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

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Laws of niddah seem overwhelming

23 May, 2022

Question:

I recently got engaged and will (God willing) be getting married in a few months. From the first time I heard about the laws of nidah in high school, I felt a huge sense of anxiety and dread surrounding it, but it didn’t become real until I got engaged. The laws seem overwhelming and invasive. I can’t focus on enjoying being engaged or being excited about the wedding because it’s all covered by this overwhelming sense of disgust. I don’t know what to do or who to turn to.

Specifically, I’m dreading the idea of not touching my husband or sleeping in the same bed as him during my period and a week after. I’m supposed to wait 21 years to touch and then we’re finally able to but it’s only half the time? That and the idea that we’re not supposed to sleep in the same bed on the night of our wedding. It feels like an overbearing mother to have such strict guidelines surrounding such a personal and intimate moment.


Answer:

Mazal tov on your engagement!

We are sorry to hear that you find yourself with feelings of anxiety, dread, and disgust when considering the laws of niddah. We deeply respect the courage and trust that you have expressed by contacting us for help navigating this situation.

Regarding your concern about not touching for an extended time each month: it’s wonderful that you have such positive feelings of anticipation regarding touch in your marital relationship. Your sense of having waited so long for intimate touch, and hoping for total freedom after marriage, is common and fully understandable. Like every other important area of life, marriage is part of a halachic framework. The same mutual halachic commitment that led you to wait can also help you seek ways together to make observing niddah work for you as a couple.

You’re correct that halacha stipulates that husband and wife not touch or sleep in the same bed during niddah. This time period typically lasts for the duration of uterine blood flow and an additional seven days, which often comes out to twelve to thirteen days.

The percentage of time overall that it reflects depends on the length of a woman’s cycle, but is usually not less than a third of the time. That is a significant amount of time, and there are adjustments that couples can make to address it.

Many couples focus on consciously developing ways to make each other feel loved and supported during niddah without touch, and to make mikveh night particularly special. At the same time, they might schedule more autonomous pursuits (e.g., time with friends) or larger family activities (e.g., going to parents for Shabbat) as much as possible for during niddah. Niddah thus becomes part of the rhythm of their relationship.

To make that rhythm easier, some women use hormonal contraception and extend their cycles on it, to reduce niddah to a quarter of the time (or sometimes even less).

In terms of your apprehensions about the wedding night: the couple are obligated to separate as niddah after the man withdraws following their first complete act of relations. There is some leeway in timing the first act of relations. So, if it is important for both spouses to share a bed for the full first night together, they can time their first relations for later (for example, delaying it to the morning after the wedding).

One of the hallmarks of anxiety and dread is a lack of detailed knowledge of what is to come, which feeds them. Proactively seeking knowledge and help in processing that knowledge are critical steps in confronting these feelings and making choices about how to address them.

We’re happy to continue this conversation with you here. You’re also welcome to write back with your contact information so that we can connect you to a local kallah teacher or Yoetzet Halacha to help you find your path in observing these halachot.

Niddah is a joint endeavor. Your future husband will play a role in shaping that path and traveling it with you. When you’re ready, you should begin to discuss it with him, too.


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