Dear Gefilte: What Do You Do When the Wife Doesn't Want to Have Sex? – Kveller
Skip to Content Skip to Footer

dear gefilte

Dear Gefilte: What Do You Do When the Wife Doesn’t Want to Have Sex?

Dear Gefilte,

I have a congregant in my Havurah group and he asked me this question: 

What if the person feeling trapped in a sexless marriage is the husband, and the wife has wanted nothing “sexually speaking” for the past four to five years? 

What does the husband do then? What do I tell him?


READDear Gefilte: I’m Trapped in a Sexless Marriage

Dear Asking,

What?! A woman refusing sex? I don’t know what the current color scheme is for the Department of Homeland Security is, but I would call this a hot pink alert.

Yes, that was gefilte sarcasm. Some people might mislabel it angry feminism. The reason for my estro-adrenaline response is this: I appreciate your writing and I really do empathize with your friend. Plus, I’m very impressed with how your Havurah group works. In my temple it was solely discussions about Alan Dershowitz over day-old bialys.

But for those following along at home, I wrote this response just a few months ago to a woman who was feeling rejected sexually by her husband, and I wonder, why should we treat the situation any differently when a man is the one asking for sex?

I know there are some undeniable differences between the male and female brain. It has something to do with male brains being slightly bigger and female brains having thicker corpus callosum tissue. (That’s why I did better than my brother on the verbal section of the SATs and he knows how to get back from Disneyland without looking at a map.)

READ: Let’s Get Real About Sex for Married Couples

OK, full disclosure: I had to look that up. Because I actually don’t know what the difference is or why we need to harp on the differences between our X and Y axes. Especially since research also shows that if females concentrate on their spatial skills more and males focus on their vocab, even these biological disparities can be erased.

So I don’t know if this is what your friend was really asking, but too bad, because this is what I need to tell you:

We’re all the same, deep down. This goes for gender, race, religion, lactose in/tolerance, rye or pumpernickel, or whoever is trying to free all the glutens. We all thrive on true, intimate connection, commonly referred to as LOVE.

Listen, we have made some amazing advancements for gender equality lately—the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, same-sex marriage, and this sign—just for starters.

But these won’t mean much unless we change how we’re thinking and talking about our shared desires, too. Here are a few people whom I think of as heroes. They know how to provocatively poke holes in the traditional gender stereotypes.

Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow—that’s vulnerability.

Brené Brown (genius researcher, storyteller, author, doctor and revolutionary)

I am 39. I am single. I am a black woman. I have too many advanced degrees. Many a news story tells me finding true love is likely a hopeless proposition. Now is the time when I need to believe in fairy tales.

Roxane Gay (brilliant writer, poet, feminist, professor)

“You are telling me I didn’t have a bat mitzvah because Dad wanted to go out in the woods and dress up like a woman?”

“That, and you were a spoiled brat.”

Transparent (my favorite TV show about faith, love, and desire, written by the dazzling Jill Soloway)

READ: Losing My Sex Drive After Having Kids (and How I Got it Back)

This is what I want you to tell your friend, Asking:

He has the power, and really the obligation, to speak up for himself and his needs. He has to be authentic and daringly honest.

It’s not easy. I took out a lot of aggression on my Smurfs and had sex to k.d. lang because I didn’t know how to do this. I’m definitely a work in progress.

And I’ll sign off with a Havurah special, from the esteemed Rabbi Hillel:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

If I am not for others, what am I?

And if not now, when? 

Not sure he meant for a fishball to be equating those words with asking for sex, but it makes sense to me.

With love and schmaltz,


Skip to Banner / Top Skip to Content