My wife and I have no sexual relations, which I find frustrating. Masturbating has become the norm. I feel that divorce may be necessary, because I am missing the closeness of a relationship. I am Jewish and she is not.
What do you advise?
Oh my, what a lonely scenario you describe, notably devoid of any evidence of joy, love or even affection. You make a point of noting your differences and state that you feel divorce may be necessary. I strongly recommend you seek out professional, in person face-to-face counseling – marriage and individual counseling with two separate professionals. Why two? So if you do split, you will have someone to help you along on the next chapter of life. After divorce the person one needs most to get to know well--is oneself.
The absence of sexual relations, in and of itself, happens in the face of misunderstanding, illness and for a small percentage, with aging. While Jewish law rules against masturbation, especially when conception might be possible, only a small percentage of Jews follow that guideline. The absence of encoupled intimacy is, indeed, uncomfortable, sad and a great misfortune for you. Many couples ripen in loving intimacy with time and conscious living and learning, often with help from a professional. I encourage you to seek professional support before giving up on a marriage.
Here is a starter question: If you were alone in the woods talking to God about your marriage, what would you pour out? And if you were to pray about your marriage - what would your prayer be?
with blessings for a better chapter of life to be just around the corner, R'Goldie Milgram
3. Intimacy, emotional "closeness", is the essential glue of marital relationships. You are sure to find a plethora of websites offering advice on how to increase passion and create a more vibrant and fulfilling marriage. But, assuming that you have already exhausted the avenues of self-help books and marital counselors, the next question is whether it is time for you to open a new chapter in your book of life.
In sum, the intermarriage consideration, together with your frustration, your lack of intimacy, and the absence of a close relationship, all come together pointing to a life changing time when you can strive to build a fulfilling relationship with a woman who will be your true partner and soulmate.
P.S. About soulmates, I refer you to my article on "Soulmates" published in The Encyclopedia of Love in World Religions, ABC-CLIO World Religions Project, Ed.: Dr. Yudit Kornberg Greenberg, Santa Barbara, California, et. al., November 2007, pp. 593-597.
First, I am sorry to hear that you and your wife are experiencing marital problems. Sexual relations between marital partners is very important to the success of a marriage and Judaism highly encourages an active sex life among married couples. Before considering a divorce, I would encourage you and your wife to seek out a good marriage counselor with a trusted reputation. Discussing your marital challenges with the counselor or therapist could help turn your marriage around. I wish you the best of luck and certainly hope you can work this out. If you can't make this work and divorce is the only option then I hope you and your wife are able to go down that path in the most amicable way.
The first commandment we are taught in Torah is to be fruitful and multiply. We are obligated by Jewish Law to marry and have children, one boy and one girl to be exact. We are also told that “spilling seed” (masturbation) is not permitted because the sperm wasted could have produced a child. There is such a high value placed on life and having children that there are Jewish Laws that state that one may divorce one’s wife if she is barren.
Intimacy is very important. Divorce, while difficult, is a far better option than cheating on your wife or living with resentment. It is always better to openly deal with marital issues, in your case, sexual relations with your wife or lack thereof. There are therapists who are experts in this arena and this specific type of marriage counseling.
That being said, living in a loveless marriage, whether related to sexual relations, communication issues or a myriad of other discords that drive partners apart, it is not healthy for either party to stay in such a relationship.
In Reform Judaism being Jewish or not is not the issue. If you choose the path of divorce after honest reflection with your partner, you will have to go through civil law practices of your state to be legally divorced. Then gittin (Jewish Ritual Divorce) is by choice, but something I do recommend. I recommend it because one never knows who they will fall in love with and if the new person is more observant not having gone through gittin would be an issue down the line.
This is a difficult situation. I hope this helps in figuring out what your next step will be.