29 Kislev 5782 / Friday, December 03, 2021 | Torah Reading: Mikeitz
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HomeFamily & Daily LifeDatingThe Superglue Touch, Part 1
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The Superglue Touch, Part 1    

The Superglue Touch, Part 1

Understandably, this strikes some people as extreme. But the truth is that for anyone who's serious about getting the most out of a relationship -- and avoiding the pain of...


Imagine yourself at a checkout counter. You have never liked shopping at this store because of its less-than-wonderful service. Today is no exception you have been waiting to pay for what seems like an eternity. Finally your turn comes. You hand the slow-moving cashier your money. Usually you have to pick up your change off the counter, but today the cashier places it in your hand, and for a brief moment you feel the warmth of his or her hand on yours. Outside, afterward, you sense something strange. For some reason, you're feeling more warmly toward this store than before.

Another scene: You have just finished dining at a restaurant. The service is exceedingly slow. Your waiter, David, finally brings the bill. Hope you enjoyed your meal, he says with a smile and a parting pat on the shoulder. Watching him return to the kitchen, you suddenly feel a surge of generosity and leave a far bigger tip than you had intended. On your way out, you comment to the manager about how little waiters earn for working so hard. "It all depends," he replies. "Take this new guy, Dave. We don't know how he does it, but he pulls in at least thirty percent more in tips than anyone else."

In each of the above incidents, both based on true stories, you have fallen prey to one of the most subtle yet powerful forces in human relations: touch.

Notice, incidentally, that in neither case was the touch sensual or even affectionate. Still, it had an undeniable effect, opening up new feelings of warmth and receptivity. Even when not fueled by desire, touch can leave people feeling distinctly warmer and more connected to each other. Touch works like Superglue: take two people who aren't opposed to connecting to each other, and touch will make them feel closer. And, like Superglue, it must be handled very carefully, or it will end up sticking things together that would be better off not stuck.

Touching another person (in Hebrew, negiah), as casually as its regarded in many circles, is far more powerful than most of us appreciate. Traditional Judaism, always an astute observer of the human scene, stipulates that men and women who are not close relatives should exercise extreme caution and sensitivity in expressing affection for one another through touch. In short, Judaism says, unless you're close relatives or married to each other, don't.

Understandably, this strikes some people as extreme. But the truth is that for anyone who's serious about getting the most out of a relationship -- and avoiding the pain of failed ones -- being shomer negiah (literally guarding or saving touch for the right person) makes eminent sense. Here's why.

Touch is a powerful force in making people feel closer. And, like any force, it can be harnessed constructively or destructively. Touch can be used to comfort -- or to manipulate. It can foster group friendship -- or cult-like attachment. Touch can increase intimacy between two people who truly love each other. But it can also create illusory feelings of intimacy and make you feel close to a person even when you are not really so close after all, creating many serious problems.

The first problem is with objectivity. Touch is powerful enough to blur reality to the point where it seems that the closeness you feel is real. Once this happens, that all-too-familiar rose-colored cloud descends, enveloping everything in warm and glowing feelings of intimacy. At this point, you can kiss much of your perspective on your partner and the relationship goodbye. Valuable time and emotions can be wasted on the wrong person, because you never developed an objective view of who your partner really is. Many marriages fail quickly because the match was wrong to begin with, but the couple had become too enraptured with each other to notice it. You certainly wouldn't choose a business partner with blinders on, so why be less careful when it comes to a serious relationship?

Most people ultimately want one lifelong partner with whom they can feel, as much and as deeply as possible, the positive uniqueness and singularity that is called specialness. Physical intimacy, with all the feelings it engenders, is central to a successful marriage, and Judaism wants it to be special. By limiting this intimacy to your true partner, it becomes even more so. Each time you are physically involved with someone prior to your husband or wife, your sensitivity is dulled. While time brings about some resensitization, this most precious, intimate, and personal part of you has been shared with others before, and it can no longer be as special.

With each relationship before marriage, you open the door wider to innumerable comparisons between your future spouse and a past boyfriend or girlfriend. Since it is nearly impossible that your spouse will measure up in all areas -- and since human beings have a strong tendency to focus on what they don't have at any given time -- such comparisons can’t do you or your relationship any good.

A friend of mine was teaching about this concept when a man (whose wife I assume was not present) volunteered the following delightful comment: "I know what you mean. I've been married for two years and I really love my wife, but even in our most intimate moments, I can't help thinking of my previous girlfriend." Memories of previous relationships have an uncanny way of surfacing when you least want them to, even years after they occur.
Published by: Targum Press, Inc. by Gila Manolson, reprinted with kind permission of www.simpletoremember.com)

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