My boyfriend and I are becoming more observant since being together. It is lovely that I am getting so such insight into our religion, and we are slowly starting to observe the Shabbat and more mitzvot. Anyway here is what’s bothering me: my boyfriend is now saying that to make our relationship last/work we need to abstain from being intimate with each other until we’re married. Part of me understands his position, but I feel that intimacy is an important part of a relationship, and would create a very strong bond between us. I know that I love him and wish to marry him one day, so this is not your average passing relationship. So what’s wrong with pre-marital intimacy?
Imagine your favorite coffee mug broke in half, and you want to glue it together. You go to Home Depot and buy the most highly recommended, strongest glue. Then you read the instructions. You clean the surfaces as directed, very carefully make sure that the two halves are perfectly even and matched. Then you apply the glue.
But what would happen if you applied the glue right away? Before reading the instructions, before prepping the surfaces properly, before aligning them perfectly?
Intimacy is the strongest bond that exists between two human beings.
Because the power and the bond created by intimacy is so great, it is vitally important that this «glue» is not applied within a relationship until we have assured that everything else fits perfectly. Is there an intellectual bonding/commitment (respect and liking — a vital and highly underrated component in any marital relationship)? Is there an emotional bonding/commitment (love)? Is there a legal bonding/commitment (legal marriage, ketubah)? A public bonding/commitment (wedding)? A spiritual bonding/commitment (chuppah and kiddushin — Jewish marriage according to the precepts of Torah)? Only when all these other bonding/commitments are in place is it time to apply the final «glue» — the physical bonding.
Intimacy does not strengthen liking, respect, love, or spiritual connection. It creates a bond. This bond may actually obscure the fact that there is something missing in the liking, respect, love, or spiritual connection. It conceals, rather than reveals. And so, during the period of dating, getting to know the other and determining if indeed this is the person with whom we want to spend a lifetime, the person who we want to come home to even when we are old and gray, the person who we want to be the parent of our children — during this time intimacy is a hindrance, rather than a help, in assisting us to make that all important decision.
Once the decisions have been made, and the commitments have been proclaimed to the entire world, then it is time to apply the final glue.1
In fact, even within the context of marriage there are times when a husband and wife should not be intimate with each other. These are the laws of Family Purity, which maintain the marriage as a multi-dimensional relationship, not just a bedroom relationship. But that’s a whole ‘nuther story. If and when the two of you decide to get married, then is the time to become familiar with these all-important laws.
When you keep your hands off, you learn to commune with your minds and your heart. And intimacy is all the more special, then, once you’re married:.
1. Interestingly, according to Mariah Wojdacz of LegalZoom.com, a leading online legal service center: «The highest risk factor for divorce may be surprising, since it is often seen as a way to promote stability and security in a relationship. Couples who move in together prior to marriage have a far greater chance of divorce than couples who do not. How much higher is that risk? Some studies suggest couples who co-habitat before marriage, divorce at a rate as high as 85 percent.» For more on this, See Dating the Jewish Way.
BY CHAYA SARAH SILBERBERG
Chaya Sarah Silberberg serves as the rebbetzin of the Bais Chabad Torah Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan, since 1975. She also counsels, lectures, writes, and responds for Chabad.org’s Ask the Rabbi service.
About the artist: Dovid Brook lives in Sydney, Australia, and has been selling his art since he was in high school. He is currently painting and doing web illustrations. To view or purchase David’s art, please visit davidasherbrook.com.
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