This piece was written by Dr. Naomi Marmon Grumet for a forthcoming publication by Dr. David Ribner and Talli Rosenbaum, “I Am for My Beloved: A Guide to Enhanced Intimacy for Married Couples” (Urim, 2019). The book contents information about intimacy, sexual anatomy and physiology, sex within the lifecycle, and Jewish values and attitudes towards sex – with a practical, hands-on approach – to help couples enrich their marital and sexual lives and maintain passion and intimacy within the framework of Jewish tradition.
“Mikveh Night.” Is it a special night or one filled with anxiety? How can we make the evening positive in our marriage? The results of my research indicate that there is a range of reactions by both men and women to “mikveh night.” Some love the excitement that the abstinence brings, and feel that it puts their desires in sync. Others find it very stressful and feel pressure to perform. At different points in life, couples can vacillate along the continuum between these two extremes. Mikveh night can set the tone for what will happen during the rest of the month. If you or your partner find mikveh night to be a source of pressure, if you don’t enjoy the mikveh experience, or if you resent how mikveh determines your sexual schedule, you are not alone. For some people, these feelings are eased when they agree to remove all sexual expectations from the evening. The couples that get the most out of mikveh night seem to be those who use the time leading up to that evening to connect and to communicate about their desires and expectations. Following are some mikveh night tips that can be beneficial even for those who do not choose to engage in intercourse on mikveh night:
1. Mikveh night isn’t automatically magical. Clarifying expectations and communicating your needs and desires can be beneficial.
2. Set aside the time to be with each other. Even if it means cancelling other obligations, allocating this time as consecrated lets your partner know that you are investing in both the emotional and physical aspects of your relationship.
3. Start in advance. Send notes, SMSs or put a chocolate on his/her pillow to let your spouse know you are looking forward. These can help set the tone and enhance desire.
4. Intimacy, rather than “sex,” should be the goal for the night. Remember that 0 to 100 is a lot for many people; sexual intimacy consists of much beyond intercourse.
5. Set the stage. Small gestures can make a big difference. Husband, while your wife is at the mikveh, think about what household tasks she would appreciate you having accomplished in the house. Wives, before going to the mikveh, attempt to finish your family and professional obligations so that you are both mentally and physically available and ready to be together.
6. Have fun – do something you enjoy doing together. The desire to be together physically comes naturally when partners connect in other ways.
7. Use this time to explore. It can be as simple as a massage, lingerie, a romantic dinner or a head-to-toe caress.
8. If children or prior engagements get in the way, make an alternate plan like waking up early the next morning or setting aside another night.
9. Add a twist. Switch off who will be in charge of the evening, and surprise each other with fun/romantic/intimate things that make it exciting to get back together and put you both in the mood.
10. Many couples are comfortable with simply reconnecting. Others look to mikveh night as a time to spice things up. Either way is fine! For those looking to spice things up, this can be a time to explore and introduce new things that enhance your sex life.