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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 6/29/07

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Feeling with “Feeling Hopeless” (Chronicles 5-4)

Dear Rachel,

After reading the letter from “Feeling Hopeless,” I was compelled to write. For I, too, was a girl form a religious home who married young (in the early 1970’s). From the beginning there was something wrong with the physical aspect of our relationship – the ‘norm’ for engaging in marital relations was once every six to eight weeks, always at my instigation. I had no clue as to what was wrong or how to fix it. In those days I had no idea of where one went to deal with a problem like this.

We went on to have B”H five healthy children (a nes in itself), but the physical relationship never got any better. My husband’s excuses were that he was too tired, too busy, the house wasn’t clean enough, he didn’t like my tone of voice, etc. It made for a lot of arguing. I talked my heart out and tried to explain that intimacy is the glue that holds a marriage together, but he didn’t want to listen. Magazines only spoke about men’s desires and how women should look to please them. Jewish publications extolled the mikvah system for keeping desire fresh between husband and wife. The overwhelming message was that men have desires, and if there was a problem, it had to be the woman’s. This only reinforced what my husband was saying, and I spent much of my time crying and trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

About 15 years ago, I heard of a frum sex therapist. I made an appointment and my husband came along, though he really believed the problem to be me – I was too demanding and expected too much. As in the case of “Feeling Hopeless,” my husband swore that SSA was not a factor. Things improved slightly but slipped back to where they were after a few months. This pattern continued for the next five or six years, through a number of other therapists. Finally, emotionally exhausted, I decided to see what would happen if I stopped being the initiator. All physical activity between us stopped, and that is how the situation has remained for the last ten years. Almost three years ago, I read a newspaper piece about asexuality and realized that this is what the issue has been all along.

My husband is a wonderful, generous man who loves to give gifts and can’t understand why that is not “enough.” His logic: Being a good provider and expressing his love with gifts should be sufficient. As he is getting older, physical problems are coming into play, but unlike other wives, I cannot mourn for what I never had. For me, the emotional wasteland is torture. Judaism recognizes the place of sensuality and sexuality in a marriage. It is the Catholic ideal that holds that celibacy is the norm.

Almost 40 years later, I feel that I have been cheated. The bedrock foundation of a marriage is the closeness between a husband and wife, and I feel that this has been denied me. My heart truly goes out to “Feeling Hopeless” because sometimes the loneliness, the need to be touched or hugged, is overpowering. To this day, this is not the kind of problem I could have confided to my mother or mother-in-law when they were alive, nor could I share this with my sisters, and certainly not with my friends. Neither am I aware of any support group that deals with this problem.

Two or three times a year I visit a therapist for a chance to express my profound sadness and sense of loss. Should “Hopeless” decide to stay in her marriage, she must be prepared for a very lonely emotional existence. There is only so much time and energy to devote to children or grandchildren; my sadness is always lingering under the surface. My husband does realize that if our problem had been resolved at some point, our marriage could have been a much happier one.

I wish I had an answer. I wish “Feeling Hopeless” luck and salute her courage in writing to you. I wish there had been a forum such as yours for me all those years ago.

Keep up your good work – hatzlacha!

Wishing it could have been different

Dear Wishing,

Your story is a sad one. G-d only knows how many of us experience this type of emotional anguish in our marital relationships and suffer in silence.

You went all out in trying to get your husband to understand where you were coming from – to no avail. Yet, when you went for therapy, there was some reprieve, some slight improvement. This would indicate that “asexuality” is a conditioning of the mind, as in ‘mind over matter.’

The human mind is a powerful thing – once set, it is not easily swayed. However, the sporadic upswings and your five beautiful children testify to your husband’s capability of exercising his conjugal rights, albeit with some prodding.

Each partner in a marriage has an obligation to satisfy the other’s need for intimacy. (Of course it helps when a husband and wife are on the same page regarding the various nuances that come into play…) Even with the interference of advanced age and illness, how much exertion is required of a spouse to express his affection by way of a touch or a hug?

Granted, being a good provider is important. And gift giving is an endearing bonus. But the true essence of love cannot be measured by currency. When two hearts connect and the two halves of a soul come together, the desire to be one – imbued in us by G-d – is exhilarating. What a pity to shun this beautiful gift from our Creator and forgo the ultimate in marital harmony!

Thank you for sharing. Maybe, hopefully, your heartfelt words will steer a misguided soul in the right direction.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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