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Dear Dr. Yael,

I’ve been married to the same woman for over 20 years. She is a good and caring person and, Baruch Hashem, for the most part we have had a very good marriage. We vacationed together many times and enjoy being together. We have beautiful children and grandchildren.

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There is only one area in which there is a problem and that is in our lack of intimacy. I admit that my frustrations in this area did cause me to look outside for comfort.

When my wife found out, we had a major argument and she moved out. I thought things were over, but we both agreed to seek guidance and counseling and are on the road to re-conciliation. I know much work needs to be done to mend this rift.

I have written to you before and follow your column closely. I wish I would’ve sought guidance and counseling sooner as opposed to trying to go elsewhere to fix my marriage. I’m hoping that our marriage will soon be back on track and this brief separation will be a wake up call for us to fix the things that were broken.

I realize that there are many positive aspects to my marriage and that they outweigh any and all problems. I want to make my marriage work, and was wondering if you have further insights to help us on this road to reconciliation.

A follower

Dear Follower,

I am so glad that you and your wife have sought counseling and that you are trying to mend this rift. Yes, being married takes a lot of hard work, yet in the end it is almost always worthwhile. You note that the biggest issue in your life was intimacy, but it seems like it was deeper than that. Usually an intimacy problem is a sign of a deeper issue. I’m going to give you some things to think about and some possibilities to explore.

Were you always very loving and caring towards your wife? You talk about intimacy being an issue, but did you give your wife the emotional intimacy most women need? Did you make your wife feel special and beautiful? Did you tell her you appreciate her and give her meaningful compliments? All of these things are crucial to a marriage as they set the building blocks for intimacy.

If you responded “no” to any of these questions then you will have some of the answers you’re looking for. Most women need to feel loved and cherished in order to have a good relationship with their husband. If this is something that was lacking in your marriage then I implore you to work on how you make your wife feel. You’d be amazed as to how quickly a wife will want to be close to her husband when she is treated with love and care.

It’s also important to look at your Love Languages as taught by Dr. Gary Chapman. As we have discussed many times, a Love Language is how a person feels loved. There are five:

– Receiving Gifts
– Quality Time
– Words of Affirmation
– Acts of Service
– Physical Touch

People have different ways of feeling loved and expressing their love. Many times the two people who make up a couple have different love needs. This can result in a lot of confusion and hurt feelings.

For example, let’s say you feel loved with Physical Touch or Acts of Service. This means that you feel loved when you receive physical touch (hugs, kisses, etc.) and when someone does things for you. Perhaps your wife feels loved through Words of Affirmation, which means she feels loved when you tell her how much you love her and appreciate her. If you show your love to her by doing things for her and by physical touch, she will not feel loved by you. Perhaps the two of you can explore your Love Languages (there is a quiz at www.5lovelanguages.com) and thus get a clearer understanding of what you each need.

Lastly, it’s important to look at what you really want from your wife. Sometimes we marry our imago in order to work out issues that we had in our childhood. This means that we often marry someone who is similar to one of our parents and then try to work out any issues we had with that parent in our marriage. This usually backfires as we magnify or exaggerate these similarities and what drove us crazy in our parent becomes what we overreact to in our spouse. It is important to explore if you or your wife are seeing your parents in each other and exaggerating or misperceiving situations because of this.

I hope I gave you some direction and things to explore and think about. Hatzlocha with your marriage and may Hashem grant you many more happy years together!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.