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.