Dear One Sided Love,
Your frustration was palpable, as was your bewilderment, at your wife’s attitude. Your letter was teeming with pivotal issues deserving whole columns of their own. Please allow me to address just a few.
Firstly, it is an absolute tragedy for a woman to be in a marriage for 19 years where she dislikes intimacy. It bespeaks a repressed suffering that inevitably leaves its ugly mark on her and her family. For women, physical and emotional fulfillment are often inexorably bound. Clearly, your wife is not being satisfied in either domain. She says she does not care if you look elsewhere… hard to believe. I would speculate that the intimate relationship between you two is so wounded that she may just be saying it to hurt you … or can intimacy be so torturous for her that she prefers that you leave her alone at any cost? Her statement sounds like a cry for help, and is not to be construed by her man as an excuse for disloyalty. Would you be as understanding if she were to cheat because her needs are not being met?
You mentioned more than once that you love your wife and think she is beautiful. You however omitted any description of her heart, her mind, her soul. All women want their husbands to think they are beautiful, but they do not want their husbands to love them because of that.
Lastly, you wrote that your wife even thought kissing was “dirty.” This unfortunate mindset is a real problem that needs to be tackled. There is a delicate balance in conveying the Torah’s perspective of the beauty of intimacy without compromising on the tzniut of the topic. I read a book that does an excellent job balancing these ideas, called Marital Intimacy: A Traditional Jewish Approach, by Rabbi C. Friedman. Perhaps this book, serious marital counseling, and an earnest desire to give to your wife will jumpstart the road to a more fulfilling marriage for both of you.
Feeling for you both
I want you to know that your column is the first (and sometimes the only one) I check out each week in our weekly Jewish publications that arrive in our home.
Rachel, I must say you were way too harsh on this young man who wrote to you regarding his love not being reciprocated by his wife. That man clearly described what he does for his wife by working hard and providing her with all her needs, including a cleaning woman three times a week, weekly manicures and pedicures – and of course the rest of the letter was about him. Who else would it be about?
In my humble opinion, man’s need for physical fulfillment is stronger than (most) woman’s. Our urges are more easily controllable, while men need women for “halachically” acceptable physical release.
Once a month is not enough for a man to be satisfied. You were 100 percent right in stating that the laws of niddah are a wonderful aphrodisiac. If this woman cannot get together with her husband during this two-week period on a more frequent basis, what exactly is the husband to do?
I am a Bais Yaakov girl, 43-years old and have a large family. What that man wrote about Bais Yaakov girls being taught that anything relating to sex is dirty is correct. Actually, we are taught NOTHING about physical human relations and have to figure most of it out on our own. How are girls supposed to be knowledgeable in these matters? I still have a hard time coming to terms with the physical aspect of my marriage, yet one gets used to it. Do we have a choice?
It is definitely a commitment to incorporate the physical facet of one’s marriage into a hectic lifestyle. My husband frequently arranges for brief getaways to make it a little more convenient. The children are always around. What does one say to a 21, 18, 16, 14, and 12-year old child when going to the mikvah? Exercise? Shopping? It’s plain and simply not easy.
The bottom line is, this man’s wife sounds like a pampered princess who cannot be bothered with offering a little love and affection. And it’s not fair to her husband!
I know this is the complete opposite of what you responded, but please be brave and print at least part of my letter.
Finally Getting Acclimated
As a therapist, I can tell you that confusing sex with love is a common male problem. The benefit of consulting a professional counselor (as you suggest) is that this would obligate the couple to listen to each other’s responses – while at home they could easily ignore one another.
You omitted an obvious point: It is never okay to say to a spouse that one will find fulfillment outside of the relationship … aside from the fact that it is not an effective strategy.
Thank you for printing the letter from the man who complains about his unresponsive wife. It’s about time someone brought the topic into the open and addressed it so precisely from every angle.
In a world where “the Hollywood couple” seems like the ideal picture for all to emulate, we must be cognizant that “the grass only seems greener on the other side.” Every couple has their marital issues, some more problematic than others. The point to remember is that G-d created man and woman with different levels of desires/needs, and therefore we must remain patient with our spouses in regard to this delicate issue. Of course during times when the matter needs to be addressed, it does help to have a tolerant husband – one who knows when to say and do the right thing.
For better or worse, we’re in it together