Friday, August 24, 2012

Reasons a wife refuses marital relations & possible solutions

Guest Post: by Bunsa Bayis

Please excuse my nonsequitor, but in connection to a previous post several days ago, the term "force" was debated in respect to compelling a woman to sleep with her husband. The Torah teaches that a woman's desire is for her husband, and the Torah is emes. So I've been mulling it over and, excuse my impertinence, but based on my twenty years plus of marriage and a wide circle of talkative friends, I've come up with a list of reasons why a woman would refuse relations and possible solutions to the problems. 

Note: NONE of the solutions include using force:

1) she feels physical pain before, during, or after intimacy = she should see a doctor
2) she has an aversion/fear of sex = she should see a psychiatrist
3) she is trying to manipulate her husband = he should see a divorce lawyer
4) she is angry with him = if it's a mutual quarrel, then he is forbidden to have relations with her anyway. If she's angry about something - whether its justifiable or not - she's probably not withholding sex as a means of punishment. She probably just can't bear to touch him in that emotional state. Remember, for women, the sex/love relationship is indivisible. First work out your conflicts, then get physical.
5) she feels hurt = if you know she's upset, then say the magic words. Something that seems small to you might loom large in her mind. It's not worth being insensitive. If you don't know that you hurt her feelings then she needs to learn a better way to communicate. But, "having a headache" may be her way of telling you that something is amiss.
6) she is exhausted = whether she works outside or not, the kids, the house, the mother-in-law.... Fatigue is the most common cause of "not tonight, dear", and it's legitimate = Use some sense. If she was up all last night with a colicky baby, don't take it personally if sleep is far more appealing to her than you are. If you can afford to get her cleaning help, then why haven't you yet? If you can, bring home takeout for supper once a week. If your budget can't afford it, then pick up a dishtowel or bathe the kids. I promise it won't emasculate you. Give her a neck-rub. Both of you get to bed earlier.
7) She doesn't feel romantic towards you= If the first quiet moments you spent together are when you get to bed, then you owe it to her to first connect emotionally and talk nicely to her (the gemara's words, not just mine!) and not about the kids or bills. Take her out to dinner once in a while. Flirt with her. Notice how she looks and compliment her. Give her a neckrub, or a spontaneous kiss when you're nowhere near the bedroom.
8) she's no longer attracted to you = well, did you shower and brush your teeth before you climbed into bed? Ask her to buy you a cologne that she likes. Make an effort to look good for her.
You see how many productive steps can be taken in a healthy marriage that don't require force? Just as a man craves respect, a woman wants to feel cherished.
I'll welcome any additions to my list but I'll bet there will be accompanying solutions that don't require force.


  1. Excellent and Realistic answers & solution.

    One more to add, reduced sex drive in comparison to the husbands. Once/twice weekly may be more than enough for one and not the other.

  2. When a woman refuses to have sex with her husband, she is turning her husband into a serial masturbater who eventually may no longer be interested in having sex with her. (Though he may never tell her.)

    1. it depends on whether sex is put off for the moment but will be available in the near future - or simply refusing. If sexual interests are not compatible - a therapist should be consulted as well as a posek

    2. And if his boss doesn't pay him a high enough salary, it will cause him to steal.

    3. While I think overall your post was a positive summary, this is a bit flippant for the topic and highlights what I felt the main post was missing.

      If a boss doesn't pay someone, they get a new boss. No families are ruined because he went somewhere else to meet his basic needs.

    4. My intention was to point out that that some individuals choose to meet life's challenges by placing blame rather than working for a solution. Obviously, the man in the above example would be required to find a new job, or take a second job, or spend less RATHER than steal. So, too, a husband has a multitude of choices other than divorcing or becoming a "serial masturbator". Rather than using his wife as an excuse for sinning, he should try the methods I suggested above.

  3. Question:

    As a wife, do I have the halachic right to refuse to have sex with my husband for any reason?

    If a reason is halachicly needed for me to refuse to have sex with my husband, what reasons are considered justifiable to a wife to refuse to have sex, under halacha?

    1. simple answer you have the halachic right to refuse if you are not interested at the moment - but are available at some other time. It seems from the poskim that means that availability perhaps twice a week. If you are not interested for months at a time then that would probably be considered ma'os alei - with all the associated issues. In between these two extremes you need to consult with a posek. Your husband would possibly have grounds for asking for a divorce if you are incompatible in sexual interests. It is up to beis din to decide whether this refusal or lack of interest is considered a moredes or ma'ous alei. If the husband has strange sexual likings - a posek needs to be consulted - but a woman doesn't have to accept anything which she doesn't like. Though you will find rabbis who insist that it is the woman's problem if she doesn't like it and tell her that that is simply a part of marriage. I dealt with a woman who had been fortifying herself with psychiatric medication for years so she could allow her husband to do what he wanted because she thought she had to be a good wife. By the time she got to me - she hated her husband -but stayed in the marriage for the sake of the children. It was too late at this point to do anything other than to tell her she didn't have to submit - but she never lost her hatred for him.

      These issues are discussed in detail in Otzer haposkim.

    2. Ora I think you have a reading problem. I agree you simply don't understand what I am writing.

      I am simply describing something called reality. A woman is married to a man she is not happy with - but there are other concerns such as children, divorce etc etc. She might decide that the husband is the lesser of evils. What would you advise?

    3. I have stated repeatedly that it is prohibited without the consent of the wife. I also mentioned that there are times when a wife will consent because of other factors. What is it that you disagree with?

    4. You are wrong - I did not say a man can rape his wife. The fact that there is a halachic obligation for sexual relations - does not mean that she must submit if she doesn't want to. I did say that a wife might consent for various reasons - that is not rape. If she refuses - that is her perogative - but the man can also say he doesn't want to be married to her anymore.

      Your definition of rape is so broad that it would mean that most women have been/are being raped by their husbands. Your definition fits the womem's liberations movement agenda but it is not the accepted definition either in secular law or halacha. Try going to the police with charges based on your definition!


      A criminal offense defined in most states as forcible sexual relations with a person against that person's will.

      Rape is the commission of unlawful sexual intercourse or unlawful sexual intrusion. Rape laws in the United States have been revised over the years, and they vary from state to state.

      Historically, rape was defined as unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman against her will. The essential elements of the crime were sexual penetration, force, and lack of consent. Women who were raped were expected to have physically resisted to the utmost of their powers or their assailant would not be convicted of rape. Additionally, a husband could have sex with his wife against her will without being charged with rape. Beginning in the 1970s, state legislatures and courts expanded and redefined the crime of rape to reflect modern notions of equality and legal propriety.

      As of the early 2000s, all states define rape without reference to the sex of the victim and the perpetrator. Though the overwhelming majority of rape victims are women, a woman may be convicted of raping a man, a man may be convicted of raping a man, and a woman may be convicted of raping another woman. Furthermore, a spouse may be convicted of rape if the perpetrator forces the other spouse to have nonconsensual sex. Many states do not punish the rape of a spouse as severely as the rape of a non-spouse.

      Many states also have redefined lack of consent. Before the 1970s, many courts viewed the element of force from the standpoint of the victim. A man would not be convicted of rape of a competent woman unless she had demonstrated some physical resistance. In the absence of physical resistance, courts usually held that the sexual act was consensual. In the early 2000s in many states, the prosecution can prove lack of consent by presenting evidence that the victim objected verbally to the sexual penetration or sexual intrusion.

      Lack of consent is a necessary element in every rape. But this qualifier does not mean that a person may make sexual contact with a minor or incapacitated person who actually consented. Lack of consent may result from either forcible compulsion by the perpetrator or an incapacity to consent on the part of the victim. Persons who are physically or mentally helpless or who are under a certain age in relation to the perpetrator are deemed legally incapable of consenting to sex.

    6. the feeling is clearly mutual. Your misreading or twisting material - especially from the classic Jewish sources I quote clearly show a feminist agenda which goes way beyond even a modern secular view.

      According to your view a distinguished Rosh Yeshiva who told me that it is very important to be attentive one's wife's feelings and if she indicates she is interested then it is important to be available no matter how tired you are or what emotional state you are in. I assume that you would say that this Rosh Yeshiva - who was world famous as a tzadik - would be saying that he was raped by his wife?!

  4. A man dealing with this issue should definitely read Garden of Peace by Rav Shalom Arush. Women are often unhappy in marriages because men do not understand the practical rules of shalom bayis. It takes considerable self-control to implement R' Arush's teachings but they really do work.

  5. Ora, what you are saying is normative and correct.

    According to the voice out in the street, 'forceful sex' is a minority of a minority and practiced by males who are dealing with issues outside of religious observence. Especially among couples of Western Culture (another word for those born, raised and educated in America) Torah Jews, communication, understanding between spouses and working on midos is a prime avodas hashem.

    One reason that parents have used to avoid out-of-country shidduchim for their children (European, Israeli, South American)is because of the 'out of synch' culture & how it relates to women, 'less religious', vocational education, job opportunities & more.

    DAAS TORAH was stating the black & white Halacha, not how it is implemented in the majority of bedrooms.

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  7. I'm in a 5 yr sexless marriage, and it's driving me crazy! Granted, my wife does have pain after menopause. I do understand that. We're both 64. However, the part that I do not understand is she refuses to go to a doctor or get this "problem" fixed / improved. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.

  8. one. Believe me, I've tried / suggested it. I think this is "my life" for the rest of my life.

  9. is there anyone she will take advice from?

  10. What about when a man refuses to have sex with his wife? My husband hasn’t been intimate with me in 18 months (been married less than three years)! He says he’s tired and stressed!

  11. he needs to speak to a competent rav and/or therapist no excuses

  12. Wikipedia says Judaism teaches that if either partner refuses to have sex, that partner is considered rebellious and he other can sue for divorce. Is that correct?


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