15 Kislev 5781 / Tuesday, December 01, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayishlach
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Physical and Communicative Intimacy    

Physical and Communicative Intimacy

Is it possible to awaken feelings of love for him in my heart? Does it matter if I can't, as long as I continue to be a dutiful wife and a good mother...


Dear Rabbi Brody,
I have been with a man for 15 years now. We have become (Jewishly) observant together and are raising a family of 3 (soon to be 4) wonderful children. Though I am committed to this marriage and to my duties as a wife and mother, and I am not contemplating divorce, I don't feel love for him and don't feel physical desire for him. Frankly, I don't find him to be a lovable person. And because I feel so terribly overburdened with responsibilities of supplementing our income, housekeeping and parenting, I have strong feelings of resentment that get in the way of any desire for intimacy with him. I can't bear to kiss him and kind of have to work up a mental fantasy to engage in physical intimacy.
Is it possible to awaken feelings of love for him in my heart? Does it matter if I can't, as long as I continue to be a dutiful wife and a good mother? He tells me almost daily that he loves and appreciates me, but this doesn't inspire any reciprocal feelings in me. I read books, both Jewish and secular, on how to improve marriage and intimacy, but so far none of it strikes a chord in me. Am I emotionally flawed? Is my yetzer hara (evil inclination - LB) preventing me from creating a great force of love in the world? What should I do?
Thank you in advance for your attention. Yours, Rita from California
Dear Rita,
I'll bet my bottom dollar that you and your husband lack basic friendship and an open, intimate line of communication. That can be fixed relatively easily.
Accumulated resentment and below-the-surface anger, coupled with and fueled by a lack of intimate communication and friendship, renders intimate and satisfying physical contact virtually impossible.
Even if you and your husband sometimes play a game of gin rummy together, hike together, or go sailing together - without the kids - you still need the intimacy and sweetness of little phone calls in the middle of the day, surprise trinkets, or coffee breaks together in the middle of the day. Your relationship must be intimate, open, and candid enough so that each side can freely spill his/her heart without fear.
You - as a woman - can initiate and create an environment of intimacy, in other words, a proper climate for free and open communication. You must express your feelings to your husband. He loves you, and you'll probably be amazed how receptive he is. Put the kids to bed and then go out to eat, have a candlelight dinner, or go for a walk, while simultaneously and gently spilling your heart. Once you open up your heart to your husband, opening up your body will be much more easy, natural, and pleasurable.
As to fantasies, our sages teach us that fantasizing in bed is tantamount to mental adultery, and yields kids with rotten natures. Don't ever rely on the fantasy ploy - it only frustrates you more. You and your husband must get to know what makes each other tick. “I read books, both Jewish and secular” – the non-Torah books and media are bad news. Part of your lack of feeling for your husband could very well stem from foreign ideas. For example, if you read magazines and watch TV, you are easy prey to the Yezter, who tells you that you can’t ever be happy unless your husband is a John Travolta. That type of garbage contaminates the eyes and the soul, and destroys relationships.
By the way, you can help your husband be more physically attractive to you by encouraging him to dress the way you like, by helping him choose his clothes, and by encouraging him to diet and exercise if that’s what he needs.
"...Overburdened with responsibilities of supplementing our parnossah, housekeeping and parenting, I have certain feelings of resentment that get in the way of any desire for intimacy with him" - that's clear as a bell. When you're not happy, the smallest chores are a terrible burden. Therefore, you must sit together, air your feelings, get to the core of your resentment, bring it to the surface, and resolve it. Then, you must maintain regular, open, free, and joyful lines of communication. If you can't do this on your own, then you need to find a good marriage counselor who's on the ball and can help you build an avenue of open and intimate communication.
In a proper marriage, love grows. Once your hubby becomes your intimate friend, he'll be sweeping you off your feet. With a little coaching, you two can have a dreamy marriage. Again, I suggest you sit down quietly with your hubby, gently tell him how you feel. Rita, you are certainly not emotionally flawed - you just need to air all the garbage that's accumulated in your heart. This must be done as soon as possible, because a frustrated unhappy mother and wife is a time bomb; let's diffuse it right away!
I strongly suggest that you listen to our CD A Woman Builds and let your husband hear First Place and Respecting Your Wife. These will bound to improve your relationship.
Please keep me posted, and remember to be respectful and considerate of your husband - the honey will perform much better than the vinegar - but be honest and pull no punches. I'll be praying for your success. Yours always, Lazer Brody.

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