Mikveh during husband’s illness
20 May, 2007
Today I spoke to a relative whose husband had cancer and has been in remission twice. She told me about her difficulties and how her husband's health is like that "of an eighty-year old" (they are in their thirties). She seems very depressed. When i asked her if she is going to the mikvah she paused and then said : "I stopped going to the Mikvah because there is no use". Apparently because of the chemo, he cannot ejaculate. After talking to her for a while I suggested going to the Mikvah anyways just for the sake of not having to keep Harkhakot and maybe the two weeks separation would help. I am not sure I did the right thing – what is the Halacha regarding that? Is she obligated to go to the Mikvah? If not, is it advisable? Is there anything I can do or say to her to help her? Are there any special Heterim for this unique situation?
Thanks so much in advance and we should all hear good news.
In this case we would recommend going to the mikveh. As you intuited, the harchakot could be adding tension to their relationship as well as making it more difficult to care for her husband. Mikveh immersion for the purpose of other forms of intimacy is permitted. The only caveat is to avoid hotza'at zera levatalah, which is not at issue here. A physically affectionate relationship is not built only on relations.
However, based on what you write, the situation would seem to demand more than halachic intervention. Counseling, or a spouses of the ill support group, might help your relative cope with her situation and her depression. In terms of their relationship, marital counseling might also be in order. We hope that she will consider taking these steps to improve her situation. Referrals for frum counselors can be found through Nefesh International, www.nefesh.org.
It is not completely clear from your questions exactly what sexual difficulties your cousin's husband is suffering. Ejaculation is not necessary to have marital relations. If the problem is lack of erection, there are often medical interventions that can be used to improve the situation. Therefore, in addition to the marital counseling we have suggested, we would also encourage your cousin to discuss this side effect of her husband's condition and/or treatment with the physicians who are treating him. Cancer specialists often work in a multidisciplinary team that includes nurses or social workers designated to deal with these specific issues.
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