No, You Still Can’t Divorce

On Dalrock’s thread “Radio Silence and Dread” I got into a discussion with a commenter who suggested that the husband threaten divorce as a last resort if the wife was refusing sex. I disagreed, and said that for a Christian divorce (even civil divorce for us Catholics) should not be an option except in cases of physical abuse with no signs of stopping or serial adultery where the offending party has no intention of stopping (as was the case with someone I knew who admitted adultery and then claimed he couldn’t promise he wouldn’t commit it again).

Commenter deti disagreed. First, I want to emphasize that deti’s disagreement was polite and I believe he argued in good faith. I have no overarching quarrel with him. That said, I’ll get down to the disagreement.

First off – the main purpose of marriage is indeed sex, but it is certainly not the only purpose of marriage. For one thing, St. Paul explicitly writes that by agreement couples can refrain from sex for a time. For another, we have such things as Josephite marriages. Now, obviously there is a key difference here in that such marriages are sexless by agreement, but that is not the point. The point is that there are obviously points to marriage besides sex, so I would say that denial of sex is no reason to (civilly) end a marriage.

I said this in the thread:

There is no such thing as abandonment of the marriage. The best a wife can do is leave, but she’ll always be married whether she likes it or not.

I know you probably think this is a semantic difference, but it is critical. Even if she denies sex, they are still married. They will always be married. For that matter, if there are kids involved I’d say that civilly divorcing because of lack of sex is absolutely and totally immoral.

If a husband literally can’t abide living in a house in a life with no sex, perhaps he shouldn’t have gotten married. He is in no danger of injury in this case, and his wife is not leaving him.

Just like a wife has no right to stop obeying her husband even if he is a bad provider a husband has no right to leave his wife even if she is not giving him sex.

I think the “provider” point is crucial. Just as husbands enter a marriage with (highly reasonable) expectations of sex, a wife enters the marriage with (highly reasonable) expectations the husband will be a provider. I think everybody would agree that being a bad provider is not an excuse for a wife to divorce – indeed, that is one of the points of Dalrock’s blog. Given that, we should also agree that denial of sex is no reason for divorce.

The bottom line here is that the husband (not to mention children) is in no physical danger and the wife is not getting sexually satisfied elsewhere with no sign of remorse (this is an assumption I grant in my premise). Given those two parameters, unpleasant as lack of sex may be – terrible, even – divorce should be one hundred percent off the table.

Deti wrote this (he had several responses but I think this sums them up nicely):

When you’re a married man, and you’ve been told that you are finally, at long last, going to get to have sex pretty much when you want it within reason, because you’re married, and you’ve been told sex is your reward for marrying, because marriage is the only biblically sanctioned place for sex; then your wife deprives you of sex deliberately and with the specific purpose of gaining control in the marriage, there is nothing which could be more cruel and inhuman and deliberately, willfully injurious and demoralizing to that man.

The problem with this line of thinking is that the only purpose of marriage isn’t sex. It is a major purpose of marriage, probably the primary purpose (along with having kids), but not the only purpose.

What the wife is doing is cruel and demoralizing, but the husband is in no physical danger. It’s important to remember that, at least from the Catholic perspective, divorce is literally impossible. The very worst the wife (or husband) can do is stop acting like she is married. This is what she is doing, and the answer to fixing it should not be to destroy everything ELSE that makes up a proper marriage as well.

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18 Responses to No, You Still Can’t Divorce

  1. vishmehr24 says:

    Isn’t the main purpose procreation?

  2. BenYachov says:

    If one party enters the marriage without intending to have sex with the other that is clear grounds for an annulment. As is entering a marriage without any intent on having children.

    If she won’t put out then get out. He certainly has grounds for a case of nullity.

    • I actually said that in the original thread, but I’m assuming that when the marriage is entered their was an understanding by both that they were having sex, for the sake of argument.

      I’d also argue that in a perfect world this would be a very difficult annulment to get pushed through, since you’d have to prove intent. In practice it would probably be accepted, though I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing.

  3. Zippy says:

    A couple only has to engage in sex once to consummate the marriage. Once consummated it is indissoluble, no matter what wicked things they might do to each other afterward.

    Deti has been telling a story of how he ‘successfully’ (ahem) got his frigid wife to start sleeping with him again by threatening divorce and meaning it for a long time now, as part of his ongoing promotion of Game (they call this tactic ‘dread Game’) and its chief priests. When you tell someone that it is morally wrong to do something that he has been promoting on the Internet for years as a ‘successful’ strategy, expect to meet a relentless wall of rationalization.

    • Indeed. Even Dalrock advocates “Dread Game”, if you see his post. It strikes me as another example of equivocation of the game gods – “Of course dread game is moral, if we define it to get rid of all the immoral things about it!” I suspect Dalrock would probably agree with deti, though I’m not sure. I was certainly on my own there.

      I think a good way to think of this situation is that if you leave the wife, you still shouldn’t be getting sex. What good could possibly be accomplished by getting rid of everything *else* as well?

    • BenYachov says:

      Which is why you should get to know your spouse before marriage by talking to them

      “Honey the thought of you touching me makes me ill” is a deal breaker. No ring for you & I wish you well. But OTOH using cohesion to get what you want isn’t right either.

      “Do “X” for me or I will leave you”.

      That is just wrong.

      • Zippy says:

        OK, so now you have addressed 0.01% of cases. The rest of the cases involve people who were at least somewhat passionate for each other when they got married, but here they are, fifteen years later, and things have changed.

        If you aren’t talking about that kind of situation you aren’t really in the conversation. You are just talking about some edge case that isn’t even really on topic.

        (I say that as someone who certainly agrees that threatening divorce is not acceptable).

  4. Zippy says:

    Dalrock is usually very careful about what he himself implies, and I haven’t read the post or thread closely. So I can’t comment on his view in particular.

    It strikes me as another example of equivocation of the game gods – “Of course dread game is moral, if we define it to get rid of all the immoral things about it!”

    Yes, that is the Humpty Dumpty nominalism coming out. Game is just what they say it means, nothing more, nothing less: the moment an undesirable or immoral implication emerges, Game is redefined to mean what it meant before but with any undesirable implications truncated. (‘The reason Marxism has failed is because nobody has tried authentic Marxism’, etc). You can use Game: just lop off the parts you don’t agree with morally!

    The notion is that whatever Game is, that thing is, by definitional fiat, metaphysically neutral. The “amoral toolbox” analogy is a permission slip to treat “Game” nominalistically: Ockham’s toolbox.

    • For my money while Dalrock’s comments section is normally fairly polite, it’s populated with a fair amount of crazies. I would hope Dalrock does not hold with much of what they say.

  5. Ilíon says:

    I think the “provider” point is crucial. Just as husbands enter a marriage with (highly reasonable) expectations of sex, a wife enters the marriage with (highly reasonable) expectations the husband will be a provider. I think everybody would agree that being a bad provider is not an excuse for a wife to divorce – indeed, that is one of the points of Dalrock’s blog. Given that, we should also agree that denial of sex is no reason for divorce.

    Yet, does it not seem that if the man is not even attempting to be a good provider, then he fraudulently enticed the woman to marry him? In such a case — fraud — is the marriage real?

    Similarly, does it not seem that if the woman is not even attempting to be a good lover, then she fraudulently enticed the man to marry her? In such a case — fraud — is the marriage real?

    • I think that’s a fair point, but as part of my premise I’m assuming that the marriage was *entered into* with good faith on both sides.

    • Res says:

      Fraud in that stage is never a reason for ending marriage, it is a cause of marriage. To be fair, that’s not why females enter into marriage, they generally do it for socio-sexual belonging.

  6. Random Angeleno says:

    Your point regarding marriage not just about the sex is a good one and is reflected in part one of a favorite saying “decent sex is 10% of a good marriage”. But when one spouse withdraws, the situation becomes the other half of that saying “but no sex or too infrequent sex is 90% of a bad marriage”.

    A man doing without sex in his marriage may not be in physical harm’s way, I’ll give you that. But he is in mental harm’s way. Mentally, he may as well be living in hell on earth. St Paul said it was better for some to marry than to burn. But what if a man marries rather than burning only to find out he’s still burning, only now it’s within the marriage? The denial of sex puts him in a position of high vulnerability to temptation. He is a man, after all, not a god, let alone the Son of God. Adultery is a grave sin, the gravest sin against marriage. But the betrayed spouse is often not blameless for their own part in creating the environment that made the betrayal possible.

    Women can and do change their minds, and no amount of logic or quoting the Bible will sway them. Though dread game using divorce as the hammer is not a Christian let alone Catholic tactic, I don’t really blame men for wanting to go there to save their marriages. Like I said above, “90% of a bad marriage”… Perhaps along those lines, one might discuss practical Catholic-compatible alternatives to dread game for leading a wife out of this mode. I’d like to see where that discussion goes.

    • My intention is not to minimize the mental torture going on in such a situation, but donalgraeme put it nicely as well.

      Another good way to put it, that I mentioned briefly at the end of my post, is that threatening civil divorce, for a faithful Christian (not even Catholic – even Protestants really can only cite the adultery exception), is pointless, because even if you end the marriage civilly to act morally you STILL can’t have sex. All you’re doing is destroying everything else about your marriage AND leaving literally the one and only chance you will ever have (unless she dies before you) to have sex.

      This is not only immoral, it’s quite foolish.

    • Res says:

      Isaiah. Stop telling me that Heaven’s a place on earth.

  7. donalgraeme says:

    Please correct me if any of this is wrong.

    The Apostles were quite clear that God does not want us to repay evil with evil… because it is evil.

    Hence committing evil is never justified.

    Threatening to commit evil is evil.

    Thus, we are not to repay evil with threatening to commit evil.

    Divorce is evil, because God hates divorce and what God hates is evil.

    Therefore, threatening to divorce one’s spouse is never justified.

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