GManolson_Touch

Not getting physical puts the other person’s intentions to the test.

The time was 2:00 a.m. in Jerusalem and I was sitting on the rooftop of an old building overlooking the Temple Mount. It was Tisha B’Av, the day commemorating the destruction of the Temple, and being new to Judaism, I was trying to understand its significance. A more spiritual and God-centered world had been lost, but what did that mean?

Then I thought about male-female relationships, so central to our existence and our happiness. People were suffering so much confusion, pain, disillusionment and heartache. It wasn’t always like this. Could this be part of what we should be mourning? And could there be a better way?

I suspected there was. I had recently learned about it, and it was the most radical approach to relationships I’d ever heard of. But I was beginning to understand that it could be the answer to many of our relationship woes. It was called “cherishing touch.”

Cherishing Touch

“Cherishing touch,” practiced by Orthodox Jews, means refraining from all physical contact before marriage. Not only no intercourse, but no fooling around, no kissing, no hugging, no holding hands, nothing.

“You gotta be kidding! you’re probably thinking. That was certainly my initial reaction. But I came to believe that “cherishing touch” is probably one of God’s most brilliant ideas for establishing enduring relationships. Why?

There’s a lot to say on this, but here are just a few key ideas.

Preserving Clarity

Let’s face it: Physicality feels so wonderful and satisfies such a deep need for connection that it can make us lose our heads. Part of the problem is the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which kicks in and causes feelings of bonding, loss of critical judgment, and trust (especially in women)—great for marriage, but risky while dating. Wearing these chemically-induced rose-colored glasses, we see what we want to see and don’t see what we don’t want to see.

The problem is that after marriage, those rose-colored glasses come off. You never really know someone until you’re married to them, you may have heard people say—and it’s true. Unfortunately, that means if your choice of a marriage partner was in fact a terrible mistake, only after marriage are you likely to realize it.

The best way to hang onto clarity is not to get physical.

The Real Thing

There are many imposters today stealing the place of true love. One is particularly deceptive: “You give me so much pleasure, you make my head spin, you make me feel like I’m walking three feet off the ground—I love you.” But that’s not love—it’s loving how you make me feel. The focus is on me. There’s a name for this, and it’s not love: it’s called narcissism.

Love is about deeply knowing, respecting, and admiring the other person. It’s about loving not what he or she does for me, but who he or she is.

When you and the person you’re dating aren’t making each other feel so good—when you’re bonding not physically but spiritually—it’s much easier to discern if what you’re each feeling is the beginning of true love.

Filtering for Sincerity

Finally, not getting physical puts the other person’s intentions to the test. A person who is looking primarily for physical pleasure won’t stick around, thus thankfully sparing you wasting your time with a loser. A person who does stick around is far more likely to be interested in you for you—and you may have a winner.

“But I’m not Jewish…”

While I know Christianity has a concept of sexual purity—or, as I’ve heard it called, “sexual integrity”—I also know that concept doesn’t go so far as to include no touching, and that without the force of religion behind it, you’re probably unlikely to embrace “cherishing touch.” So what can a Christian single take from this?

Hands Off! This May Be Love 2014

Hands Off! This May Be Love 2014

I hereby offer you a challenge: In your next relationship, try not touching for the first month. Yes, it will require some willpower, but if you’re serious about knowing if you’re with the right person, there’s no better way. And if you’re already in a relationship, call a one-month time-out on touching to make sure you’re experiencing what you think you’re experiencing. You’ll be surprised at how quickly things will become clear to you: either you’ll realize this person is not for you and you can cut your losses(!), or you’ll see that he or she is even more special than you thought. Clarity is a wonderful thing.

Want to know more about “cherishing touch”? Check out my book, Hands Off! This May Be Love: God’s Gift for Establishing Enduring Relationships. It will open your eyes.

Meanwhile, if you take me up on the challenge, I’d love to hear about it. Contact me at www.gilamanolson.com and share your experience!

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter