Monday, August 08, 2005

On Public Displays of Affection

No, don't worry. This blog isn't turning into BasTorah or Chossid.

My wife and I met when we were very young. We fell in love in the traditional sense of the term. Thankfully, to this very day, we're still *very* much in love. While we certainly don't "carry on" in public, we do commit public displays of affection. When able, we hold hands in public. We may even kiss in public (nothing more than a nice chaste kiss on the lips -- no necking in public). People who know us call us "newlyweds" even though we are most certainly not newlyweds in the literal meaning of the term. One of my mothers (long story-- don't ask) often tells us that she finds it hard to believe that my wife and I are married as long as we are - because we act like newlyweds all the time.

In short, I'm very much in love with my wife, and, I have no problem with anyone and everyone knowing it. Of course, I understand that there is a concept called "good taste" and we certainly aren't looking to transgress that. We don't stand in the middle of the street engaging in long, passionate kisses. We don't grope each other in public. It's really nothing more than simple, plain, innocent PDAs.

Of course, I understand the concept of "different strokes for different folks." My brother-in-law and sister are not like us at all. They don't believe in PDAs. I will almost never see them hold hands, and certainly never kiss - not even a chaste kiss on the cheek. But that's fine. I know that they love each other dearly (I can see it in other ways because I know the two of them so well) and they are simply not as outgoing and open about their affections for each other as my wife and I are. So be it - whatever works for them. As long as they're happy, I'm happy for them.

There are those, however, who would condemn my wife and I for our actions. I've read seforim which state that PDAs between a married couple are a Very Bad ThingTM. I've heard people speak against displaying any affection for your wife/husband anywhere outside the bedroom. I know people who won't even kiss or touch their spouse in front of their children - and state that others should (must?) do the same.

To me that's just plain silly, on several counts:

Firstly, my wife is the person I fell in love with and married. I didn't marry her just to get at her in the bedroom - I married her to be with her as much as I can throughout life. And, because of the depths of our feelings for each other, we feel that our displays of affection for each other must be made even outside of our bedroom. The amount of time we spend in the bedroom (awake) is a miniscule portion of a person's day. I don't want to treat my wife like a roommate during the time we're not in the bedroom - I want to treat her like my wife. That's why I married her! I want her to know that I love her and care for her always - not just when we're in the bedroom.

Secondly, I want my children to know that it's OK to express in non-verbal terms that you love your spouse. I believe that children learn more from their parent's by watching their behavior more than in any other manner. You can speak to your kids about a topic until you're blue in the face, but if you really want to make an impact on their behavior, you've got to "walk the walk." If you want them to see that a particular behavior is important to you - you've got to practice it yourself. As such, I want my children to know that (a) their parents love each other dearly and (b) it's OK for them to express it with each other. I want my kids to know that a married couple holding hands is not a "dirty act." I want them to see that spouses kissing each other is a healthy part of a relationship. Many kids I know are "disgusted" (and will often give the obligitory "ewwwww") by the thought of their parents kissing each other. Ours aren't - they simply view it as a natural part of our marriage.

Thirdly, I think that the way a couple expresses their affection for each other is simply their business alone. Of course, as I stated earlier, one must adhere to good taste - no one wants to see anyone groping their wife in public. But if I want to hold her hand, that's simply our way of expressing our affection for each other. It's not a violation of good taste and certainly not something that needs to be shunned.

My wife and I are very happy in our marriage and hope to be to many years more. Of course, it's not easy. We work hard at it. It makes me feel good to know that people look to us as an example of a "good marriage" and a couple who is "still in love after all those years." I suppose part of the reason is because we engage in PDAs. But if we can, through our example, inspire others to show affection on their spouses, I'm all for it.

The Wolf

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

what about the halachic problems involved in showing affection in public?

queeniesmom said...

i'm glad you and your wife show each other affection. too many peolpe don't.
when did we pervert torah to the state it is in. boys don't see girls let alone talk to them . how are their marriages suppose to survive? the shiddach system is so rule bound that you don't have time to know the other person. it's like the song from fiddler - do you love me?
like you i try to counter some of what my kids learn in school because i feel like alice down the rabbit hole at times - our little slice of the world has gone mad.
can we turn the clocks back a bit or put the genie back in the bottle?

BrooklynWolf said...

Anon,

Where does it say that one cannot hold one's wife's hand in public, or give a short kiss?

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Queenie,

I used to wonder the same thing too. But then I look at my sister and her husband (who, unlike us, did the shidduch scene) and I see that it can work out. I would imagine that there are a certain percentage of marriages in the shidduch scene that work out, and a certain percentage that don't - just as in any other matrimonial method.

The Wolf

Just Passing Through said...

Wolf,

Not to discount any PDA's, but my wife and I always remark how it's those couples who seem to be all over each other in public that are the ones who are having the most trouble.

queeniesmom said...

you're right it can work. my problem with it is that currently this is the only acceptable method of meeting because associating with the opposite sex is severely frowned on &/or forbidden. this way of thinking seems to give rise to anon.'s thinking in saying it's asur. like you i'd love to know where it's written.

BrooklynWolf said...

JPT,

I suppose one is entitled to think that. However, I like to think that there is a difference between holding hands and a quick case and "being all over each other."

In any event, if we were in trouble for this, then we've been "in trouble" for a looong time.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Queenie,

Truthfully, the whole "shidduch scene" is really beside the point of the post. In reality, it doesn't make that much of a difference how my wife and I met (I included it just to give some background), the same would apply whether we met through an official shadchun or on our own (as we did).

The Wolf

queeniesmom said...

sorry used that as a poor example. my point is how we've separated everthing and turn what should be normal, caring gestures into things that shouldn't be seen or viewed by others. like you i'm not talking about being all over each other but simple affection. our children need to see this and need to know that it's ok.
hope that clarifies things.

Just Passing Through said...

Wolfie,

Nothing wrong with holding hands or a quick kiss. I agree that it's healthy. I was referring to those who are always "all over each other" in public. It's like have something to prove.

Just our own observation.

BrooklynWolf said...

Not a problem, Queenie. As an aside, I happen to agree with you - we've come to the point where many young men/women upon reaching shidduch age, have no idea how to relate to someone of the opposite sex. But that's another story for another time...

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

"Where does it say that one cannot hold one's wife's hand in public, or give a short kiss?"
Wolf -- I hate to break it to you, but check out Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer 21:5, Rema in the name of Nimuke Yosef, Bava Batra

littlejerseygirl said...

I also will display affection in front of my kids, but not in front of everyone. Honestly - though you might not care, PDA's can make other people feel uncomfortable - especially those who can't touch at that time. Just something to think about.

brianna said...

Why are we turning into fundamentalist christians when it comes to touch? Not all touch is sexual. It's healthy to hold hands, just to feel someone else's skin. Hugging is a good thing. Babies die in hospitals if they aren't given enough tactile attention. Touch is a necessary part of human life. It's not just a dirty thing relegated to the bedroom. In my humble opinion, there is a huge difference between affection and sexual behavior.

Heshy said...
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Anonymous said...
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Larry Lennhoff said...

I think it is very interesting to see the differences in approaches to this discussion. There are those who talk in terms of consequences and experiences "it feels right", "it works for me", "studies show humans raised without touching often behave in such and such a fashion", "Affection and sex are different things". The purpose seems to be to live a good life, and to allow life experiences some input into deciding what constitutes a good life. The Shulchan Aruch, Bavli, etc. are starting points, and are considered an accumulated store of wisdom to be valued, but not the sole source from which decisions are made.

On the other hand there are those whose only source of decision making is the halacha. "The shulchan aruch says..". "According to the Rema.." The ones who speak this language rarely speak of their own or others experiences. What actually happens when the rules are followed is irrelevant - the important thing is that we know the answers (through our sacred texts) and that we implement them.

Kol Tuv

Larry

PsychoToddler said...

My hashkafa is similar to yours, Wolf. My wife and I happily sit together on the couch with my arm around her shoulder when we watch a movie with the kids.

I'm pretty rusty on this, but I think the issue with PDA has to do with niddah...if some people are touching and others aren't, then it tells you who is currently a niddah, and so to keep people from being embarrassed, all public touching is discouraged.

I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Lenny -- You missed the point. Affection is a wonderful thing when done in private, but inappropriate and contrary to Jewish law when done in public.

Psychotoddler -- THe halachic prohibition of PDA has absolutely nothing to do with niddah. Check out the sources provided above. Ironically, the source of this issur is from a dead person!

Anonymous said...
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Eeees said...

I love you too wolfish :)

Jeff said...

Anonymous, you don't know what you are talking about. It is "yesh omrim afilu" which is far from "assur". Are you saying that you fulfill everything in OC 240? And do you fulfill to the level of even "Yesh omrim" the mishna in Avos chapter 1, im ishtecha?

Larry Lennhoff said...

Lenny -- You missed the point. Affection is a wonderful thing when done in private, but inappropriate and contrary to Jewish law when done in public.

First of all, please call me Larry. Thanks.

Secondly, my point was that the two approaches to the question of whether public displays of affection (hand holding, chaste kissing) were permissible or not drew on entirely different sources. One drew primarily on life experience, and the other drew primarily on halachic texts.

Thirdly, while I am completely unable to discuss sources, I can do web searches and bring up discussions held by more educated people. Can I have your evaluation of the discussion in Mail-Jewish Volume 36 #71?

Kol Tuv

Larry

PsychoToddler said...

Maybe I'm thinking of the Napkin dance at the wedding.

ifuncused said...

I agree. I don't see why husband and wife cannot hold hands while walking. Or give a quick peck.
I do though think it is wrong to cuddle with one another in public at someone else's house.
A quick kiss goodbye or like pt said about watching a movie at home is nice and important for kids to see.
Lying down together on the couch in someone else's home is wrong.
Let the kids know that mommy and daddy love one another.

ifuncused said...
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Ben Avuyah said...

Wolf,

Don't waste a second of your life wondering how other people percieve what brings you joy.

It is a crime of orthodoxy that you have to wonder if it is OK to hold your true loves hand.

myownstuff said...

What do you do about Niddah?
Do your kids notice that sometimes there are hugs and kisses and sometimes not?
We used to do big family huggies until my daughter started asking for them and we couldn't do it (particularly after birth of baby).
Just curious.
Do you think PDA's are Ok for everyone? If your rabbi and wife PDAed would you feel confortable?

myownstuff said...

that was Comfortable (soory about lack of preview)

Foxtrot said...

1. It would be nice if someone educated could post here the halachic/hashkafic case for eschewing PDAs.

2. Wolf--I think it would be valuable for the purposes of this analysis, to distinguish between PDAs in front of one's own children, and PDAs in front of other people. You make a powerful argument for the educational importance of having children see there parents showing its "OK" to physically express there love for each other and that such love exists.

3. Regarding my point #1: To all those who say PDAs such as holding hands or quick pecks are OK and permitted--what about more serious PDAs, i.e. serious kissing, etc.? Is that OK? If not, why not? Can you make a coherent distinction between PDAs which are OK and are not OK.

queeniesmom said...

if you need to get a motel room then it not ok. see any HS for further visuals. Hint: think deep throat.
PDa such as a kiss good bye/hello holding hands on a walk are neccissary emotional outlets. humans need to be touched and children need to see that this is ok.when did we become so narrow minded in our interpretations that we've lost all the beauty of our religion. now everything is phrased in the neg. seems we've become more catholic than the catholics. now am i going to burn in h**l for that one?

Anonymous said...

Foxtrot -- read the sources provided above.

Larry -- I read Dr. Shinar's post. He writes ,"Applies only if one has not yet fulfilled pru urvu (having children)." That is an entirely incorrect reading of the text. Look at the source in Bava Batra -- this halacha is learned from Avraham Avinu and Sara -- when they were in the grave! The issue is not whether one has children or not, the issue is whether such activity is improper in front of others. Read the sources yourself and form your own opinion, but don't rely on a misreading from M-J.
Jeff --
This halacha has nothing to do with O.C. 240, where the SHulchan Aruch goes against the plain is against the plain meaning of the gemara; in this case, the Rema fits very well with the gemara's conclusion.

In any case -- this is definitely the custom of religious Jews.

Jeff said...

Anonymous, yes, there may be that nice piece in the gemara, but bottom line this is not brought down as a halacha for everyone, but is brought as an etza tovah. That is why I asked if you indeed personally fulfill every yesh omrim, or yesh omrim afeelu, in the Shulchan Aruch.

Anonymous said...

Myownstuff asked - "What do you do about Niddah?"

I'll speak for myself. My wife and I are not adverse to showing the children that we love each other. I have no problem giving my wife a hug or kiss in front of the children and we even believe that it is healthy for them to see it and know it is ok to have a physical attraction to one's **SPOUSE**. However, we do not do this often enough in front of them such that they would recognize when my wife is or isn't a nidda.

As far as public displays, my wife and I will hold hands in public but only if we are walking alone and/or are someplace where we cannot be seen by others OR are with another couple who are also (or already) holding hands. In other words, we'll only do it where others can see if we know those others would do it too and are not bothered by it.

Mis-nagid said...

That was a really great post.

BrooklynWolf said...

Anon,

The example that the Rema brings involves running one's fingers through their spouse's hair. I'd dare to say that that is far more intimate than a simple holding of hands. I would probably agree with you that couples should not do that in public.

I think that we can all agree that there are certain things that should not be done in public. Necking, petting, hanging all over each other, etc., are best left to the privacy of one's home. Things that make people uncomfortable should also be avoided. However, in determining what makes people uncomfortable, we should, IMHO, take into account what makes *most* people uncomfortable. There are people who will be uncomfortale with anything at all; IMHO, I'm not required to take them into account - what if they are uncomfortable with my wife walking side by side with me? Should I make her walk four paces behind for their benefit? Obviously not. The guiding factor should be what most people would be uncomfortable seeing. I don't think most people would be uncomfortable seeing a couple holding hands.

The Wolf

Oleh Yahshan said...

Nice post, I liked all 3 points and agree with them all.
My wife and I act the same way and have no problem with it. It is a simple issue of knowing where the line is and how not to cross it. if one, like many people have stated here, cannot touch his/her spouse without thinking that he has to (fill in the blank as you feel fit), then maybe they should not hold hands, (on the same account don't give a mass murderer a hand gun!!)
But most of us know where the line is drawn and have no problem staying on this side of it.

I hope I can look back in 20,30 and 60 years from now and still feel like a newlyweds (like we are now :> ), and if this is one way to do it.. great!

JerseySai said...

It's okay if you're a married couple... and if it's only holding hands... BUt the PDA that we're dealing today is far more than this. fIrst of all they aren't married... second of all.. it almost a SEX in Public!

Who says PDA is not bad????
Just a thought....