’re cancelling it. It’s breaking a promise and then saying you never made that promise and you don’t know what their talking about. It’s an open declaration that you don’t love your spouse, and never have, because the decision to live life with them is so unbearable, you want it to be like it never happened. I think it’s worse than divorce. At least in divorce you are forced to acknowledge that you failed. Do-overs are what little kids get when they make a mistake. Not adults. Adults get to live with the consequences of their actions.
And what are you going to do if you get the annulment? Find another spouse, get married, find out life isn’t what you expected in that marriage either, but because you’ve had sex, you’ll have to get a divorce. This has the potential to start a pattern in your life of bailing on relationships when they get too hard.
So, what can you do?
She says she doesn’t want to lose you, that she doesn’t want the marriage to end. Good. Let’s put that to the test. Have her read the post on pain during sex and start working towards a solution together. If she won’t, then separate. Find another place to live for a time and work towards reconciliation. I’m not saying she has to have sex, but she has to be willing to at least take a step. There are plenty of things you can do besides intercourse to have a sexual relationship in marriage. Because she might be able to “do without it in marriage”, but frankly, that’s not a marriage. So stop acting like it is one. Move out, and when people ask why, say you are having marital problems. I’m not saying air your dirty laundry everywhere, but I wouldn’t hide the fact that you’re separated.
But, I wouldn’t divorce, for two reasons: One, it closes the door for you both to reconcile, and if you can get through this, you will have a stronger marriage for it. Two: It releases her from her obligation, just like you were trying to get out of yours. She’ll never learn or grow if she’s allowed to continue being this selfish. Frankly, you’re both being selfish and need to start living for the other spouse. That is what you promised to do after all… In a lot of marriage ceremonies, those in attendance are asked to hold them accountable. Well, I’m not there, but I’m guessing all those in attendance don’t know about what’s going on. So, I’ll hold you accountable: live up to your vows, both of you.
Now, if you can get her to read this, this is what I’d want her to read:
You signed up for marriage. You promised to love your spouse, not in the way you want to be loved, but in the way they want to be loved. Saying you’re okay with there never being sex in the marriage isn’t acceptable. You cannot rightfully make that decision unilaterally. In fact, the Bible specifically says you cannot (1 Corinthians 7:5). Yes, I understand sex is painful, but there are other options. Shutting down any chance of a sexual relationship is going to destroy the rest of the marriage because refusing to have a physical relationship is just as bad as adultery. It’s a betrayal of your marriage bed (non-existent as it is to date). You don’t need to jump right into sex, but you at least need to start making baby steps towards that. If you want help, email me ([email protected]), and we can try to find small steps you can take.
And yeah, I think you should let her read this post, she needs to know how serious you are. She needs to know that you’re considering forgetting the marriage ever existed. She needs to know how big of a deal this is to you.
But, no, I’m not going to help you get an annulment, because I think that would harm you both more than it would help. I’d much rather help you find a way to move forward, together.
Sorry if this was a bit of a rant, but I’m so tired of the blasé attitude towards ending marriage. I think I get where God is coming from:
“For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” – Malachi 2:16
And I don’t think getting an annulment is any better.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.Have a Question? Ask it here!