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Anonymous Jess wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have been married for 40 years—we married in the Catholic Church.

After the first couple of years, my husband was unable to perform his husbandly duties. I had him checked out by a physician.  I had no luck addressing his problem, so we were in a celibate marriage.

I loved him and thought this would be OK since I married in sickness and health, for better or worse.

After 25 years into the marriage, I discovered he was having a long-term affair with a prostitute for about 8 or more years prior to my discovery! After that discovery, we've been to individual counseling and couples counseling and, while he stopped the affair with the prostitute, I am no longer interested in staying married to him.

I don't want him to touch me, whether or not he can do his duty or not.

  • Is this grounds for an annulment?

Thank you!


  { Is my discovery that my husband's been having an affair with a prostitute cause for an annulment? }

Eric replied:


An annulment — officially termed a declaration of nullity — is a certification that there was something before the marriage that made it not happen.

For example:

  • if your husband was perpetually impotent before the marriage, or
  • if (perhaps unknown to you) you were of too close kinship, or
  • if he hid some salient fact about himself from you, or
  • you refused to have children, or
  • one of you were not mature enough to get married.

Whatever it is, it has to be in effect at the time the marriage is contracted. Adultery after marriage is not grounds for annulment, even if it was with a prostitute.

That doesn't mean you can't get divorced. It would just prevent getting remarried, unless you were able to prove an acceptable ground for a declaration of nullity — independent of the facts you've stated here.


Jess replied:

Dear Eric,

Thank you for the information.


Bob replied:


Thanks for the question. 

Annulments are made as an assessment of the sacramental nature of the union. 

  • In other words, was it a valid marriage? 

To determine this, an investigation is made to consider any impediments to the free exercise of the will at the time of the union.  So, for example, if your husband were to have been hiding issues from you related to sexual impurity, infidelity, and impotency, they could be grounds for an annulment, because your free will was compromised by a deception.  It is sort of like fraud.  But you can't sort this out by wishful thinking either.  A tribunal is set up within each diocese to look at all the circumstances around the time of the wedding and determine if there were legitimate impediments that foiled the sacrament.  Pressure, deception, canonical irregularities, form, etc., are all taken into consideration.

If the marriage was legitimate, and your husband later decided to be unfaithful, that doesn't negate the marriage—just his character.  Basically, an annulment says, there was no sacramental marriage to begin with.

Since Christ taught that divorce is not an option for Christians, for sacraments are permanent bonds, you definitely would want to have this sorted out if you ever wanted to enter into another relationship and marry again.   You can't remarry unless your husband dies, or it is shown that your marriage was nullified by an inherent flaw from the outset, and thereby you technically were not bound in the eyes of God.



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