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I Only Have Eyes For You

I Only Have Eyes For You

A happy marriage is one where intimacy is protected against any and all intrusion by impenetrable barriers.

by

Let the loving couple be very happy, just as you made your creation happy in the Garden of Eden, so long ago. You are blessed, Lord, who makes the bridegroom and the bride happy.

These are the words of the fifth of the seven blessings recited under the chuppah, the wedding canopy, at a Jewish wedding. The married couple should be like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

So what was unique about this first couple? They were the only two people on earth so they only had eyes for each other.

They weren't distracted by men or women outside their marriage. They didn't think that maybe there was someone prettier or brighter or more successful. He knew she was the only one for him, and vice versa. Neither was tormented by thoughts of "if only..." or any other more subtle insinuations.

We live in a world where people discard their spouses when a "better model" comes along.

We are not so fortunate. We live in a world where whatever is new is valued, where people discard their spouses when a "better model" comes along, leaving emotional devastation in their wake.

Since we can't be Adam and Eve in Paradise, Judaism offers some tools to help maintain that connection, to help sustain that moment under the wedding canopy where we felt we were like them, where no one existed outside the two of us and our new marital unit.

NO TOUCHING

One of these ideas is the prohibition of physical contact with members of the opposite sex –- except of course your spouse.

The word "prohibition" tends to provoke immediate rebellion but let's try to explore the issue first.

If something is precious, you try to build a fence around it to:

  1. demonstrate how special it is, and,
  2. make clear that it is uniquely yours, not available to anyone else in the world. (Like those lovely "keep out" signs that my children are always taping to their bedroom doors!)

You want to notify the world and remind yourself that the physical and emotional intimacy of marriage is not for sharing. You don't want to weaken its intensity or give intruders a hole to climb through.

This is unfortunately a foreign concept to many people. Physical intimacy has become trivialized. Giving a kiss has become synonymous with saying hello and in so doing has lost its power.

KISSES THAT COUNT

In the Jewish world, we don't want our kisses to lose their power. So we're a little stingy with them.

Physical contact with friends, acquaintances, and most relatives of the opposite sex is off limits. This has powerful repercussions.

When a kiss becomes "only" a kiss, we've lost one of life's great pleasures and opportunities.

Do you want that moment of closeness between you and your spouse to be intense and deeply moving? Do you want it to be electric and passionate? If you're saying to yourself "She's really crazy, it's only a kiss," then this article is for you. Because it shouldn't be only a kiss. It should be a time, however brief, of bonding, of grounding, of true oneness. And it should be exciting.

When it becomes "only a kiss," we've lost one of life's great pleasures and opportunities. If it's "only a kiss," our marriage is the poorer for it.

TRESPASSING BOUNDARIES

Everyone has had enough experiences of boundaries trespassed to know there is wisdom in this strategy.

Debbie and Bill were at a banquet. Bill was introducing Debbie to a business acquaintance, and when they shook hands, this colleague of Bill's stroked Debbie's palm.

As they turned to walk away Debbie exclaimed to her husband "Yecch! What was that?!"

What was it? At the very least it was a violation, it was a trampling of the precious borders that Debbie and Bill had erected to make their marriage special.

Felicia and Jim had an equally unpleasant experience. At a wedding dinner, an older, slightly inebriated woman sat down next to Jim and began to rub her leg against his. Not attuned to those types of social cues, Jim wasn't sure how to respond. But one thing he did know. This was inappropriate, unpleasant and although normally articulate, all he could say later was "Yecch!"

These are particularly egregious examples of trespass. However, every time you connect physically with the opposite gender outside your marriage, a crack in the wall occurs. "But it creates distance between myself and others." You're right, it creates distance. It's supposed to. That's the proof of its effectiveness.

In a culture of smokers would you risk social isolation by refusing to smoke?

Does this way of behavior put you out of step with society? No question. But in a culture of smokers would you risk social isolation by refusing to smoke? You would because you know the dangers.

We know the potential risk to our marriages if we allow chinks in the armor, if we don't make an impenetrable barrier. It's not just that we may be tempted into inappropriate relationships. It's that our relationship with our spouse will lose some of its power and intensity and uniqueness.

Is it worth the price? Keep your hands (and lips) to yourself and you too can have a marriage like the first couple on earth. You can be as happy, as connected; you can experience the oneness of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Published: April 15, 2000


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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) shmuel zetham, November 21, 2011 2:37 AM

I am not a man that tuches

I have a problem with my wife to be she is joulis of me and I don,t tuch other wemen at all I am a truck driver by trade I have drove for over 24 years and work around wemen all the time thy respect me we do not tuch at all and thy understand but some times whin my truck is broke down i need a ride to a hotel where I stay alone while the shop fixes my truck but acorden to my wife to be I can not even do that??? help me

(5) Batia Macales, October 30, 2005 12:00 AM

Adhere to guarding your tongue.

A key to a successful relationships is learning how to guard one's tongue. I have been learning the laws written by the Chofetz Chaim and it vital that we do not speak to listen to loshon hora. I would love to do weekly articles teaching how to guard ones tongue as taught by the Chofetz Chaim.

(4) Deborah Alfonso, July 13, 2001 12:00 AM

Good article, but I think that there are social expectations in this world too. Kissing a stranger, co worker or a friend of the opposite sex should not be acceptable in any marriage, but what about hugging a friend who is leaving town or a co-worker who is changing jobs? It can be very difficult to avoid all of those situations. I think that your thoughts and your heart must also be true to your partner. I believe that if we are truly emotionally connected to our partner, we would not feel insecure or fear that he or she will hurt us in that way.

(3) Donna. F., May 3, 2001 12:00 AM

Shalom; what a refreshing article! I
totally agree; boundaries should be set
between the opposite sex when you are married. It is nice to know that others feel the same as I do about this issue...for some people have told me that I'm just being jealous;that the hug or kiss in public doesn't "mean" anything...but I beg to differ...and as we well know just because "everybody" is doing it is not good logic at all.

(2) Anonymous, February 28, 2001 12:00 AM

You are so right

I hate this "custom" of being expected to kiss or hug people. I don't mind it with male friends or relatives of mine, but I dislike it with male friends and relatives of my husband's. I don't know how to stop it. I try to pull back, but they don't seem to notice.

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