When I first saw the young man at an NCSY Shabbaton, my first thought was that “he’s so cute.” And I was determined to find a way to meet him. It didn’t take long. There was another NCSY Shabbaton in my hometown and he was an advisor who needed a ride to his hosts. I was driving and I gave him that ride. A few weeks later, I was celebrating the aufruf of a friend and a bunch of us were enjoying Shabbat lunch when the young man walked in. Again, my first thought was “he’s so cute. I have to talk to him.” Then I realized that he was the same NCSY advisor whom I had met before. 

Simcha and I were friends for over a year and then, with a nudge from another young woman, who made the shidduch with a nudge from her friend, my sister,  we started dating. We dated for 11 months before he proposed. During our engagement, we met with our Rav a few times for some pre-marital counseling. At one point, our Rav mentioned holding hands after the chuppah and I blushed very badly. Somehow, I found the courage to say to my chatan (privately) that I planned to hug the stuffin’ out of him after our chuppah. He grinned. 

I also spent a few weeks learning with a kallah teacher. Looking back, I remember that I don’t agree with every little detail that she had to share, but for the most part, it was incredible. It wasn’t just that she taught me the mechanics of Taharat HaMishpacha. She taught me how special it is and why I can love it and appreciate it. Even today, I love this mitzvah. She also talked to me about marriage and the physical side of it. She agreed with me that hugging the stuffin’ out of my husband was a good thing. Most importantly, she dispelled a few misconceptions that I had, that might’ve taken my marriage in a very different and not-so-great direction. 

One of those misconceptions is that if you’re shomer negiah, you’re not supposed to WANT any physical relationship. Yes, that’s a myth. Being shomer negiah means that you don’t act on it and you don’t touch. But to not want it? Incorrect. 

We are all only human. Yes, we’re supposed to strive to be better people. But to strive for total purity is a losing battle. There’s nothing wrong or abnormal about a man seeing a woman, finding her attractive, and even getting a lustful thought or two. And there’s nothing wrong or abnormal about a woman seeing a man and finding him attractive and getting a lustful thought or two. The challenge, to help make us better people, is not to deny any of that, but to look past it and try to see each other as real human beings with minds and hearts and souls. 

I agree with the idea of being shomer negiah. When getting to know someone, especially for the purpose of marriage, actually getting physical can get in the way. We need to keep our heads fully in the game and get to know each other as real people, without the distractions of any physical relationship. But to not WANT to touch is actually a problem. We’re not supposed to marry someone who we’re not attracted to. Maybe that attraction won’t be there immediately and it pays to date for a short time and see if an attraction can develop. But after a few dates, if there’s no attraction, it’s a waste. 

One other advantage of being shomer negiah is that when the time does come, well… hold on tight! When a husband and wife touch for the first time, it’s supposed to feel unbelievably good and even a little overwhelming, especially since they’ve been wanting it and they’ve been holding it in until now. But that part about wanting it is important. Being shomer negiah only means that you’re holding it in. It does NOT mean that you don’t want it. According to my kallah teacher, a husband and wife are supposed to want each other that way.  

As of this writing, Simcha and I have been married for 20 years and counting, and we have three children, one young adult and two teenagers, but I still say that he’s so cute (among other good things). And he routinely tells me that I’m beautiful (among other compliments).

That’s how it should be.