One of the more common topics that I hear of from the separated couples who reach out to me is that of sex. Many of those folks who write think that their interactions are rare – because they are separated but still having sex. From the correspondence that I get though, this practice does not seem to be rare at all. Many couples still have some type of sex when separated. Some have it regularly and, for others, it happens only once and creates a lot of confusion. Some people want to know what it all means. Others worry about the message that it is sending.
I find that very few people have it without working about the implications. Some get very emotional about it. I might hear from a husband who says that his separated wife cries during sex and he is not sure why. He might explain: “my wife and I are separated. I was the one who wanted this. I still love my wife and I have told her so. But our problems are many and I just want some time away. I hope that we will ultimately be able to save our marriage, but I have no way to know if this will be the case. I told my wife I would understand if she wanted to limit our contact while we were separated, but she didn’t. She asked to get together regularly and she has initiated sex many times. I worry about what it means that we are still having sex, but I am not going to turn her down. She has been crying during sex much of the time. I always tell her that we don’t have to do it if it’s going to upset her. But she says she doesn’t want to stop. She says that she just gets emotional and I am reading too much into it. Why would a separated wife cry during sex? Should we stop this?”
The Emotions Tied Into Separation Sex: I can only speculate as to why your wife might be crying. It could be that she is feeling emotional because she knows that she still loves you and yet it’s obvious that this is a rough time for your marriage. It could be that while you are having sex, you are expressing the emotions that she has been feeling all along. This is the one time where she’s able to be somewhat sure of your love for her as you’re obviously not holding back during sex. And yet, she knows that once it is over, the two of you will still be separated and your future is still going to be uncertain. The irony of that may understandably be making her sad.
I would have loved to have had sex with my husband during my own separation, but my husband was not interested. However, I suspect that if we were having sex, I would have shared many of the feelings I’ve described above. On the one hand, I would have felt happy and tender about the situation, but I would also have been sad that it was happening at a time where my marriage wasn’t where I wanted it to be and was potentially at risk.
Deciding How To Move Forward: As to whether or not you should stop, I think that this is really up to the two of you. If both people are willing participants and no one feels used or taken advantage of, and if the boundaries are crystal clear and acceptable, then I don’t see the harm. Potential issues arise though when the sex brings about confusion or one of you thinking that it means something while the other person is thinking something else. (And this is very common. Rarely are both people fine with having it not mean anything.)
I think that it’s important that it’s clear what it means (if anything) and that you’re both being honest as to where the other person stands. Having sex with a wife that you have no intention of one day reconciling with would be wrong and misleading. But if this isn’t the case (and you haven’t ruled out reconciling) and you’re trying to see if the feelings are still there, then I think this is workable with a few conditions. I think you have to be fair and faithful (and not seeing or sleeping with other people) and also honest.
It appears that so many of them do it and it’s hard to stop all sex when the person you are talking about is your spouse.
Being Open And Transparent: I think that you have to be careful that you are transparent about your intentions and you don’t use it to take advantage. Your wife’s tears during sex might mean that you both need to open up conversation about this so that you can be sure that she’s not feeling taken advantage of or that she’s being emotionally hurt by this.
Because it can be confusing when someone is willingly and enthusiastically having sex with you and showing you their feelings and emotional connection and then telling you that they aren’t sure they want to be married to you anymore in the days after this. You can see how this would make someone feel frustrated and sad.
That’s why I think it’s important to honestly ask yourself your intentions and motivations. If you’re honestly just taking a break, but are still committed to your wife and have every intention of reconciling, than that is a different situation than just enjoying sex with a separated spouse with whom you have no intention of reconciling with.