Shalom Bayis Advice
My husband lately is very busy at work during my 2 weeks following mikvah. He is home and attentive mikvah night but most of the 2 weeks we can be together he is out of the house until the wee hours of the morning. I understand the necessity to be out and support his projects and know he is doing important work. However he does not express emotion easily and during those weeks I end up becoming more and more hurt when he is not around physically, but especially emotionally which does not necessarily take large amounts of time.
I have expressed to him my need for minimal emotional connection during these weeks I wish we could be together more – like a kind word/message during the day, show of concern, expression of love, good night kiss when he comes in. Although I tried expressing my needs and hurt to him in a respectful manner, he doesn’t seem to understand and instead asks “what do you want me to do?” or “I didn’t time this”. He feels like I am painting him as a terrible person by expressing my needs and the hurt I feel.
What do you suggest I do for our marriage? I am so hurt I do not want to go to the mikvah this week – as I feel the physical intimacy can serve as a band aid for all the hurt I feel. Suddenly when we are intimate my husband expresses everything I needed to hear during his week of absence (when I was Tahor) when I needed it so badly. The intimate connection after mikvah can make all the hurt disappear – but after dealing with this challenge 1 time too many I know I cannot go through it again.
Disclaimer: the following thoughts do not replace the possible need for a qualified Frum therapist, mashpia, or marriage counselor. Just as we put in money and effort into repairing our home when something breaks, so too must we invest in our marriage.
One of the very difficult aspects of marriage is communicating with our spouse. It is very painful when we try to communicate a feeling or need, and the spouse does not respond as expected. This can make us feel hurt, unloved, neglected and ignored. And due to the nature of the issue, we feel alone with no one to turn to.
The Gemara (Shabbos 62b) teaches us that “women are a nation to themselves”, because of the nature and personality that they have, which is different than that of a man. In Chasidus (Likutei Torah Shir Hashirim 48:3) we find an expression that men and women are “two opposites that oppose one another”, and the Gemara (Sotah 2a) even tells us that “it is as difficult to match them up as it is to split the sea”. Thus, it may help to learn some of these differences, and adapt accordingly (see Likutei Sichos vol. 5 pg. 178 footnote 38 that it is for this reason that marriage is a continuous process).
(See also Breishis Rabba 18. Yevamos 62b. Ibid 65b. Kidushin 35a).
Men and Women are very different in the way they express themselves, and in the way they understand the expressions of the opposite gender. When a woman expresses her need for affection and emotional support, a man may translate that as an “accusation” that he is not being good enough. For a man, feelings of trust and appreciation are very important, and he may translate requests for affection as being non-appreciative of all the long hours he is putting in to support the family. (See Yevamos 113a and Kidushin 7a, that women feel and express the need for support from a man more than vice-versa).
For a woman, emotional support and affection is very important, and oftentimes more important than physical affection, but many men can’t verbalize their feelings as well as women. On the other hand, men can express their love through physical touch. The problem with that is when the man is too tired or stressed for physical intimacy, he might not display any love (due to the language barrier). He doesn’t understand that just saying “I love you” means so much to a woman. (See at length in the beginning of Sefer Hamaamarim 5659 regarding the differences between a Mashpia and Mekabel; Sechel and Dibbur).
A man may also feel overwhelmed when he knows he needs to “show affection”. Because it is too general, he is not sure what to do to fully convey his affection and love. But if he knows that he can do something specific, it is easier for him.
It may help to constantly convey to your husband what you need, not in a demanding way but as a request. You should however focus on one specific thing at a time. For example, when he says “I love you”, look at him and say (with a smile) “thank you for saying that, I love hearing that you love me”. The next day ask him to hold onto you and to say “I love you”, and then tell him how much you appreciate it. Or when he demonstrates any other form of affection, say “thank you, I love when you….”. The next night ask him to do it again a and thank him again. This way he will see that this display of love, as small as it may seem, is important to you.
It may also happen that just the fact that he verbalizes his love, will cause him to express it in other ways as well. We find this idea mentioned in Reishis Chochma (Shar Hakedusha chapters 11-13), that speech have an effect on our emotions, and that when one is angry, talking can make the anger greater. It works the same way with love: one can enlarge their feeling of love through speech (Sefer Hamamarim 5659 p. 5. 5701 p. 85. 5708 p. 251. 5683 p. 88. See also Shulchan Aruch of Alter Rebbe 101:3 that sound awakens intention). Similarly, we find the idea in many places that actions affect the heart (אחרי המעשים נמשכים הלבבות).
It may also help to express your appreciation for his work, and along with that ask him to spend a few minutes with you. For example say “I really appreciate how much you are working, and I see that you are so tired when you come home. Would you take 15 minutes and go on a walk with me?”
In practice I suggest that you do go to Mikva this week. In the interim you can work on strengthening the relationship, as well as working through the pain and hurt that you experienced previously. The gain of going to Mikva, aside for the actual mitzvah involved and the spiritual benefit it brings you, it can help in bringing down extra brachos to assist in your relationship in a healthy manner. Additionally, the mikvah achieves that if you would later feel that you would appreciate a physical touch, you would be able to have it.
ראה שו”ע או”ח רמ, ג וס”י. אה”ע כה, ב. ונו”כ. לאידך גיסא ראה שו”ע אדה”ז יו”ד קפו סק”ח שאסור לאשה לעמוד וכו’. ושקו”ט בביאור הדברים בכ”מ, ואכ”מ. ובכל אופן יש בזה תועלת לעניני הרחקות ושאר קירבות, וכפשוט.
I want to Bentch you that you should enjoy many happy years together.