Saturday, March 25, 2023

Planning a wedding involves endless preparations. A hall is booked, the perfect floral arrangements are chosen, table linens are ordered and a delectable menu is designed. The best band in town is booked. Elegant clothing is chosen for the bride and groom, as well as for each and every family member. But, what has been done to prepare our beautiful new chattan and kallah for what awaits them after the band has packed up and this joyful and exhausted new couple leaves the wedding hall alone, for the first time, as husband and wife?

In my practice as a physical therapist, I have treated many young women who have had difficulty consummating their marriages. While the exact incidence of unconsummated marriage in the observant Jewish community has not been published, a pilot study found surprisingly higher rates than anticipated.

Couples who face this challenge come from a broad range of religious observance, as it is not exclusively any one population that struggles with this issue. When left untreated over time, this often becomes the source of tension and disharmony between an otherwise happy and peaceful couple.

Why do some couples have difficulty in this area?

Lack of education: While both bride and groom may hold advanced academic degrees and are otherwise well-educated and enlightened individuals, many couples enter marriage armed with little understanding of anatomy and basic physiology of sexual function.

Difficulty transitioning: In the observant community, modesty and abstinence prior to marriage are often expected norms. Many couples have difficulty transitioning from this phase in their lives to the next phase where physical intimacy is shared in the context of marriage.

Incongruent expectations: Husband and wife may each enter marriage with their own expectation of “How things are supposed to be,” both for the wedding night and the months that follow.

Biomechanical issues: Lack of body awareness may cause couples to have difficulty figuring out how their bodies move. Physical limitations or disabilities may also present challenges in this area.

Sexual dysfunction: In some cases, husband, wife or both may have underlying and undiagnosed sexual dysfunction.

It is essential for a couple entering into marriage to have a thorough understanding of both male and female anatomy and sexual functioning. If either bride or groom has physical or emotional health issues that may interfere with intimacy, it is always preferable that those issues be resolved prior to marriage. It is also essential that women visit their gynecologist prior to marriage, if they have not already done so. The longer a couple waits before seeking appropriate treatment, the more challenging it becomes for them to break old patterns and develop behaviors conducive to consummating their marriage. Anxiety and tension may result from repeated failed attempts and can contribute to the problem. For this reason, it is recommended that a couple experiencing difficulty seek out help as early as possible, so they may begin their journey to a satisfying intimate life together.

Rivki Chudnoff PT, MSPT is a NY/ NJ licensed physical therapist with over 14 years of experience working in both pediatrics and women’s health. Her practice includes effective treatment for sexual dysfunction, pelvic pain, incontinence, and bedwetting. She currently resides in Bergenfield with her husband Scott and their children. She can be reached at rivkichudnoff_gmail.com

By Rivki Chudnoff PT, MSPT

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