The Bintel Brief Is Back: Dr. Ruth Dishes on Marriage Pressure and More

Dr. Ruth Westheimer

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column marks the return of the Forward’s famed Bintel Brief. after an absence of several decades. New installments of the advice column will appear Mondays on the Bintel Blog. We are delighted to kick off the return of this legendary Forward feature with the legendary Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

Dear Dr. Ruth,

I come from a Modern Orthodox background, yet I’ve been dating my boyfriend for a few years, and we’re living together. I’m still Shabbat observant, and my boyfriend isn’t so much.

Everyone in my community asks me why I’m not married, and I can’t take the pressure anymore (they obviously don’t know I live with my boyfriend). My boyfriend and I love each other, but I think we’re both terrified of marriage.

Also, we haven’t been having sex at all, from general anxiety here and there, and I think if we work on this maybe it will be the glue that will make us feel romantic in terms of getting married. “Trying” in that department feels so self-conscious, but I don’t know how to get started. What do you think we should do?


Dr. Ruth Replies:

Dr. Ruth,

I am a Jewish columnist in Mexico. I recently picked up and wrote about the news that Abraham Hirchson, Israel’s finance minister and chairman of the March of Living to Auschwitz, is being questioned by Israeli police over alleged mishandling of funds relating to the march. I was severely criticized by someone who felt that my column would hinder next year’s youth participation in the march.

It seems to me, however, that if Hirschon is being questioned, the entire issue of the march’s funding is up in the air. Whether or not young people decide to go to Poland (that is, whether their parents decide to pay) is irrelevant to the issue raised. What’s your opinion of my decision to write about this issue? Isn’t reporting and commenting on news our job as journalists?


Dear Dr. Ruth,

I have had a series of unpleasant experiences with divorced rabbis who work in Jewish outreach organizations. I have found that they do things with young, attractive women whom they meet as a result of their outreach work which they wouldn’t allow themselves or be allowed to do with women who are from their own communities. That is, they use such women for sex in ways they wouldn’t get away with in their own communities. They pretend to be trying to be in a relationship when, in truth, all they are really interested in is getting sex.

This has happened to me on two occasions, so from my own perspective, it doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident. Is there anything you could advise me to do in order to mend my wounds from these dreadful experiences?

I would like to remain anonymous as this is obviously a very unpleasant and shameful set of experiences. It has totally alienated me from Judaism, on top of the other psychological damage I have suffered as a result, all of which is surely the antithesis of what outreach organizations should be doing.


Dr. Ruth Westheimer is a noted psychosexual therapist. She is the author of 32 books, including, most recently, “The Olive and the Tree: The Secret Strength of the Druze” (Lantern Books). She dispenses advice regularly at

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