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Dear Emuna: Intimate Matters
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: Intimate Matters

Help! My husband doesn't desire any physical intimacy.


Dear Emuna,

What do you do if you marry a wonderful man and then find out he does not desire any physical intimacy?

-- Confused

Dear Confused,

This is such a serious and private issue that it is impossible to adequately address it in this forum. But because I have received a number of similar letters recently, I will just make some general statements.

Among your husband’s obligations to you are conjugal rights (it's right there in the ketuba, the marriage contract). The Torah considers that to be a man’s responsibility. While every marriage and every relationship is different, a marriage without physical intimacy is unlikely to survive, let alone thrive. We call it intimacy not just to use more appropriate language but because it is an accurate description. It is a deep and profound way for a couple to connect and if it is missing from the marriage, then the union itself is dramatically limited.

Every woman wants to feel attractive and needs to feel that her husband in particular desires her. I’m concerned that your sense of self-esteem will be harmed if this is an ongoing lack. Or that you will be tempted, God forbid, to look for this validation elsewhere.

You and your husband need to sit down with a competent therapist to discuss and understand this issue and its implications. You're marriage is at risk, and you need to take action to save it. Now.

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

My best friend’s husband is so good to her. He brings her flowers every week, helps out around the house and is one of those fathers who is always down on the floor playing with the kids. He looks at her with such love and affection that whenever we go out together I feel jealous. And I feel resentful that my husband doesn’t behave in a similar fashion. What should I do about it?

-- BFF

Dear BFF,

Jewish tradition gives us interesting guidance here. In the first place, it discourages socializing with other couples. I know this may sound odd and archaic but hear me out. One reason for this is the risk of immorality. You may pooh-pooh the thought and find it absurd or overly cautious but if you think about it, you will discover that you know of more than one situation where marriages broke up because of his or her “best friend.” The second reason to limit this social contact is because of the exact situation you describe. We get jealous. He’s more generous. She’s more attractive. He’s more accomplished. She’s more thoughtful. He’s more solicitous. She’s a better cook. All of the sudden, our partner seems inadequate. Comparisons like this are dangerous and damaging. We should avoid situations where they seem inevitable.

Additionally, you need to remind yourself that no marriages – and no husbands – are alike. Everyone has their unique strengths and weaknesses. You’re only seeing his best sides and not what goes on behind closed doors. The secret is to stop focusing on the good in someone else’s husband and start focusing on the good in yours.


Dear Emuna,

I have three married sons and two married daughters. None of us live in the same city and staying in touch seems like a full-time job. Just speaking to each of my children and in-law children every day seems to take so much time. I’m feeling frazzled but trying to be a good mother and mother-in-law.


Dear Conscientious,

I think you should relax and cut back on the calls. My guess is that your daughters-in-law really don’t want to speak to you every day – no matter how wonderful and non-interfering you are! Even your daughters may want a little less contact. I mean, who has that much to say? Even if they really like you! When your children get married, it’s best to let them call the shots, and to let their spouses be in control of their relationship with you. When they want to speak, they know your number. It’s better not to be too intrusive, not to make yourself a burden to them.

Just “chill” (as my kids constantly say) and back off. The result will probably be more frequent calls – and more meaningful ones, not to mention less risk of saying the wrong thing! Relinquish control; you’ll actually end up with a better relationship, not a worse one.


June 26, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 51

(27) BDF, July 12, 2011 10:08 PM

You should go to therapy, not for her but for your own sake. You'll start living a different life.

(26) Anonymous, July 8, 2011 4:15 AM


To anonymous...I too had a husband 27 years who never want intimacy with me. I divorced him and found love and intimacy with a wonderful man who I married. There is nothing wrong with you. Just be yourself. Good Luck...

(25) RH, July 7, 2011 1:49 AM

My wife lost completely the interest in being together with me...

I'm so sad, we've been already 23 years married and have 3 kids. I've always been faithful to her and dedicated my whole life to her & the family. I still love her and feel attracted to her, but in the last years she began to avoid contact. We've never had problems related with our intimacy, and I've always cared about fulfilling her needs. Every day she invents new excuses: she's tired, she doesn't feel like it, perhaps tomorrow, it's too hot or cold etc. I'm a normal, healthy, middle-aged guy, and I consider intimacy a fundamental part of marriage. It's been already 1-1/2 year since I've learnt about the importance of guarding my eyes, and don't even look anymore at other women on the street or TV. Sometimes my wife makes me wait for her 1 or 2 months, without even letting me touch her, with no apparent reason. I've tried to discuss the subject uncountable times, and she always remains silent. Tried to bring her to a therapist but she refused; she doesn't also want to consult a Rabbi/ Rebbetzin, even a doctor to have her hormonal system checked. Each time I ask her if she wants to part ways with me, she says she wouldn't like to, but I feel she has some *big* problem she keeps for herself and won't ever clarify the situation. I'm feeling extremely stressed, and don't know how long I will be able to resist this test. Her constant refusal is starting to corrode our family life and affect the kids, but she remains absolutely silent about it. I feel as if I had been judged and condemned for a crime I don't even know I commited. Don't know what else I can do to rescue my marriage. For her, it's apparently OK to live on and on this way, taking care of the house & kids and living in her own little world without the joy of being together, but I feel that, on my side, the atomic bomb may explode anytime... What can I do ????? Thanks in advance for any kind of advice... RH.

Anonymous, October 23, 2011 4:40 PM

how to win back her affection

maybe there is some built-up resentment there but who knows? was there a time in the past when you physically genuinely enjoyed each other and can you think how to recapture that? Try just being affectionate and make it clear you don't expect sex, do that for a while and maybe it will help the situation by taking the pressure off and allowing her to respond in her own time

Alexandra Lynch, November 3, 2011 7:06 AM

Romancing a spouse with kids....a way that works

First, you may have set up a situation where any contact is going to lead to full intimacy. And here is another thing: He comes home from work, tosses his bag and coat in the direction of a chair, and gets on the computer for an hour and a half. Then he eats dinner, maybe plays with the kids a little, and has his shower and goes to bed. I come home, pick up his coat and hang it up, put his briefcase where he can find it. I let out the dog, feed the cat, let the dog in. Change out of work clothes, start a load of laundry, keep the kids on task with homework while preparing dinner at the same time. Let out the dog, let the dog in. Discover the dog has dug a hole in the yard again. Mental note to fix that next time before I mow. I do the dishes, fold and hang up the laundry, and put it away, and supervise the children bathing and going to bed on time, having laid out their clothing in the morning. That done, I lay out my husband's clothing (This is for me, otherwise the chaos in the morning is insupportable...), lay out my own clothing, and have my own shower and go to bed. I get less sleep than he does because I have to get up to get the kids ready for school on time, and he can just wave goodbye over his coffee. I am often too. darn. tired. to deal with one more demand on my body, and sleep is far more attractive than intimacy. "Next week," we tell ourselves....and it just never quite happens. If this is the case, what can you take off her shoulders to give her mind time to think about something besides her duties? Even if it's only emptying the trash or arranging to cook dinner (and that means you do the prep and leave the kitchen the way you found it, you know!) once a week, that will be an act of love and support far beyond bringing flowers home.

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