If you are in a sexless marriage where your wife absolutely denys you any sex or intimacy no matter what, is it OK to cheat? What is the Buddhist rules on that? I understand that my wife's behavior can be considered sexual abuse. What she does for me is actually not good for my health and well being.

6 Answers 6


You don't need to have sex to be healthy and well. Otherwise, most Buddhist monks should be sick. Cheating breaks the 3rd precept. That is bad Karma for you.

Whether your wife agrees or not, associating with prostitutes has many bad consequences. You and your family's reputation can be tarnished. Higher risk of catching diseases. Your wealth will decrease. You could be cheated in many ways as you have very little idea about the character of the other person. You could be blackmailed by those who get to know about your habit. Most of all, your lust will increase. After sometime, you will start developing unnatural sexual cravings. There's no end to it, if you crawl down that pit.

Nevertheless, sexual pleasures are not forbidden for lay people. So, as a Buddhist layman, you have several decent options available:

  • Try different socially acceptable methods like being romantic, changing the environment, buying presents etc. and see if she changes according to your liking.
  • Talk to her, let her know that you are not happy and take a decision on the future of your relationship, if she doesn't change.
  • Restrain yourself and try to focus on your spiritual development as having sex doesn't bring you true happiness.
  • I found your post about the dangers of prostitutes to be excellent & I fully agree with it. In my post, I was just pointing out 'the rules'. In countries like Thailand, these things are more common, less dangerous & less expensive (than they would be in the West). I suppose my answer was a typical 'Thai' answer since the 'motherhood' emphasis remains strong there so it is common for mutual 'arrangements' there. That said, I fully agree with your post since I personally do not believe in prostitution nor would personally encourage it. Commented May 24, 2016 at 9:40
  • Thanks, but Thai people might find your comment offensive. :) Commented May 24, 2016 at 9:47
  • Not that I disagree but are you sure that it's considered as breaking the 3rd precept, i.e. that it's considered to be "sexual misconduct"? Could someone argue that it's alright except if the extra-marital affair is with a woman who is supposed to be being "protected" by someone else?
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 13:16
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    My comment is not offensive since indigenous prostitution is a norm & open in Thailand. In Thailand, provincial hotels with prostitutes also have restaurants where families eat. Forms of de facto polygyny are still very common, including among the urban middle-class. In summary, having sex with prostitutes is not considered to be skilful behaviour in the suttas however it does not fall within the definition of 'sexual misconduct'. It is another kind of misconduct, a potential 'road to ruin', as found in the Sigalovada Sutta. It depends on the situation. You need to learn more about Thailand Commented May 24, 2016 at 19:00
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    Interesting to see the various cultural influences. As a Sri Lankan I naturally sided with Sankha's answer, but reading Dhammadhatu's answer did broaden my vision of the world. +1 for your answers. Commented May 25, 2016 at 4:19

Its not OK to 'cheat'. Buddhism states a husband should be faithful (DN 31) & honest (SN 10.12) to his wife. However, you can & should honestly discuss your feelings & concerns with your wife.

It is not officially sexual misconduct in Buddhism to have sex with a person that is not in another relationship. This is because, in ancient times, wealthy men often had concubines (mistresses for sexual pleasure) & wives often primarily focused on having children & motherhood.

Often women, even today, grow out of sex. Essentially, Buddhism teaches what is 'natural', which means sex primarily exists for reproduction. Thus women can grow out of sex. It is not virtuous or warranted to put pressure on a woman to have sex.

Buddhism holds to spiritual evolution, which for many, results in growing out of sex & seeking inner peace. This is why Buddhism is a monastic tradition. Thus Buddhism would not overly sympathize with a husband wanting sex but it does understand most people need to have sex.

Thus, if a wife gives her husband permission to have sex with a 'mistress' or 'prostitute' then I suppose it is OK (i.e., if it is economically affordable) since the rules for lay people do not explicitly forbid it.

Women can be problematic for men since women can grow out of sex but still want a husband since most women (much more than men) struggle to live alone.

Thus Buddhism would encourage you to be compassionate towards your wife. Generally, particularly in the West, husbands & wives take vows: "For better or for worse, etc".

Best to discuss these issues with your wife or have some marriage counselling. In Buddhism, a wife not being sexual is not a ground to leave her.


Sexual activity in a marriage is a predictor about how a relationship is working out and how close and connected the partners feel. The fact that your wife is denying sex and intimacy is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. There could be various reasons for this, which only she may know or even not be aware of.

However, you are abused not by your wife, but by the lustful tendencies within you.

Couples, who have unsatisfied sex lives also find it difficult to talk openly and honestly about their physical needs and desires with their spouses. As the months and years go by it gets more and more difficult to open up. When that is the case, counselling or the involvement of a 3rd party might be needed as a catalyst, to either see if a.) the barriers to communication can be broken and intimacy restored or b.) if the relationship can be saved at all.

Having said that the 3rd precept is about having sex with people who are 'protected or defenseless' (i.e. young/defenseless/prisoners/servants), 'committed (sexually) to others', or entails a punishment (public shame, a divorce proceeding where the partner who had an extra-marital relationship would lose everything, etc).

The main purpose of moral codes are

  1. To prevent the arising of remorse, which is mentally taxing and damaging, and hence clouds the path.

  2. To safe guard people and society, which is inherently relationship based (parent-child, teacher-student, etc).

Buddhism does not prescribe monogamy, although it is the preferred option.

Some things to consider:

  1. Speak to your wife and explain your situation.

  2. Together meet with a counselor

  3. See if you and your wife have common ground other than sex, (couples who are equally spiritually also have wonderful relationships. The basic premise is that couples who do things together usually stay together happily.)

  4. A mutually agreed separation (this could be a divorce or only a sexual separation)

  5. Have a extra-marital relationship. You may receive some sexual relief but be prepared to suffer the consequences, mental guilt, STDs, blackmail, to public shame once exposed.

  6. Understand that sex/lust at the end causes suffering, and practice to destroy even the latent tendencies of lust.

Your wife's disinterest in sex may be a positive thing, allowing you the freedom to fully commit to this practice of eliminating lust.

Sankha and Dhammadatu have provided very good answers answers which should be considered. What you will not get is a blanket 'go ahead' to have sex outside marriage.

"What do you think? When lust arises in a person, does it arise for welfare or for harm?"

"For harm."

"And this lustful person, overcome by lust, his mind possessed by lust, harms living beings, takes what is not given, goes after another person's wife, tells lies, and induces others to do likewise, all of which is for long-term harm & suffering."

paraphrased from the Kalama Sutta AN 3.65 "lust" replacing "greed" (Pali: Loba)


In most cases, cheating comes from craving. Where there's craving, there's identification with the I. Thus, in most cases, it is not ok to cheat.

In most cases, relationships come from craving. Where there's craving, there's identification with the I. Thus, in most cases, relationships are not needed.

If ignorance is completely removed, identification with the I would no longer be, thus craving would never arise, thus, in most cases, cheating would not happen ... relationships would not happen.

In your case, if ignorance would be completely removed, compassion towards your wife would arise and most probably you would never cheat on her. But, would you stay with her in the relationship? That depends on many other circumstances, which only you know.

There isn't an absolute "right" or "wrong". It depends on the individual. But there is certainly the best "right" action for each individual. Even though I don't know anything about your situation, I can tell you with certainty: don't cheat.


If you believe that your wife needs to give you sex then you would benefit from studying the teachings of the Buddha which are to retain from sexual misconduct in all times or else you will not be born again into the life you want to but will be stuck forever in the cycle of birth and death and all suffering. If you cheat on your wife you will be cast into the hells for many culpas for your transgressions and this is Karma. If you are tempted think of this and you will be able to resist but you must know it is wrong because if you hurt your wife in this way she will not forgive you.


All percepts are interpretations of Buddha. Sexual misconduct was never defined for householders by Buddha. I am yet to come across a man who does not cheat. The moment a beautiful girl crosses by all men invariably stare at her. The momemt you look at a girl its cheating because staring implies looking for possible mating opportunity. Sex drops only after enlightenment. If someone is asking you not to have it has not understood it completely or he is carrying hypocracy commonly found in Asian men. Body heat cannot be controlled only transcended. Ofcourse sexual activity varies from person to person but only impotent men can refrain but potent men just cannot. One cannot and should not fight nature. It is because of this fight very few enlightened beings are produced. It does not matter which religion you belong to sex is something which is not easily handled. The reason of failure of all religions is primarily sex.

  • sexual misconduct is only when one forces himself or herself upon the other for pure sensual pleasure. Sex without love is what Buddha was against. If there is love sexual requirement goes down in an automatic fashion. When one is in love one is in a natural state. Commented May 26, 2016 at 5:22

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