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Is It Necessary to Consummate in Marriage ?

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  • 2021-04-23
  • By: Jane

Nowadays, you will find many couples desperately trying to annul (end) their marriage on the grounds that their marriage has not been consummated. Britney Spears was once in the headlines for canceling her wedding for the same reasons.

Consummation in marriage has been a vital component in a relationship. Many countries from all over the world use bedding rituals as part of wedding practices. The family of the newlyweds would take several steps to ensure that the married couple consummates their marriage. Some communities would take away the beddings a day after the wedding to check for any traces of blood – a sign of lost virginity. Such traditions started thousands of years back, especially in the case of royal weddings. 

While some couples do not value having sexual encounters with their partners before and after marriage, some couples attach a lot of importance to it to the extent that when the partner refuses to consummate the marriage, they can end up filing for an annulment or a divorce.

Overview of Consummation in marriage

Consummation is marriage is the "completion" of marriage where the couple has to engage in sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse involves the penis penetrating the vagina. During sexual intercourse, ejaculation doesn't need to occur. Some couples may decide to use a contraceptive sheath during the consummation of marriage.  Using a sheath does not affect the legality of the wedding, as long as penetration has occurred.

If in the case that a spouse is incapable of consummation, or refuses to consummate the marriage without giving a good reason, this may lead to the annulment of the marriage. Moreover, if one of the partners declines arranging for a formal marriage ceremony, like a church wedding, when that is the only condition that he must fulfill to make the other partner agree to engage in sexual intercourse with them. The spouse that fails to arrange the wedding ceremony is held accountable for refusing to consummate the marriage even though that partner is willing to engage in sexual intercourse with their lover.

What does "consummate in marriage" really mean?

Sexual intercourse does not occur only between married couples but also between unmarried couples who have not formally declared their union. In many statutes and traditions of religious or civil laws, "consummation in marriage," simply referred to as "consummation," is the first time, or the first officially accredited time, that a couple engages in sexual intercourse. It could be after they have been formally married to each other or after the two have had short or prolonged sexual intercourse.

The definition of consummation usually refers to penile-vaginal penetration. However, some religious doctrines believe that when there is an involvement of contraception, then the sexual act does not qualify to be consummation.

The cultural, legal, or religious significance attached to consummation may be based on the theories of marriage. Theories of marriage see that the core purpose of marriage is reproduction. Marriage exists so that couples can produce legal descendants of the partners.

However, the absence of consummation may lead to seeing the marriage ceremony as incomplete since the act of showing that a couple is married to each other is incomplete. Lack of consummation also makes the marriage to be seen as a temporary one, which can later be rebutted.

Therefore, some legal systems allow the marriage to be called off when the partners have not yet consummated it.

Consummation also has relevance in the cases of common law marriages. Since consummation carries a lot of significance, there have been many bedding rituals that encourage the couple to consummate their marriage as soon as possible.

Is marriage legal without consummation?

Consummating the marriage, or having sexual intercourse with your partner at least once after the wedding, is among the factors determining whether a spouse will seek a divorce or an annulment. Divorce laws vary depending on the States. However, many states recognize that failing to consummate a marriage is reason enough for the dissolution of the marriage. Some States can issue a divorce because the spouse consummated the marriage before but later refused to continue having sexual relations with their partner.

Refusal to consummate a marriage

After marriage, the married couple is expected to live together and start to consummate their legal union. In a scenario that the couple does not engage in sexual intercourse after they have been wedded, either spouse is viable to file for annulment of the marriage or divorce.

Annulment is defined as the legal process of canceling a marriage. The court legally "erases" the union since it is rendered invalid based on the lack of consummating the marriage grounds. Apart from the lack of consummating the marriage, bigamy is another reason that can lead to marriage being declared null and void.

In some states, the spouse will be allowed to seek an annulment if their spouse declines to consummate their marriage. However, some states will also require the complainant to show proof that their spouse, who is refusing to have sex used deceit when getting married.

In other words, a woman may refuse to engage in sexual relations with their lover on the condition that they will only engage in sex after they have been legally married. As mentioned earlier, the man, in this case, becomes the one that is withholding sex from his lover because he is not making an effort of fulfilling the conditions of their lover.

However, the tables will turn when the man agrees to fulfill the conditions and arranges for an official ceremony like a church wedding. After that, if the woman still refuses to engage in sexual relations with their partner, she is the one denying consummating their marriage. In this case, the state will allow the annulment of the wedding if the man raises a complaint. The spouse can also be entitled to a divorce.

Is it necessary to consummate in marriage?

It is not necessary to consummate in marriage. As a matter of fact, many couples in the USA are contented with their sexless marriage.  Sexual intercourse is based on the agreement between a couple.

If one has agreed with their spouse that they will not be engaging in sexual intercourse, there is no issue in that marriage. However, if either the husband or the wife demands sexual intimacy and the partner does not agree to it, such a case would warranty initiating for annulment or divorce to end the marriage altogether.

Married partners have the right to have and to enjoy sexual intimacy. Therefore, each partner has to fulfill this right every time their partner is in need, especially if there is no valid excuse like health issues. One can initiate an annulment if the partner denies them sex in a period of at least once in five or six months.

Looking a 2012 study divorce statistics, the most common cause of divorce is growing apart, which constitutes 55%, communication problems (53%), and finances (40%).  Research does not directly tie the lack of sex in marriage to divorce. Although lack of sex in marriage is a valid factor leading to divorce, it is not the only factor.

Some partners see sexual intimacy as an essential factor that nourishes their connection to each other and provides a platform for the physical expression of love and affection.

However, if the frequency of sex ends up decreasing to the point that you are thinking about divorce, do not rush to the courts. You should first consider whether you still love and trust your partner. Having less sex or not having sex at all could be a sign that there is something bigger between the two of you or there is an issue with your partner.

Try to work your issues out first, communicate with each other, engage in activities that will help you rekindle your intimacy, and treat any health conditions that may be the cause, or go for marriage therapy.

After trying to work your issues out and nothing seems to be working, you can consider filing for a divorce. Divorce is OK too, it is not a sign of failure, but it is not easy. Divorce is complicated and painful, but it helps to reprioritize your needs and be genuinely happy.

Sexual intimacy is not a priority for everyone; not every couple shows their love for each other through having sex. Some couples see sex as an unimportant part of connecting with their spouses, yet they enjoy being together and staying married.


Some people have healthy, happy, and vibrant marriages, yet they are in what could be called no-sex or low-sex marriages. They show their love through other forms of intimacy. Intimacy can be present without love; it can be demonstrated through loving each other, connecting, and sharing, and trusting each other.

However, sex is vital for some people, and it should be known and respected by their partners. When dealing with someone who values sex, failure to consummate the marriage would most likely lead to a troublesome marriage or a divorce. 

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