An unconsummated marriage (UM) is defined by a couple’s inability to have penetrative sex since getting married. Many experience an unconsummated relationship, and while there is a stigma associated with it, it can be treated or improved with the help of a professional. The insecurity and embarrassment while experiencing UM are also somewhat influenced by the societal expectation of a “honeymoon period” for a newlywed couple.
Some seek medical help within a few days or months after marriage, while some others are as late as 5-6 years after marriage. This is because this is commonly a time when the couple is questioned about their fertility or their lack of a child. However, it must be noted, that UM is prevalent or more limited to those in culturally conservative (cultural factors or religious rules) countries like India where sexual health education and premarital sex is not common – cultural taboos and conservative attitudes can be one of the major factors. This often also is teamed up with the fact that many are hesitant to seek professional help when they need it the most and sexual experiences are considered taboo.
The key point of this article is to educate and inform couples on the facts surrounding an unconsummated marriage. There is limited knowledge of sex can affect many couples without them knowing. While the lack of education is a highlight of this topic, even those that are well-educated on sexual health experience unconsummated relationships.
Causes of an unconsummated marriage
Essentially, based on the experience of most professionals, Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is considered to be the most common cause for UM. Followed by conditions such as vaginismus or vaginal stenosis. Other concerns such as forced marriage, where there is a lack of sexual desire.
However, here are the different possible causes for unconsummated marriages:
Soreness/pain: Pain disorders such as vulvodynia, vaginismus, pelvic pain, glans hypersensitivity can cause an aversion to sexual intercourse and can be a painful experience. Individuals can have a fear of pain or genital pain.
Erectile dysfunction: This is when the individual is unable to get an erection or keep an erection firm enough for vaginal penetration. In some cases, this sexual dysfunction can have a psychological cause, which can be treated.
Premature ejaculation: ejaculating before penetration can lead to a UM.
Peyronie’s disease: This is when the individual has a fairly significant curvature of the penis that can cause discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse and can affect sexual functioning. It is important to note that a slight curvature in the penis is normal.
Severe anxiety and fear: These can be associated with the fear of becoming pregnant, certain sexual phobias, performance anxiety (Read more on Performance Anxiety), PTSD from a history of abuse, etc.
Besides the problems mentioned above, UM can also be caused by the lack of awareness when it comes to sexual anatomy and physiology. Some do not have the right knowledge/tools to understand sexual positions or techniques.
Diagnosing an unconsummated marriage
You may be wondering how a UM is analyzed and diagnosed. In a UM, a couple is unable to successfully experience vaginal penetrative intercourse. This can significantly affect their relationship. It can have negative effects on both the individuals personally and as a unit.
Some couples in an unconsummated marriage would have made the following attempts but were unable to achieve vaginal penetration:
They would have attempted methods to help ease their possible discomfort, such as trying different sex positions, certain lubricants (to help with lack of lubrication), fantasies, etc.
They would have avoided sexual intercourse for a duration of time, to help intensify the desire/arousal part of the sexual response cycle.
They would have attempted to experience other forms of sexual pleasure besides penetrative sex.
In simple words, some ignore their concerns, while others try different ways to help consummate the marriage. When all attempts are unsuccessful, a medical professional can help diagnose and treat an UM. However, it is important to point out that some couples may have medical conditions or sexual concerns such as vaginismus in women or erectile dysfunction in men that makes it difficult to experience vaginal penetration. These conditions can easily be identified by professionals who then can prescribe relevant and appropriate treatment.
Effective Treatment Options For Unconsummated Marriage
It is treated based on the cause behind the UM. Professionals assess the couple’s concerns by checking for both physical and psychological causes. With the information and medical history the professional collates, they formulate an effective treatment plan for the couple. Some methods of treatment include:
- Sex education
- Physical therapy (such as vaginal dilators in women or vacuum erection devices in men)
- Oral medications for conditions that require it (pain disorders, infections, erectile dysfunction, etc.)
- Couple sex therapy
- Martial Therapy
- Behavioral Therapy
Legal Implications of An Unconsummated Marriage
The legal implications of an unconsummated marriage can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the case. In general, however, an unconsummated marriage is still considered a valid marriage under the law, and the couple retains all of the legal rights and responsibilities of a married couple, including property rights, inheritance rights, and the right to file joint tax returns.
In cases where one partner refuses or is unable to consummate the marriage, the other partner may be able to seek an annulment of the marriage, which effectively cancels the marriage and declares it to have never existed. However, annulment is not always granted, and the legal process can be complicated and time-consuming.
Additionally, if the couple decides to divorce, the fact that the marriage was unconsummated may be considered a factor in the divorce settlement, but it is typically considered a lesser ground compared to other reasons, such as infidelity or irreconcilable differences.
How Does One Seek Support If They’re Experiencing An Unconsummated Marriage?
If you are experiencing an unconsummated marriage and are seeking support, there are a few options available to you:
Talk to your partner: It’s important to have an open and honest conversation with your partner about the situation. They may be experiencing similar feelings and concerns, and working together to address the issue can be a good first step.
Seek counselling: A therapist or counsellor can provide a safe and supportive environment to discuss your concerns and explore potential solutions. They can also provide guidance on how to improve communication and intimacy in your relationship.
Consult a medical professional: If physical factors are contributing to the issue, you may need to consult a doctor or other medical professional to explore potential treatments or solutions.
Join a support group: There are a variety of online or in-person support groups that are designed to help individuals who are experiencing similar challenges. These groups can provide a sense of community and support, as well as helpful tips and strategies for coping with an unconsummated marriage.
An unconsummated marriage can affect the psyche of both partners and further aggravate their relationship concerns. Speaking to an Andrologist and/or a Psychologist/ Psychiatrist will help couples identify either the psychological or physical causes of their unconsummated marriage, and understand it further. While effective treatment is the goal, couples will also be able to experience stress and anxiety relief as they start their treatment journey.