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Dear Emuna: Men, Women & Intimacy
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: Men, Women & Intimacy

Hollywood-style romance makes us feel like we’re missing out on something.

by

Dear Emuna,

We are generally a very close and happy couple. However, there is one thing that is getting in the way. My husband is much more active and excited with intimacy than I am. It’s not that I don't enjoy it but it would never come naturally for me to initiate, and he is very disturbed by this. I know that I feel very emotionally together so I don't think that is the problem. I do however feel pressured due to the fact that I just don't get it right for him. I care about him and love him tremendously and it hurts me that I can’t seem to do what he wants. How can I help myself? Also, people talk about finding a good therapist but how would I go about looking for someone who can help me in this area?

Eager to Please

Dear Eager to Please,

In the world at large, there is a lot of talk about the physical act but very few discussions of intimacy; a lot of instructions for maximizing physical pleasure and very little about creating deep emotional bonds. The bombardment of sexual imagery and innuendo overwhelms and confuses us. It creates certain expectations about what the experience should be like and makes many of us feel like we are missing out on something.

This is a destructive and inaccurate message. I am venturing a guess that your husband is responding to these cues. He thinks that in order to have the best experience, you should initiate it. He needs a gentle education in true intimacy and the fallacy of Hollywood-style romance.

The two of you should set aside time for a real discussion of yourselves, your desires, your drives and your expectations.

Focus him on the ultimate goal – a deep and profound connection. Discuss your desire to give to him and (hopefully) his to give to you. Talk about the differences between women’s sexuality and men’s. Yes, it needs to be said; this understanding cannot be taken for granted.

We live in a hook-up culture where young women pretend that their desire operates the same way as a man’s – until they are hurt and depressed when a relationship doesn’t develop from these physical encounters.

Men (particularly single ones) have a vested interest in believing this myth. And married men may have bought into it as well. Explain to your husband that this is not the way that you (or most women) work and how you much you wish he wouldn’t let this fantasy get in the way of your real relationship.

If he is an open, caring and supportive spouse, he will understand and respond accordingly. If he doesn’t then I recommend professional help – for more than just your intimate life.

Mean Friend

Dear Emuna, I am 59 years old and I am trying to study to be a chemistry teacher. I have a dear friend who constantly puts me down and embarrasses me in front of other women at synagogue, by telling me how to act. Just recently, she has met another woman who is her friend and she wants me to be friends with this other woman. Unfortunately, when the two of them are together, they ignore me unless I do something wrong. Then both of them reprimand me in public. I am thinking of staying away from shul because I am shy and I want to hide from them and the other women. I am probably jealous of this woman's new friend and my friend says that I have to be friends with this other woman, or our friendship is finished. In addition, this same friend has told me I should quit my job and think of retiring instead of trying to be a chemistry teacher. I am thinking of dumping her as a friend, but I do not have anyone else to be friends with. What should I do?

Lonely Friend

Dear Lonely Friend,

Your letter made me sad. I hear that you are lonely. But sometimes we are just as lonely in certain relationships as we are without them. In this case, the destructive nature of this relationship far outweighs any benefits (none of which have you described).

In fact I’m not quite sure why you call her a friend, let alone a dear one. She doesn’t seem to have your best interests at heart. She doesn’t support your dreams. She manipulates you and is publicly critical. I think you should take some time to reflect why you have chosen this relationship.

And then I think you should get out fast. It is better to be lonely for a little while – and wait patiently to meet someone who will appreciate your good and cheer you on – than to stay in such a destructive “friendship.”

It’s not Facebook but I would unfriend her asap.

Criticizing or Helping?

Dear Emuna,

My husband complains that I’m always criticizing him – and begs me to stop. But I can’t help myself. I see him eat something unhealthy and I worry about the future. I hear him say something foolish and I’m concerned how it will affect his career. I’m just trying to help him be the best he can be. Isn’t that a wife’s job?

Good Wife

Dear Good Wife,

Let me first take issue with your statement: “I can’t help myself.” Of course you can. Don’t use that as an excuse to stick with destructive behavior.

While I believe you that your intentions are good, you are causing pain to your husband. Unless he lives in a cave (a real one, not a “man-cave”), he knows which foods are healthy and which are not. He is an adult and he is making a choice. You have to respect this and keep your mouth shut. You can certainly provide tasteful healthy options at home but that’s where your job ends.

Criticism, whether meant as an expression of love or not, is still criticism. And that’s how it is experienced. The same applies to his conversation. Unless he asks for advice, just smile politely. He will presumably get the message from the other party’s response.

Our husbands need our support, not our condemnation. If change does become necessary, it will only occur in that kind of safe environment.

Published: December 14, 2013


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Visitor Comments: 12

(10) Zvi, December 23, 2013 10:45 PM

A further comment about Intimacy

In addition to my earlier comments, I would like to point out that there appears to be an expectation of providing physical pleasure for the wife. for example, there is a halacha that a husband is obligated "lifkod es Ishto" before he departs on a trip. There is a similar obligation for a husband to respond to a wife who is [non verbally] signalling a desire for intimacy. I do not believe that we would see such halachot if the "influencing factor" was the "Hollywood atmosphere". On the other hand, the notion that the wife is just "doing her job" or that she is not [necessarily] "supposed" to have as much enjoyment as the man appears [to me] to be a NON-JEWISH / CHRISTIAN viewpoint that has been absorbed way before Hollywood has cast ITS "spell"...
The very fact that FRUM Mental Health professionals are dealing seriously with the issue of a "mismatch" between the "physical desire" of one spouse vs. the other CLEARLY shows that this is a matter that deserves to be taken seriously. In that context, I feel that you did a profound disservice by NOT advising this woman how to find a competent frum therapist (who would, indeed, be able to determine "what is going on" and what sort of issue does or does not exist) and instead you simply fed some "pablum" about Hollywood and the society around us. I am particularly concerned since -- as a Mental Health Professional -- I feel that you should be more aware of such matters.

(9) Anonymous, December 20, 2013 8:36 AM

intimacy

Dear Emuna,

I am concerned about your reply on the topic of intimacy. As a psychologist I can confirm that it is important for couples to experience intimacy at least twice a week (ideally 3) in order to ensure a happy marriage.

There are many biological reasons why this can be difficult although testosterone is healthy and (when on the lower end of the spectrum) good to supplement as in our modern lives it can easily be depleted.

Most Rabbis teach men that they have to satisfy their wives completely (my Rabbi confirmed that husbands should ideally ensure that their wives have multiple orgasms wherever and however possible). Unfortunately the reverse is not taught, married Jewish women should do the same, Niddah does not mean once a month.

Sincerely

Y



(8) Anonymous, December 19, 2013 10:00 PM

Eager to Please

Although everything you write about intimacy and the secular understanding of it is true, I believe there is another side to this issue. The Torah teaches that men and women are indeed very different in their need for intimacy. Men certainly have a greater need and desire for the purely physical aspect of intimacy. Many men also have a need to know that their wives desire them in the same way. If the husband is always the one to initiate, he might feel that his wife is just going through the motions for his sake. Maybe because of "the world around us" and it's images and expectations, it IS important for the wife to initiate physical intimacy now and then. Of course, it certainly goes without saying that each spouse should be sensitive to the needs and feelings of the other at all times, whether in the midst of intimacy or at the market.

(7) Anonymous, December 19, 2013 3:55 PM

NOT So Eager to Please

If you love your husband so much and feel emotionally close, why aren't you able to initiate intimacy? A man needs to know that his wife finds him attractive and wishes to be with him. And if you don't feel the physical desire, it's time to examine why not. Maybe you're not giving yourself permission to enjoy the things you do only with him - what a shame! He needs you to initiate and you wish to talk more? Women are always talking. You need to understand how a man feels! Skip the therapist, light a scented candle, put on some soft music, and do something that will make him love you like crazy! And if he isn't pleasing you, then find out what it would take for him to make you enjoy it as much as he does. Stop blaming Hollywood. If G-d didn't wish for women to enjoy sexual intimacy, He wouldn't have designed us with the ability to enjoy it. Start having some fun together!

(6) Zvi, December 19, 2013 3:13 PM

I think that your answer is inadequate to the wife

I believe that the husband wants to SEE that the woman PHYSICALLY desires him -- just as HE desires her. IF she is just doing this to "be a good wife", I can certainly see that the husband will be unhappy REGARDLESS of the "emotional attachment" that may be there. Further, a man wants to fee that HE is a "desirable" person. The wife says that she "enjoys" intimacy... Is this PHYSICAL enjoyment? Or just the "pleasure" of the emotional attachment. If there is little or no PHYSICAL enjoyment for the wife, then it is certainly a logical course to suggest a good (accredited) Therapist (who would likely suggest a physical examination as well). The fact that the WITH HOLDING of "physical intimacy" from the wife is considered "affliction" should certainly be a signal here as well. Finally, the fact that the wife signs herself "eager to please" is very telling. Instead of regarding "intimacy" as a chance to PLEASE her husband, how about regarding it as a chance for BOTH of them to SHARE in pleasing and pleasuring EACH OTHER..
THAT -- to me -- is a MUCH healthier way to regard "intimacy"... as opposed to the nonsense about Hollywood and the "outside world"...

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