Shomer Negiah and Relationships
Shomer Negiah is the Jewish practice of limiting physical contact until after marriage. While mostly practiced in the Orthodox Jewish community, it’s a powerful relationship tool for any couple that wants to get to know each other deeply. Here’s why and how.
Shomer Negiah – Preserve Touch
First off, “Shomer Negiah” doesn’t mean “be prudish” or “kill the fun”. Shomer Negiah literally means “Preserve Touch”. It’s not about limiting touch, it’s about using the power of touch where it can generate the most sparks – on the inside of a committed relationship.
For both genders, physical contact is deeply gratifying, as it should be! In relationships between the sexes, any kind of affectionate touch is a gift that helps couples share passion and connection in a personal, intimate, and exclusive way. It’s super glue that keeps people together.
Considering Touching? Ask Yourself This
Before letting hands wander, you need to ask: Are you sure you want to be glued and bonded to someone that you don’t fully know or in a relationship that may well not last?
Sure, it feels good in the moment, but is it worth the long-term pain it will create if and when you discover they’re not who you thought they were or when they walk out the door?
Do you really want to be distracted and hormonally seduced when trying to make the most significant decision of your life?
Let me ask that question just a bit differently: Would you put back a few shots before the biggest interview of your career? Invest your life savings while hung over?
Men and Women
To stress that point even more, I’ll make an observation about differences between what men and woman want most from relationships.
Women, more than men, are emotional and communicative beings who thrive on the experience of internal connection.
Men, on the other hand, tend to be more physical beings than women. As a rule, they tend to thrive more on the visible and tangible experiences of a relationship than their female counterparts.
I’m not trying to make a scientific, social, or political statement. I’m just sharing my lived experience which happens to jive with the lived experience of virtually all the women and men I know and have coached.
Negiah vs. “No-giah” Relationships
Relationships that get physical before commitment favor men and disadvantage women.
A physical relationship provides an outlet for man’s strong physical interests while avoiding the need for the sort of communication and emotional involvement so gratifying for a woman.
In my opinion, by encouraging immediate physical closeness in relationships, our society has sold women short. It urges them to put their bodies into play in a relationship for little in return. Worse. The more they give, the less they get. The faster sexual touch is in play, the farther down the road deep personal and emotional knowledge will be kicked.
Wait, Don’t Women Like Touch Too?
Of course. Women love to be touched by a man. A man who has made the effort to get to know them. One who is emotionally and personally committed to her and to her only.
My message to women: Ladies, what happened to our self-respect? What happened to us saying ‘no’ because we want our relationship to be built on something deeper than our skin and being respected for all that’s beneath that very thin layer of self?
To men: Please don’t hate on me. Past some immediate fun, why would you want to spend intimate time with just any woman?
If your woman is that special, put a ring on her finger and build a life, a home and future with her. If you can’t drop that ring, either you need to get through your blockages or she’s the wrong one. Either way, get to work or move on!
Do you really want to be distracted and hormonally seduced when trying to make the most important decision of your life?
The Shomer FAQ
A Little Touch Is Not That Big a Deal
Some might say that physical touch, especially at the lower end of the intensity spectrum, barely affects them at all.
My response would be that I’m sad about that. Senses that are dull to even gentle forms of touch are a tragedy for the future of relationship intimacy.
The fact that an experience known to bring closeness and connection isn’t working for you might point to an overuse injury.
Isn’t This a Jewish Orthodox Halakhic Thing?
Yes and No. Yes, there’s a halakhic prohibition against physical touch before marriage based on the Torah and Talmud. No, you don’t have to be a rabbi, halakhic, Orthodox, or even Jewish to gain from this essential relationship tool.
You’ll notice, I’m not heaping on sources from texts and getting into the finer details of biblical and rabbinic prohibitions. I’m a dating coach, not a Rabbi. My job is to help people get to their best possible relationship with the greatest efficiency. That’s why I’m such a fan of Shomer Negiah.
When practiced by anybody, being “shomer” brings these immediate benefits:
- More clear headed thinking about whether a relationship makes sense
- More efficient dating for commitment minded couples
- Equality between what men and women hope for in a relationship
- Protection from potentially awkward and/or compromising experiences with someone you might well prefer not see in the future
How Will I Know If We’re Physically Compatible?
This might be the most common blowback against being Shomer Negiah. “Practice makes perfect.” How can two people who’ve never touched each other – or even worse – not touched anybody of the opposite sex in a connective way, know whether or not they have what it takes to make that part of the relationship work?
Here’s a fact. There are far more relationships that went south because the partners couldn’t connect as people than relationships that went south because the partners couldn’t connect as bodies.
Ask anybody who’s been in a committed relationship for more than five minutes for some pointers of the most critical skills for a strong and lasting relationship.
You’re guaranteed to hear answers like: shared goals and values, communication, respect, character, and commitment. You’re extremely unlikely to hear anything about technique.
Thankfully, two people who deeply care for and are committed to each other that find each other attractive and engaging almost always find ways to express that physically. And if they have a little trouble at first, techniques are far more easy to fix and learn than things like character, respect, and values.
What If I’d Like to Try This But My Date is Pushing Me to Get Physical
What if you’d like to go home early to study for a test, but your date wants to stay out because they’re having a good time?
What if you’d prefer not to talk about a painful childhood experience, but your date really wants to know the details?
Part of any respectful relationship that wants to stand the test of time is allowing for healthy boundaries. Your body is most certainly one of those boundaries that should be respected.
If you’ve explained why you’d like to get to know each other deeply as people before you know each other deeply as bodies and you’r date keeps pushing you beyond your comfort zone, you’ve got a problem that’s a lot deeper than skin.
And ladies – it’s almost always ladies that think this – don’t imagine that if you only give him what he wants then he’ll be truly appreciative of you. Listen to what he does more than what he says. If he says he wants US, but what he wants is really for HIM, he’s certainly not thinking of YOU.
Everybody Does It
First, Shomer Negiah wouldn’t be a thing if EVERYBODY was doing it. There are hundreds of millions of people, Jewish and otherwise, who hold back from physical touch before marriage. Statistically their relationships last longer. That’s not me saying it, that’s Google.
Second, if your most important lifelong relationship is not the place to be different from other people, where exactly should you be an individual? People don’t think twice about breaking from the pack for about a billion trivial reasons (just check any of your social media accounts). Please have the confidence to take the path less traveled, so that you can pack as much uniqueness as possible in the relationship that will have the most leveraged impact on your future.
What Do We Do If We’re Already Touching?
If you’ve already crossed the touch divide and commitment is what you want, here’s what I’d recommend. Sit down and discuss how you can reel your physical activity back so that you can both focus on making the best decision. This may mean that your relationship will come to an end, but if you’re with the wrong partner, you’re only saving each other from pain and wasted time.
Remember, dating is merely spending quality time with someone else’s spouse. Don’t settle for your friend’s snacks when you can have dinner at home.
Bonus Tips: One Date At A TimeHere’s a super helpful tool you can use today.
If you’ve had some level of physical contact in the past, it can be overwhelming to stay committed to touch free dating all the way to the dating finish line. The good news. You don’t have to.
Think of it this way: every date that you add at the margin in which there’s no touch, you’re giving yourself an opportunity to more deeply know your date as a person. When the bonding on contact is out of the equation, you can bond on lifelong relationship assets like shared dreams, respect, enjoying each other’s company, etc.
And if you don’t, you move on. No time wasted. Less drama. Less heartache. Less awkwardness.
All you have to do is try it for a date. If you’ve enjoyed that date and you’ve grown in your relationship give it another. Just one. And another
I Want You to Have it All!
I want to stress: I am SUPER pro negiah (touch)! I want you to squeeze every drop of magic you can from the many wonderful expressions of physical contact.
The only point I’m pounding is that this overpowering interpersonal magnet is kept in safe confines where commitment has been established and the safety/security of a lasting relationship are in place.
May you find that special someone sooner rather than later without distraction, misunderstanding, or mixed messages. May clarity of mind and clarity of heart lead you on the shortest distance to your longest relationship!