Not Attracted to My Wife
Hi, I'm 26 years old. I am married for a bit over 5 years and from the beginning, have not had much of an attraction for my wife. However, after having 2 kids, my wife gained a lot of weight and now I have absolutely no attraction to her. I spoke to her about this, and she tried to lose weight but it was difficult and now she’s expecting another child. My issue is that I can’t get myself to even touch her. Every time she tries to initiate, I try my best but can’t even get aroused. In the end, she walks out feeling horrible and degraded but it’s not my fault and I can’t control it. I love her and don’t want to hurt her but it’s causing a lot of pain to her and a lot of Shalom Bayit issues since we haven’t had relations in months. I am just not interested in her physically. I have no other outlet and am very careful in what I see or think but this is damaging our relationship and I’m not sure what to do anymore. If Hashem created relations with the intentions of bonding and closer unity, then I’m not sure how that would be possible in this situation, where I was given a wife that I can neither look at nor be with.
R’ Simcha Feuerman Responds:
Lack of sexual attraction, particularly when due to stresses of pregnancy and childbirth, can be extremely challenging. In many ways, this is a classic problem that some couples experience. Like many marital situations, this requires work on a few fronts at the same time.
Many women in this situation find themselves in a psychological catch 22. They don’t feel love and they don’t feel attractive and so they are depressed and eat more. However, if they work hard to lose weight, they also don’t feel loved because it feels that they’re only being loved for their body.
Similarly, the man is also in a catch 22. He wants to give his wife love and affection but because he partially feels resentful and partially feels truly deprived, it is difficult to give that love and affection. Of course, the less love and affection he gives, the less likely his wife to find the self-esteem and courage to work on losing the weight. A true catch 22 disaster.
The way around this marital disaster is to develop a routine and continuous system of speaking respectfully, honestly, and courageously to each other about the challenge. No emotional blackmail, no temper tantrums, no blaming, and no shaming. Just respect and honesty.
One might ask, what will happen next? The answer is, nobody knows. However, when you believe in each other and instead of isolating you keep staying close, solutions happen.
Couples therapy and sex therapy can be helpful. However, it’s like the doctor that sets the broken bone. The doctor is not going to heal the bone; only the body‘s natural mechanism can do that. The doctor, though, has to set the bones so the bone is in a situation where it can heal. Couples that cannot maintain honesty and respect and connection and instead isolate need therapy in order to be connected so that the healing happens.
Dear Rabbi Feuerman,
Thank you for the response. It seems that it’s almost a lost battle: it’s possible that things may change but unless my wife loses weight, I won’t be attracted to her; it’s possible my love will inspire her to change but if it doesn’t, we will both need to learn to just live with it and accept that relations won’t be happening. Therapists, like you said, can give ideas on how to make things better but, all-in-all, without the weight loss, it seems like there’s nothing that can be done internally within me?!
Here are some links to some articles that can help you change your perspective on this situation and use it for growth:
- The Currency of Marriage
- What can I do for You?
- What is the Ikkar of Marriage?
- Not Happy With My Wife's Appearance
- The Difference Between Lust & Love
Turned-Off writes again a few months later:
Hi, I emailed you a few months ago (see previous page) regarding my situation how I'm not attracted to my wife and I'm having difficulty being with her physically..
My situation only got worse. I have spoken to another physiologist in the past who was very honest and open with me and told me from the start he has no idea how to help me and didn't even want to take money from me b/c he didn't feel like he helped me. At this point, I was not with my wife for almost a year except for maybe a few times where I didn't want to come to waste my seed and ended up being together for the sake of releasing but haven't even felt much pleasure. After every time being together I come out feeling unsatisfied and hungry for a normal physical relationship. I keep strong as far as shmirat ainayim and continue to have no access to any internet. Honestly it gets extremely tough not to release when there is no outlet and my wife is not an outlet since I don't feel anything to be aroused when together and so it doesn't get anywhere it just causes me more frustration and my wife more hurt and guilt for the way she looks. I feel extremely stuck. Baruch Hashem every other part of my marriage is good but I can't believe b/c of this 1 thing it can get so in the way. How much longer am I expected to just live a life of abstaining and deprivation and feel anxiety every time I might come across someone else's wife who looks amazing after having many children. I'm only 26 and I feel like I'm supposed to live a life with absolutely no pleasure. At least a single person can know to keep strong for a little more and eventually he will get married to someone they are attracted to. In my case I can't even tell myself eventually things would get better since I got married to a girl I wasn't attracted to just focusing on all the other good about her and her body just keeps gaining weight and she fails at every diet and would gain double what she loses. She has been only looking worse and gaining more weight after 3 kids and things will only go downhill from here and get even worse than they already are. I feel I'm the only person who is going through this since every other normal guy gets married to a girl who they are actually attracted to and so they don't have to run in to this problem.
You are honestly my last resort. Thank you for your caring to help another Jew out. I feel this Jew is hopeless.
Some points to consider:
Love needs to come from giving, not from taking.
90% of women become unattractive after a few children.
Let's say you would have married a girl you were attracted to and she got sick, or cancer chas veshalom, or had an accident and couldn't be with you physically, would you leave her?
She brought you 3 children! Shouldn't that be enough reason to love her?
What if chas veshalom you were the one who got sick or had cancer, would you want her to leave you? The basis of the Torah is not to do unto others what you wouldn't want done to you.
Some people have trouble with shalom bayis, but not trouble with attraction. Would that be preferable in your eyes?
Some people have sicknesses, problems with parnassa, problems with sick children, or children off the derech, pains, suffering, etc... Would you want to trade your package of tzuros with someone else's?
Every neshama has to go through suffering in this world. And it's exactly what your neshama needs to clean and polish it into a diamond.
Avraham was thrown into a furnace, Yitzchak was bound on the mizbeach to be slaughtered, Yaakov lost the love of his life after the birth of his second child, his daughter was raped, and then his precious son Yosef was supposedly killed by a wild animal.
We are here in the world to grow and be polished by Hashem's infinite wisdom.
We can't escape our destiny. You will only find happiness through acceptance. That means to surrender to God's will for you in this life. Accepting life on life's terms.
Once you accept, you will find inner peace -- and even love for your wife...
- Your Answer - Love needs to come from giving, not from taking.
My Reply - My issue is not that i dont love her my wife. I give to her in every othere way and love her emotionaly. However physical is physical and emotional is emotional as much as i love my wife for who she is i will never come to be attracted to her and this will not solve my problem of having no outlet.
- Your Answer - 90% of women become unattractive after a few children.
My Reply - 90% of woman who lose their attraction lose it at their old age not when they are young. 90% of woman at least still have what to be attracted about them they don't start of repulsive and get even more repulsive by the years. they don't look that far from what they looked like when they just got married. They are still manageable to be with and at least the guy can feel like he has fulfilled his full satisfaction in his early years and doesn't have as much of a need to go experience normal pleasure and isn't completely deprived.
- Your Answer - Let's say you would have married a girl you were attracted to and she got sick, or cancer chas veshalom, or had an accident and couldn't be with you physically, would you leave her?
My Reply - I would have not left her but I would have the same question I have now which is how do I not come to waste my seed if I have no outlet?
- Your Answer - She brought you 3 children! Shouldn't that be enough reason to love her?
My Reply - Like i said before physical is physical and emotional is emotional as much as i love my wife for who she is I will never come to be attracted to her and this will not solve my problem of having no outlet. I can think about all the good she does for me but that will not get me exited physically in any way.
- Your Answer- What if chas veshalom you were the one who got sick or had cancer, would you want her to leave you? The basis of the Torah is not to do unto others what you wouldn't want done to you.
My Reply - I wouldn't leave her because I focus on all the good but again this does not solve my issue. I remain in my pain and hurt of not being able to relies and feel imprisoned in this area.
- You Answer - Some people have trouble with shalom bayis, but not trouble with attraction. Would that be preferable in your eyes?
My Reply - Obviously I would not like either but at least by shalom bayis I can solve my shalom bayet problem by working on my middot and figure out a solution to my problem and work on myself. even if in the end after I figure out my middot and still my shalom bayis doesn't improve because of her at least I'll have a good reason to leave her and just move on and not feel guilty for leaving her. By my situation of not being attracted to my wife there is nothing i can do to solve the situation its not like ill work on my middot and taht will solve the atraction problem like i would be able to do by shalom bayis.
- Your Answer - Some people have sicknesses, problems with parnassa, problems with sick children, or children off the derech, pains, suffering, etc... Would you want to trade your package of tzuros with someone else's?
My Reply - i would never switch my situation for any of this. just b/c i wouldn't switch it doesn't solve my problem of not knowing how to cope with my problem
- Your Answer - We can't escape our destiny. You will only find happiness through acceptance. That means to surrender to God's will for you in this life. Accepting life on life's terms. Once you accept, you will find inner peace -- and even love for your wife...
My Reply - My issue is not that i don't love my wife, I love her regardless. I can accept but my body will never accept! I'm not planning on leaving her but the question now is what do I do every time I get anxiety? What do I do when I need to release but as soon as I look at my wife I get turned off? How do I release then since I have no outlet? Am I supposed to never release again?
I can not see myself ever being with my wife and this will cause tension. The issue is not solved by me just accepting my lot in life. This is a major part of a couple's relationship and I'm stuck b/c she can't provide for me as a result my wife is not interested in me trying to fulfill her satisfaction and do the mitzva of ona since she feels, don't do me any favors and torture yourself... I feel like I was set up for failure. How am I supposed to not come to waste seed eventually? I have accepted the way my wife looks the past 6 years I was married and chose to remain with her but things only get harder. As much as I love and accept her it doesn't help the situation. My question is how do I not come to waste seed if I have no outlet? I am a human being with hormones that build up over time. Am I supposed to just be with her 3 or 4 times a year like I have been doing till now just for the sake of releasing in order to not come to waste? At this point I don't know if I can even be with her 1 time a year since I get so turned off. At times it hits me so hard and I get so tempted to just release . What I understood from your reply is things could have been worse and everyone has suffering and my suffering is to live with this anxiety for the rest of my life and never experience pleasure and some how become Yosef Hatadik who mastered full control over his brit accept even Yosef Hatadik eventually got married to Osnat and lived happily ever after, he didn't have to remain holding himself from zera livatala in Egypt for the rest of his life! So now I'm supposed to somehow be a even bigger tzadik then Yosef Hatzadik? All the answers you gave me don't give me the solution to how to cope with my situation hormonally and not come to waste seed.
Another question I have is, I work in an area full of pritzus. Should I now quit my job? Other people have a wife as an outlet so they don't have as much of a taiva to look around them. I'm put in a situation where I have to see this and walk around hormonal all day long and somehow keep all my thoughts 100 % pure. I have the same situation when me and my wife are invited to other peoples homes and their wives look amazing after having 5, 6 children and they are much older then me and my wife at times and yet she looks 1000 times better then my wife will ever look. I tell my wife "i'm not interested in going" we therefore don't go away for Shabbat to such places so this way I don't have to burn in jealousy, so I just don't go. Same to avoiding to go to occasions like weddings etc... should i continue to isolate myself so that i don't come to being exposed in order not to make it even harder for myself then it already is? If the solution was just go waste your seed and calm down, fine but that's clearly not an option. There is no option of releasing since the only place I'm allowed to release is my wife but that's not an option either since I can't get aroused from her. Is my nisaayon really to hold it in for the rest of my life and let the temptation grow? Even if I would manage by releasing, a few times a year like I have been doing till now not to come to waste my seed which i don't know if even that will continue. Is that really normal in a marriage for a couple to not have any physical relationship and the husband should walk around stressed all day and me and my wife should be fine with that? It would be nice if Hashem would at least just tell me what He expects from me so i know what is accepted form me but as i said before I feel like i was set up for failure.
I'm sorry for all the questions but as you can see I am really in a lot of pain. Thank you again for your time in reading my letters and your help!
I feel your pain and confusion. Your question is very similar to guys who were born gay with zero attraction to women. They too have no outlet and feel they have been set up for failure.
Please watch this video till the end.
There are no easy answers to your questions. But if you try your best in the difficult situation you are in, after 120, your reward will be thousands of times greater than regular people in this area. And even if you have occasional falls in shmiras einayim and even hz"l, your struggle for kedusha in such a situation is so precious to Hashem that you will still be considered a great tzadik if you don't give up and keep trying.
Here are some possible suggestions:
- Working in an area of pritzus is indeed very hard, even for a normal guy with a pretty wife. If you are able to truly work on shmiras einayim in spite of the great challenges, then stay. Otherwise, this is not a good job for you. If one knows he will not be able to guard his eyes in a specific situation, he is forbidden by halacha to go there.
- Working on shmiras einayim is really your greatest test. The more you accept your lot in life and your destiny, the more you will find the inner peace and strength to guard your eyes. And the more you guard your eyes, the more you will find the strength to accept your lot. It's sort of like a chicken-or-the-egg situation. One leads to the other.
- If you know you won't be able to avoid being jealous of another man's wife - which is one of the aseres hadibros, then you must avoid going for Shabbos to these people. However, I am not suggesting you isolate. I am suggesting that you change your mindset instead. Imagine you're on your way to close a business deal that will make you rich for the rest of your life and your friend happens to pass by on the street with his pretty wife, do you feel the same pain then? You have much more important things on your mind! The basketball players in the NBA never struggle with looking at the cheer-leader girls, they are making $100,000 for each game they play. Bottom line: The more Emunah we have in the greatness of Hashem and trust that He knows what He's doing and what our souls need to be polished properly, then the less we will feel the pain.
- Inevitably, guys get aroused from time to time and although we are often expected by Halacha to let it go and move on (like bochurim, or niddah, or after birth, etc.), there may be times where you feel you can't let go and really want to release. At such times, you should be with your wife in the dark, and if you don't see her and try to focus on just loving her for who she is and not for her body, you will find release and peace.
- The argument that everyone else at least had "once" a beautiful wife, or at least know that they "will have" later, and even Yosef got Osnas, etc... these are all subconscious deceptions of your mind. Yosef had no idea if and when he would get married, and bochurim who are still young don't look 6 years into the future to hold back now. A human who wants release now doesn't sustain himself with future promises, or the fact that he once had an outlet many years ago. He wants it now, and we can't always have it. And Hashem expects us to let go of our own will for His will, even in your situation, and daven to Him for help with the humility that we can't do it alone.
- You say that if your struggle was with Shalom Bayit you would at least be able to work on your middot, but here it's not a middot issue. I strongly disagree. By working on the middah of "sameach bechelko" and strengthening your Emunah that Hashem is taking care of all your needs even if your sechel doesn't understand, this is the highest form of avodas hamidos. And it will bring you to high levels of dveikus and emunah - וידעת את ה - you will merit an intimate relationship with the Almighty Himself.
May Hashem help you find acceptance and joy in doing His will in the most difficult of circumstances.