Last week, we saw that shyness is a natural human state that needs to be protected and preserved in order for one to be a good member of society. We teach our children not to say everything that is on their mind, and that it is inappropriate to tell that overweight woman in the street that she is fat. We do not reveal all our secrets to others; how much we earn, the details of our bank account or our inner private thoughts.
This is even more critical in matters of intimacy and modesty. We teach our children not to reveal their bodies in public and not to discuss intimate matters with others. However, when a couple get married there is an expectation that the natural barriers between these two people will come tumbling down. This, however, is not always such an immediate and simple transition. For many couples this takes time and this time can be a frustrating and exhausting experience especially when one spouse is willing and ready to be open and intimate and the other is not yet ready. This requires guidance and counseling for both partners since both are suffering; the one who is unable to open up and the other who is trying to get them to open up. The direction of counseling depends on the specific circumstances and reasons for the inability to be intimate. If it is due to “religious reasons” or education, then the person needs to be retaught a more thorough religious approach that does include the importance of intimacy in the right setting. It is clear that the halacha and Jewish thought promote sexuality and intimacy as essential elements of marriage and as a healthy expression of love between two people and a manifestation of their own Divinity. This is not usually widely taught to young people or adolescents and this instruction is reserved for people who are about to get married. Caught up in the whirl of wedding arrangements and preparations they can easily miss the nuance and spirit of these vital lessons and be left with a somewhat flawed view of the place and nature of intimacy in a couple’s life.
Sometimes there is a deeper problem that needs expert counseling; previous negative experience and even abuse can have left serious emotional scars that need to be treated professionally.
In most cases it is less serious but takes time and the patience of both partners to naturally ease into a deep relationship. This is not on or off but something that develops and grows with a relationship. There may still be areas of vulnerability that have to be left hidden and private but may later become more open and revealed. Of course the hope is that these are specific and limited places of a person’s personality and being and that the majority is shared and exposed to the other spouse. The ideal is that the two people become intertwined in the fabric of each other’s lives and care deeply about the other person’s successes and failures as much as they do about their own accomplishments and disappointments. While they remain two separate individuals, they do share their personal and professional lives together. While the wife may not exactly understand the details of her husband’s job she still takes an interest and shows concern for his career advance. While the husband may not be intimately involved with his wife’s interests, he still enjoys her triumphs and listens attentively to her frustrations. This is how two individuals become a couple. As the Torah stated “and they will become one flesh”. They grow together to become one integral unit, a oneness that is expressed in their sexuality but is felt throughout their married life as they become a pair.
How can this special relationship be preserved?