Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

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Needing affection

6 February, 2006

Question:

I am 46 years old, and after observing Taharat HaMishpacha for all of my married life (24 years) I am having trouble with the concept lately. I seem to need more affection and closeness from my husband than when we were first married. We lead hectic lives with us both working full time, and at the end of the day, at least a hug or a kiss would be nice. I understand the issur in having intercourse if I haven't been to the mikvah yet, but I'm having difficulty with the concept of no touching at all. I feel rejected and alone.

I've spoken to friends and done a very unscientific "poll" and was surprised to learn how many shomer shabbat, observant families, don't observe all of the restrictions. My husband does not want to budge, believing that we will be on a "slippery slope" if we ease up on our observance.

I've had a thermal ablation and a microwave endometrial ablation, but still have periods. I want to plan a trip for our 25th anniversary next year, but I fear I will end up on a trip with my husband at a time when he won't be able to give me a hug or put his arm around me in a picture! (A good trip, like a kosher cruise, can't be booked at the last second).

I am concerned that I may not reach menopause for quite a few more years. I can't go on living like this. I've thought about a hysterectomy, but it doesn't seem fair that I should have to go through such major surgery to get a hug!

My husband has some serious health issues. If he should die before I reach menopause, I see myself standing by his grave, thinking about all the times we should have held hands, kissed, etc., and didn't, because I hadn't been to the mikvah.

I know I am writing to a very frum website, and that you will probably tell me that these mitzvot have to be kept, despite the difficulties I am having with them. I wanted, however, to express my frustration, and to get an idea if you are hearing this from others. Also, has the man done anything wrong if he touches his wife when he is unaware that she is having her period? I'm tempted to keep it to myself, at times.


Answer:

You are not the first or only woman to have trouble keeping the restrictions on physical contact during niddah.  We do appreciate the importance of your concerns.  You are correct that we are a religious website and will encourage you to keep these halachot despite the difficulties.

The concept is that touch between husband and wife is restricted to when it can be not just reassuring and supportive, but freely sexual.  Since your husband's not giving you a kiss or hug is not freely chosen, but dictated by halachah, we are sure you know intellectually that he does not wish to reject you or leave you feeling alone.  But sometimes, how a couple goes about not touching can have as great an emotional impact as not touching itself.  Perhaps you and your husband can explore new, non-physical ways to communicate closeness and love.  Think of alternate behaviors on your husband's part that would bring you closer.

Your unscientific poll may have been eye-opening.  What it reflects is that, unfortunately, it is easier to maintain high standards of observance in areas that are socially reinforced, such as Shabbat and kashrut, than in areas that are between the couple and HaShem.  Ultimately, you have to ask yourself if your own halachic decision-making process is defined by the halachah or by what others do. 

Beezrat HaShem, your husband should make it to 120, but you may be surprised that your regret could be different than what you anticipate: holding your husband's deep halachic and religious commitments against him, instead of doing everything in your power to work together in a way that honors them.  He might ultimately feel that the amount of love and support you show him in working with him to keep the halachah is worth many kisses.  Regardless, to mislead your husband on matters pertaining to niddah is strictly prohibited by halachah, which gives over a great deal of trust and responsibility in this area to women.

We're sorry that you had to have two ablations– and that they didn't result in amenorrhea.  We agree with you that an elective hysterectomy may be too drastic a step.  However, it may be possible to manage your cycle in advance of your vacation with a course of hormones.  You should consult your doctor well in advance to explore the options and plan treatments. If he is not familiar with the details of hilchot niddah, consider referring him to our resources for medical professionals: www.jewishwomenshealth.org or the Jewish Women's Health App.

Please don't hesitate to get back to us.


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