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