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Hi everyone,

Sorry if something is wrong with formatting or which forum in advance, this is my first post here.

Anyway, my wife and I (24 and 25 respectively) have been together for about six years, and we eloped in the early stages of the COVID pandemic. We both grew up and remain religious, and our religion has pretty strict rules regarding physical touch between people of opposite genders prior to marriage (for example, we first held hands at our wedding after we got married). 

A lot of what made our relationship great has transitioned seamlessly into marriage and only been enhanced by the addition of physical touch, but sex just hasn't happened, and we haven't tried for many, many months since she hasn't been interested.

Per our religion, anything sexual that doesn't end in penetrative sex isn't allowed, let alone anything "solo" (I have my own troubles with this, but have been successfully without since before the wedding). So the lack of sex is constantly on my mind and is a major source of stress and frustration for me, and it's exacerbated by not having another permissible outlet for it.

I don't want to pressure her into anything in this arena she doesn't feel comfortable with. There 100% is a lot of affection and physical intimacy in our relationship, though: lots of cuddling, date nights, and even showering/bathing together occasionally. But a lot of the time I this only makes it worse for me, since she hasn't shown interest in going further.

We tried talking about the subject many months ago, and my wife even went to a therapist then. The therapist thought everything was fine from what my wife told, and said that many other couples in our community go through a similar transition phase. But it's been over four months since then, with no change.

This is major issue for me, and project the biggest of our marriage to this point. Can anyone provide guidance on how I can talk with her about this, without being accusatory and that could go better than last time? 

As an aside possibly worth mentioning, to my knowledge she has not suffered from sexual abuse.

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Has your wife been to a doctor/gynecologist? There, she could discuss concerns privately and confidentially regarding virginity, fear of intercourse, contraception, etc. She needs to do this anyway.

Perhaps some private and secular sex education from a factual, natural, biological point of view would help. A doctor may be able to allay fears and answer very personal questions she may have. She may have been taught sex is 'dirty" who knows?  However a physician can convince her it is normal and natural more than you or any church elders could.

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She has been in contact with her doctor/gynecologist; she has an IUD so contraception isn't an issue. Despite growing up in a pretty religious environment, we both are pretty integrated into mainstream society (went to college, have normal jobs, etc). She had sex ed growing up, her parents in general didn't shy away from the topic with her while she was growing up, and her mom even recommended the therapist she spoke to. 

I think a major thing is that as soon as you have penetrative sex for the first time, you're prohibited from touching your partner for 2+ weeks per our religion (no way around it). And she hasn't ever felt sex is worth that separation, and I don't want to push that on her. Besides for that, she's said she doesn't have any real desire for penetrative sex, even when we've been doing other intimate things (massages, showering, kissing, etc).

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Hi Anonone1,

This is a relatively unique and intriguing situation. I know this sounds strange, but I can’t help but think about it from a manager’s point of view in a workplace (bear with me, I know it’s completely different!). 
 

For me, I’d focus on having a discussion with her where you would agree on a shared goal and working towards it together without telling her, pressuring her, nor simply leaving her to her own devices.
 

Try asking whether she sees sex in your future together? If so, what would it look and feel like? What things would she like to do to work towards it/prepare? What things are getting in the way/is she fearful of? Perhaps have this conversation when you’re not being intimate to remove any perceived pressure. Put the ball in her court as to when and how so it’s something that you can work towards together, but with a clear path ahead as to how she would like to go about doing it. It may not even be a one off conversation but a series to give her time to reflect and revisit. Perhaps agree when to have check-ins on how she’s feeling about the plans you’re trying to create together. 
 

Basically, a softly softly approach to discussing it where she feels in control of her options rather than pressured or not addressing it at all. At least it would give you some insight into what she’s thinking and some progress rather than being in limbo. 
 

Just my two cents...

Edited by LunarUK
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2 hours ago, Anonone1 said:

our religion has pretty strict rules regarding physical touch between people of opposite genders prior to marriage (for example, we first held hands at our wedding after we got married). 

A lot of what made our relationship great has transitioned seamlessly into marriage and only been enhanced by the addition of physical touch, but sex just hasn't happened, and we haven't tried for many, many months since she hasn't been interested.

Per our religion, anything sexual that doesn't end in penetrative sex isn't allowed, let alone anything "solo"

I can understand the strict rules regarding no physical touching in many religions before marriage etc, but after you have married it is still not permitted to have any physical touching for 2 weeks after you had intercourse??  And even after marriage, "going solo" is also not permitted?    Am I understanding this correctly?  Or misreading/misunderstanding?   (Not familiar with any religion that does that). 

 

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There are lots of religions with very strict guidelines.  Some Fundamentalist Mormons have these kind of rules.

I'm presuming it's some sort of Fundamentalist group.  Things that are "normal" for the rest of the world are strictly forbidden in these groups.  If you want to remain part of the group you must adhere to the rules.

OP, does your wife want children?

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@LunarUKThis sounds like a good plan, I'll have to pluck up the courage to go through with it! :)

@Capricorn3 Orthodox Judaism. There's also a restriction that you can't have any physical contact at all during the 12-14 days after your wife gets her period each time she gets her period, which will suck, but that currently hasn't been an issue since my wife got her IUD. I was euphemistically referring to masturbation by "going solo"; that is not allowed before or after marriage, although I've struggled with it.

@boltnrunYes, she does want children. And you are correct that some things that are "normal" for the rest of the world are forbidden - from a sexual perspective but in many, many other facets of life (food, holidays, etc).  

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Thanks for the clarification OP. 

I'm not sure how you're going to get this marriage to work with all those strict restrictions. Do the two of you at least of a strong connection? Good communication?  Can you both discuss any of these issues together in a calm and mature way?  Tell her how you feel? Explain it to her (in a non accusatory way)?

If she wants children in the future she's going to have to go all the way eventually.

The key here will be good communication.  Holding it all back, bottling it all up, will only lead to resentment.  Does your religion allow marriage counselling?

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@Capricorn3People within my community generally do figure out how to navigate this type of situation (we haven't ceased to exist, after all :) ). I'm way more on the side of wanting to make my wife happy over remedying my own issues and I really, really dislike conflict. That sex was a taboo topic in my family and community growing up (much more so than my in my wife's family and community) just adds to the struggle with how to bring it up to her. Otherwise, we generally communicate decently. We are allowed to have marriage counseling (it's recommended even) and there are even sex therapists within our community (her mom recommended two when my wife broached the topic with her four months ago), but they're expensive and it sounds so awkward.

@boltnrunYes, she recognizes that and is fine with it (although she's worried about what pregnancy will do her body, which seems justified). Our religion, though, holds that sex isn't just to have children, but should also serve as an experience that brings the husband and wife closer together. That was stressed in the pre-marriage sessions I had with a rabbi and she had with the rabbi's wife.

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I do not understand why your wife has an IUD if you are a married couple - your religion restricts sex to happening within a marriage - and you both want kids.  What purpose does it serve? An IUD affects her hormones and COULD be affecting her desire.

If you are allowed to have sex and then must refrain for 14 days after the first time -- is she willing to never have sex just so she doesn't have to go those two weeks without it? the sooner you do it, the quicker that 14 days will go.  And Judaism certainly allows hugging and such.  In fact, there are different books by different rabbis that give full permission to whoop it up in the marital bed.

I think something else is going on with her, honestly. 

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@abitbrokenWe want kids eventually, but not at the moment. Hence the IUD. IUD/pill/etc is the only form of permissible birth control, and even that is controversial in that some rabbis don't allow it. 

And while some rabbis may give full permission about certain things, that definitely doesn't hold in the Orthodox realm. Hugging and such definitely isn't allowed prior to marriage, and also during the two or so weeks after a period. 

If anyone's interested, here's a few links that explain the restrictions a lot clearer than I can:

Prohibitions while a woman is on her period: https://www.yoatzot.org/conduct-while-niddah/530/

Prohibition on touching people of opposite genders: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/shomer-negiah/

 

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Thank you for the clarification. Was this an arranged marriage?

She seems to know you love her, is it important for her to feel beautiful (in the complete sense)  in your eyes?

Are there limitations as to what kind of things are acceptable to discuss sexually?

Do you know for example why she hesitates to consummate the marriage?

Is she afraid for example that it could be painful?

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@Wiseman2It wasn't an arranged marriage; we met in college, had similar religious values, and the relationship grew from there. And arranged marriages aren't as much of a thing in the more modern circles of Orthodoxy; generally you'll go to a shadchun (matchmaker) and then go on a few dates with a person before committing (pending both people liking each other).

I don't think insecurity in terms of beauty is an issue.

We haven't really talked about sex much at all, and it feels extremely awkward to me when it it mentioned. It wasn't allowed for so long, and talking about it seems honestly even weirder than any attempt to actually do it to me. Many sexual acts are prohibited. I do not have as clear a notion about this is I ideally would, since my pre-marriage lessons with a rabbi were extremely vague and I didn't feel comfortable asking. 

As mentioned above, I think she doesn't view sex as worthy of the separation that comes immediately afterward and she doesn't really see any intrinsic value in sex (I'm unconvinced that she isn't somewhat asexual). She did experience pain when we tried the week of our wedding (of course immediately stopped then). 

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Perhaps you could research female arousal and see what is permitted as far as foreplay.

Intercourse could be painful if she is not aroused or relaxed enough for penetration.

For men just showering together is enough, however for women, there needs to be specific physiological sexual arousal

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12 hours ago, Anonone1 said:

@abitbrokenWe want kids eventually, but not at the moment. Hence the IUD. IUD/pill/etc is the only form of permissible birth control, and even that is controversial in that some rabbis don't allow it. 

And while some rabbis may give full permission about certain things, that definitely doesn't hold in the Orthodox realm. Hugging and such definitely isn't allowed prior to marriage, and also during the two or so weeks after a period. 

If anyone's interested, here's a few links that explain the restrictions a lot clearer than I can:

Prohibitions while a woman is on her period: https://www.yoatzot.org/conduct-while-niddah/530/

Prohibition on touching people of opposite genders: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/shomer-negiah/

 

I find it hard to believe a "hi honey, i am home" after work accompanied by a hug is sexual but i will read the links. 

 

I really think you should both look into the science of women's menstrual cycles. She could get an ovulation monitor and different apps to avoid her fertile times (an ovulation monitor would do the trick but she can keep track of of other physical factors that determine fertility as well  and its something that can bring the two of you closer as far as emotional intimacy.) Hormonal birth control can really kill the sex drive for some women.

Long term it is not good for your marriage to have no sex at all when no medical condition excludes it. 

Did she mention any hesitancy or fear of sex prior to you getting married? That she was looking forward to it, but was uneasy?

 

I would think as newlyweds, you should have both felt that you were waiting so long that you couldn't wait another second for the wedding night and that it was something to look forward to.

I mean, if her resistance is that its 14 days of no touch, if you have no sex at all....you are going to be used to not touching her at all and it will never happen

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@Wiseman2I think that's a good idea.

@abitbrokenThe halacha [law] is what it is; you follow it if you want to stay in the community and believe in the religion. Tracking menstrual cycles is a definite no, since there's laws that if it's tracked like that she will always become in a state of niddah [impurity] at that time period no matter if she had a period or not (because it's assumed). The other forms of birth control she tried made her bleed constantly (months in a row even with pretty consistent communication with an OGBYN), which would mean no touching, ever. So this is really the only option besides committing to abstinence if we don't kids now.

Regarding hesitancy, yes. I don't recall her saying she was looking forward to it, but she was the one who suggested to try shortly after our wedding. We didn't talk about it that much before because it wouldn't have been tzniut [immodest] to do so before actually getting married. 

 

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2 hours ago, Anonone1 said:

@Wiseman2I think that's a good idea.

@abitbrokenThe halacha [law] is what it is; you follow it if you want to stay in the community and believe in the religion. Tracking menstrual cycles is a definite no, since there's laws that if it's tracked like that she will always become in a state of niddah [impurity] at that time period no matter if she had a period or not (because it's assumed). The other forms of birth control she tried made her bleed constantly (months in a row even with pretty consistent communication with an OGBYN), which would mean no touching, ever. So this is really the only option besides committing to abstinence if we don't kids now.

Regarding hesitancy, yes. I don't recall her saying she was looking forward to it, but she was the one who suggested to try shortly after our wedding. We didn't talk about it that much before because it wouldn't have been tzniut [immodest] to do so before actually getting married. 

 

 

Most women track their menstrual flow because of simple convenience - they don't want to plan their wedding day for a time when they will probably have their period, they don't wear tampons and want to sign up for a swimming competition or to track health -- if on the calendar their menstrual cycle comes to be erratic, they can alert their doctor (they could have a cyst or tumor, etc).  The first thing a doctor asks when they are trying to rule out major health problems is "what was the first day of your last cycle".  

So if I understand, a woman knowing what time of month she usually has her period -- that's not allowed - she has to treat it like it is always a surprise? 

 

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23 hours ago, Capricorn3 said:

Thanks for the clarification OP. 

I'm not sure how you're going to get this marriage to work with all those strict restrictions. Do the two of you at least of a strong connection? Good communication?  Can you both discuss any of these issues together in a calm and mature way?  Tell her how you feel? Explain it to her (in a non accusatory way)?

If she wants children in the future she's going to have to go all the way eventually.

The key here will be good communication.  Holding it all back, bottling it all up, will only lead to resentment.  Does your religion allow marriage counselling?

I agree. Not sure how a marriage is supposed to work with so many restrictions. I understand and respect it but if sex and intimacy is already an issue, it probably will be forever. Sorry 

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17 hours ago, Anonone1 said:

We haven't really talked about sex much at all, and it feels extremely awkward to me when it it mentioned. It wasn't allowed for so long, and talking about it seems honestly even weirder than any attempt to actually do it to me. Many sexual acts are prohibited. I do not have as clear a notion about this is I ideally would, since my pre-marriage lessons with a rabbi were extremely vague and I didn't feel comfortable asking. 

As mentioned above, I think she doesn't view sex as worthy of the separation that comes immediately afterward and she doesn't really see any intrinsic value in sex (I'm unconvinced that she isn't somewhat asexual). She did experience pain when we tried the week of our wedding (of course immediately stopped then). 

I wonder if part of the problem might be your comfort level in discussing this with each other? I know that you feel like the pressure is on given your lack of sexual outlet, but I really liked LunarUK's idea of patience and discussion. I think that it could help.

On 2/2/2021 at 3:38 PM, LunarUK said:

This is a relatively unique and intriguing situation. I know this sounds strange, but I can’t help but think about it from a manager’s point of view in a workplace (bear with me, I know it’s completely different!). 
 

For me, I’d focus on having a discussion with her where you would agree on a shared goal and working towards it together without telling her, pressuring her, nor simply leaving her to her own devices.
 

Try asking whether she sees sex in your future together? If so, what would it look and feel like? What things would she like to do to work towards it/prepare? What things are getting in the way/is she fearful of? Perhaps have this conversation when you’re not being intimate to remove any perceived pressure. Put the ball in her court as to when and how so it’s something that you can work towards together, but with a clear path ahead as to how she would like to go about doing it. It may not even be a one off conversation but a series to give her time to reflect and revisit. Perhaps agree when to have check-ins on how she’s feeling about the plans you’re trying to create together. 
 

Basically, a softly softly approach to discussing it where she feels in control of her options rather than pressured or not addressing it at all. At least it would give you some insight into what she’s thinking and some progress rather than being in limbo. 

By the way, thanks for sharing this insight into your culture. It's really fascinating. I grew up in a Jewish area with Jewish friends (and "aunts" and "uncles"), and my boyfriend is Jewish, but I don't have a lot of insight into the Orthodox culture other than a guy I went to school with in graduate school. I've heard about random things, like the Mikveh, and some of the dating traditions. But it's nice to learn more.

I do know that Orthodox Jewish marriages are very strong, and I think that you and your wife have a great chance of being successful in your marriage. I think you just need to communicate with each other and be sympathetic and understanding of each other. It sounds like you are on a good path, already.

Edited by Jibralta
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On 2/2/2021 at 5:57 PM, Anonone1 said:

but that currently hasn't been an issue since my wife got her IUD.

This doesn't make any sense if the only approved goal of sexual behavior is conception--does it?

IUD is a contraception device, isn't it?

So what's wife's position on this?

You mention having a conversation about sex months ago. Maybe it's time to update that convo?

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@abitbrokenI'm not 100% clear on the specifics (my wife would know a lot more than me since she deals directly with this), but I believe there's a differentiation between knowing that she normally has an N day cycle and actually tracking it (whether that be on an app or paper and pencil). 

@JibraltaI totally agree with you, that I need to work on my comfort level discussing this with my wife. I absolutely love @LunarUK's suggestion and having a start with the actual questions he/she posed is really helpful. 

And thank you for the kind words too! Orthodox culture can be very insular and there definitely hasn't been enough conversation between it and the mainstream world (I feel like Netflix's Unorthodox might be the most recent attempt to bridge that gap, but it wasn't a particularly endearing depiction of Chassidic life to say the least). I'm personally in the 'leftmost' of all the sects contained within the Orthodox heading (Modern Orthodox) - you'd find me wearing jeans and a tee shirt and the only external difference is that I'll wear my kippah and have my tzitzit [undergarment with strings on all four corners] usually tucked in.

@catfeederConception is not the only telos of sex as seen in the Orthodox world - it's also supposed to bring husband and wife closer together and increase shalom bayit [domestic harmony].

Methods like condoms are not allowed, because the actual basis for this law is that the biblical personage Onan ejaculated outside of his wife Tamar to stop her from getting pregnant. The sperm needs to end up inside the vagina - with an IUD it still does, so it's a bit of a loophole. It's a minor controversy in the Orthodox world - not all communities allow this, but our specific community is lax where it can be with regards to halacha [law].

And yes, it's time for another conversation. And the advice I got above is definitely on the right track and will help me prep for that.

Edited by Anonone1
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9 hours ago, abitbroken said:

 if I understand, a woman knowing what time of month she usually has her period -- that's not allowed - she has to treat it like it is always a surprise? 

 

Surely you are not trying to be anti-semitic with these condescending judgemens and it's just lack of understanding.

Certainly you don't need an education in orthodox judaism, but why be obtuse and judgemental?

Why shove silly apps down anyone's throat and double down on that? If you wish to be enlightened, great. But why be sarcastic?

Edited by Wiseman2
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