I recently wrote an article suggesting that it can be detrimental to a marriage or relationship if women give up on their appearance or regular sex. I was unprepared for the storm that followed and the comments I received, including this one: “if my husband expects me to look good when I am at home, I will serve him divorce papers with his dinner. I was quite puzzled by the militant, almost uniform responses, bar a few lone voices who agreed that appearance and sex were quite important in a relationship.

I recently watched “The Children Act” where Emma Thompson is playing a very busy judge, so absorbed in her work that she hasn’t had sex with her husband in 11 months. In the movie, he tells her that even though he loves her very much he wants to have an affair. She blows her top off and changes the locks yet, refuses to do the much simpler thing of giving him the affection he is seeking.

Under the circumstances should he be allowed an affair? I am pretty sure that the marriage vows do not specify the obligation to provide regular sex, even though they do talk about “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”. Is it because regular sex, post kids, is too much to ask? And do men have any rights once they say, “I do?”

To avoid another backlash, let me clarify that the same questions apply to men in a similar situation. Should either side stay in the relationship if the sex dries up and one of the partners ends up looking like a slob? To make matters more extreme, should they tolerate a partner that stops washing? And what if they get a chronic debilitating illness? Is this different? What if they are addicted to gambling and they put the family in debt? And, what if there is no love? Are small children enough of a reason for such a marriage to survive? When does the obligation to stay married end?

Many women who have gone through an unwanted divorce seem to take the Christian view, which says that the answer is never, but does this work in an egocentric society where we spend money and time naval gazing and meditating ourselves silly in the now?

At what point does society, or the sisterhood agree that he (or she) has the right to leave and what would be the obligations for severing a lifelong contract?

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