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Dear Emuna: Intimate Matters

June 26, 2011 | by Emuna Braverman

Help! My husband doesn't desire any physical intimacy.

Dear Emuna,

What do you do if you marry a wonderful man and then find out he does not desire any physical intimacy?

-- Confused

Dear Confused,

This is such a serious and private issue that it is impossible to adequately address it in this forum. But because I have received a number of similar letters recently, I will just make some general statements.

Among your husband’s obligations to you are conjugal rights (it's right there in the ketuba, the marriage contract). The Torah considers that to be a man’s responsibility. While every marriage and every relationship is different, a marriage without physical intimacy is unlikely to survive, let alone thrive. We call it intimacy not just to use more appropriate language but because it is an accurate description. It is a deep and profound way for a couple to connect and if it is missing from the marriage, then the union itself is dramatically limited.

Every woman wants to feel attractive and needs to feel that her husband in particular desires her. I’m concerned that your sense of self-esteem will be harmed if this is an ongoing lack. Or that you will be tempted, God forbid, to look for this validation elsewhere.

You and your husband need to sit down with a competent therapist to discuss and understand this issue and its implications. You're marriage is at risk, and you need to take action to save it. Now.

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

My best friend’s husband is so good to her. He brings her flowers every week, helps out around the house and is one of those fathers who is always down on the floor playing with the kids. He looks at her with such love and affection that whenever we go out together I feel jealous. And I feel resentful that my husband doesn’t behave in a similar fashion. What should I do about it?

-- BFF

Dear BFF,

Jewish tradition gives us interesting guidance here. In the first place, it discourages socializing with other couples. I know this may sound odd and archaic but hear me out. One reason for this is the risk of immorality. You may pooh-pooh the thought and find it absurd or overly cautious but if you think about it, you will discover that you know of more than one situation where marriages broke up because of his or her “best friend.” The second reason to limit this social contact is because of the exact situation you describe. We get jealous. He’s more generous. She’s more attractive. He’s more accomplished. She’s more thoughtful. He’s more solicitous. She’s a better cook. All of the sudden, our partner seems inadequate. Comparisons like this are dangerous and damaging. We should avoid situations where they seem inevitable.

Additionally, you need to remind yourself that no marriages – and no husbands – are alike. Everyone has their unique strengths and weaknesses. You’re only seeing his best sides and not what goes on behind closed doors. The secret is to stop focusing on the good in someone else’s husband and start focusing on the good in yours.


Dear Emuna,

I have three married sons and two married daughters. None of us live in the same city and staying in touch seems like a full-time job. Just speaking to each of my children and in-law children every day seems to take so much time. I’m feeling frazzled but trying to be a good mother and mother-in-law.


Dear Conscientious,

I think you should relax and cut back on the calls. My guess is that your daughters-in-law really don’t want to speak to you every day – no matter how wonderful and non-interfering you are! Even your daughters may want a little less contact. I mean, who has that much to say? Even if they really like you! When your children get married, it’s best to let them call the shots, and to let their spouses be in control of their relationship with you. When they want to speak, they know your number. It’s better not to be too intrusive, not to make yourself a burden to them.

Just “chill” (as my kids constantly say) and back off. The result will probably be more frequent calls – and more meaningful ones, not to mention less risk of saying the wrong thing! Relinquish control; you’ll actually end up with a better relationship, not a worse one.


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