Tuesday, May 16, 2006

When should I say "I love you" to my Callah?


Dear Michal,
Your advice seems to be the exact kind of advice I would typically give to another, and it kind of made me nervous that I got that same advice from you. So as a response, I re-read what I wrote in the last blog entry to make sure I wasn't giving the wrong impression or information.
The topic of the blog entry was me noticing that along with my feelings of love for her, there are also feelings of sexuality arising between us as a result. We have spoken about this and she is feeling the same thing.

The second topic, not to be confused with the first, is that I wondered whether my thoughts have an affect on her -- first I took the analogy that thoughts can affect her soul or can affect her on a spiritual level, and then I took it further with the bus analogy wondering whether there is a physical element based on one's thoughts, meaning that I was wondering whether me thinking sexual thoughts about us halachically is actually BREAKING shomer negiah on some level. It's a stretch, and OBVIOUSLY THE HALACHA IS that one CANNOT break shomer negiah with thoughts alone, BUT, I was wondering about it from a hypothetical and philosophical point of view.

Where you made a mish-mash of everything I wrote is that you 1) came to the conclusion that I was having sex with her in my mind, and therefore 2) I was feeling it with my body and 3) therefore I was using her 4) without giving love in return because I haven't told her that I loved her. Then you moved one step further and told me that 5) if I don't tell her that I love her, because of the intensities of the first night, if she is not comfortable with me fully, then the first night might be a physically painful experience, which can have major marital consequences and can leave many emotional scars.

So let's sort things out.

I am starting to get the feeling from your comments, as well as the comments from my parents and friends that I should tell her I love her if I feel that I love her, which I do. Note: that when I originally tried to tell her that I loved her, she said, "how can you possibly have real feelings for me?? You've only known me for 8 weeks, meaning that you've only seen me around 10-12 times..."

So I waited for the right time to tell her, and since waiting, I have been wondering whether it is better to tell her now or after (or closer to) the marriage. I am getting the feeling that many of you feel that since I am feeling it, maybe I should just say it rather than holding my feelings back from her. Although I'm not sure whether it is smart to do it now or another time because I don't want to "blow my wad" professing my love for her at a time where I am absent from her presence for extended periods of time because I am literally in another city studying for my bar exam. This -- when to profess my love -- is issue #1.

I also want to note that TELLING SOMEONE YOU LOVE THEM RAISES THE EMOTIONAL LEVEL AND INTENSITY OF THE RELATIONSHIP AND I AM NOT SURE THIS IS HEALTHY WHILE WE ARE ONLY ENGAGED AFTER SHIDDUCH DATING, AND WE ARE NOT SEEING EACH OTHER REGULARLY AND WE ARE TOTALLY PLATONIC. I KNOW THAT SHE LOVES ME AND I LOVE HER, BUT WE HAVEN'T VOCALIZED IT. AS PLATONIC LOVERS WHO SEE EACH OTHER ONCE A WEEK AND WHO SPEAK ON THE PHONE MULTIPLE TIMES EACH DAY, WE ARE ALREADY HAVING DIFFICULTY WITH THE LEVELS OF THE EMOTIONS THAT HAVE DEVELOPED BETWEEN US. IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT WE HAVE CHOSEN NOT TO BE PHYSICAL UNTIL THE MARRIAGE, I FEAR THAT TELLING HER THAT I LOVE HER WILL ONLY PREMATURELY INTENSIFY THE FEELINGS IN AN INAPPROPRIATE TIME WHEN IT IS PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPRESS OUR LOVE FOR EACH OTHER, AND IT WILL ONLY MAKE THE TENSIONS THAT WE CANNOT BE TOGETHER [AND I AM REFERRING MERELY TO AN EMBRACE OR SPENDING THE NIGHT TOGETHER AND WATCHING THE SUNRISE] THAT MUCH WORSE.

Issue #2 is whether the sexual thoughts that have been popping into my head are healthy or unhealthy, and whether I should divert my attention from them.

Issue #3 is the inquiry into whether one's thoughts have physical effects, and if so, what are the reprocussions of these thoughts. Issue #3 was the title of the last blog entry.

11 comments:

respondingtojblogs said...

A belated mazal tov on your engagement and graduation.

Hope you have all the best.

Zoe Strickman said...

Thank you. :)

Yoel.Ben-Avraham said...

My two cents are:

1) if you have to ask, hold on to it till you don't.

2) Married 35 years and as much as my wife (secretly admits) that she likes to hear the words, its the deeds that make her day ... doing the dishes, fetching her a tea, etc .. Americans have it on their Police Cars just open your eyes!

Deeds Speak!

Daphnewood said...

Hi Zoe! I can't offer any religious advice and I am sorry if this offends your beliefs but I think marriage is way more than a ceremony. You are already married to her in your heart. There is nothing like a good dose of honesty from her man to get a girl's devotion to turn rock solid. I say tell her you love her and tell her that you struggle with "impure thoughts" (although you know I disagree with you on that part my friend) and you are worried you are harming her soul. You might be surprised how she responds.

it is WONDERFUL to see you so happy!

Ezzie said...

Mazel Tov! (belated)

(IMHO) It is very important to tell someone you love them if you are about to marry them. First - you do. Second - it's important that she knows you do, and vice versa. It gives you both a little extra security going into a lifelong commitment which will have its ups and downs - you need to know that that love is there. From what I know in all sectors of the frum community, this is not just normal but encouraged - if anything, tension may be building up simply because you're holding your feelings back so much. [Aside: One couple we're close with refused to say they loved each other, ostensibly for frumkeit reasons, for quite a while; they seemed very tense when they were first engaged. After a while, they finally did tell each other what they each felt, and they seemed to be far more relaxed afterwards.] Furthermore, my FIL put it very well to us at Sheva Brachos, and possibly earlier: Tell her you love her every day - every morning, every night, always. Married life has its bumps (as does engaged life) - make sure that the focus is on what's important.

B'hatzlacha!

michal said...

me again - and I feel honored that I got my own post :)

I wasn't trying to make a mishmash of what you were saying about translating your sexual thoughts about your kallah into mentally having sex with her -- I was trying to take your words at face value. That you were saying (and you're saying it again; it's your issue #3) that you're worried that your thoughts are capable of having some sort of physical effect on her. I'll get to my opinion of that in a second, but IF that were true, at face value, then your going ahead and thinking of her that way without saying you love her would be the same as sexually using her without expressing love. That's all I was trying to say.

So - starting with issue #3 - Do I believe that your sexualized thoughts about her have a physical effect on her (or whether thoughts in general can have physical effects)? No, personally I think that's nonsense. I wonder whether you're taking your own feelings of fear or guilt about your urges and are trying to use this supernatural fear of somehow hurting her as an extra incentive to try to stop your thought processes, but I'm really certain there's nothing to it.

As far as Issue #2 goes, your feelings are 100% normal - it means you're human and you love her :) And like I said yesterday, hopefully she's having the same sort of thoughts about you. Acting on them is a problem, or letting them interfere with your ability to concentrate on your studies, or with your ability to spend time with her without acting on your thoughts. But having the thoughts is a good thing. Just don't let them consume you - if you're obsessing, "change the subject" in your head.

So - Issue #1. You know where I stand already :) Tell her now, and often. Like Ezzie said (or his FIL said), tell her as often as possible - morning noon and night, even. You should always feel free to tell her how you feel, whatever it is you're feeling. That's not just about love, it's also about trust. Which is one of the most - if not THE most - important things in marriage.

One thing you wrote in this post really struck me. That your kallah said, "how can you possibly have real feelings for me?? You've only known me for 8 weeks, meaning that you've only seen me around 10-12 times..." I don't know her and I didn't hear her tone of voice. I'm hoping she meant it the way most loving girls would mean it - that it was a sweet way to get you to explain how you already knew, after such a short period of time, that what you were feeling was love. That she wasn't shooting you down, or denying your feelings, but instead was asking you to take her through them, because it feels wonderful to be told by the man you love, just how he feels about you and why. That she wanted you to tell her and tell her and tell her. But if she was shooting you down, and she was telling you that even though you knew you were in love with her and felt love for her, that what you were feeling wasn't real - as if she knew better than you what you were feeling - then that's a giant red flag. I hate to say it. But if she isn't allowing you to express how you feel - and you know it's how you feel, but she's telling you she knows better - you both need to talk. Because while you think you're being accommodating and loving by taking a step back and possibly even saying "maybe she's right," you're actually allowing her to dominate your self-worth. If you start repressing expressing your feelings now, when you're only feeling love, it may seem like a small thing. But over time, that only gets worse, not better. One partner can't dictate to another partner how they're supposed to feel at any point. It shows a huge lack of respect for the other partner, and that's poisonous to a marriage.

Hopefully I'm totally off-base and she only meant my first interpretation - that while she was saying you couldn't feel love yet, she was hoping you would contradict her. After all, "love at first sight" happens too. You absolutely could love her after even fewer shidduch dates. :) And either way, right or wrong interpretation, just tell her you love her if you feel it. Because, right or wrong interpretation, if you feel something, anything, you need to be able to talk about it with her. Husbands and wives should be able to talk about anything together - that's where the notion of "soulmates" comes from. It's a state of total trust and understanding, that you get by knowing each other through and through. By knowing you can say what's on your mind or in your heart and the other person won't judge you (or will try not to).

You wrote that "telling someone you love them raises the emotional level and intensity of the relationship." And you're right. It does. And that's exactly what you want to do while you're engaged, before you're married. For you to say "while we are only engaged..." is really demeaning to the meaning of engagement, and to marriage. You've promised yourselves to each other. No other man or woman will come between you ever again (hopefully!). This is exactly the time to be building the bridge to one another emotionally, while the physical level can't be achieved. Because once you are married, the physical will take over to some extent -- not just the sex (because that won't be constant), but issues of living in the same house, financial considerations, and possibly pregnancy. You need as solid an emotional core as possible to build on, for when the going gets tough. Every home needs a strong foundation. And marriages are built on love.

I truly believe this is the best time to be building that foundation. If you know that you love her, you just can't say it enough.

Anyhow, I'll get off my soapbox ;) and say be'hatzlacha again

Anonymous said...

hi and a belated mazal tov!

i actually posted once that you should save the "i love you" stuff for the yichud room, and i firmly stick to that opinion. you can express some physical affection in there too, so it's a packaged deal. remember what the rebbe said: "if you are close when you should be far, you'll be far when you should be close."

regarding the thoughts you are having about her, i don't think it would be appropriate to say anything to her about them. NOT TSNIUS. just try to control them and give yourself a break. don't get too anxious about them or they'll manifest. you know how tricky the yetzer hara can be. just remind yourself you are a normal chosson having normal feelings.

i don't know about thoughts having physical effects but the rebbe said "tracht gut..." ...for sure thoughts affect the spiritual realm. again, just cut yourself some slack and do your best.

i think you should talk to your rabbi or mashpia about all this stuff and also inquire about the appropriate amount of times per week you should be speaking with her.

mazal tov again, hatzlocho!

Zoe Strickman said...

Michal (and others),
Issue #3) Namely, whether I am taking my urges and trying to use the supernatural fear as an extra incentive not to think [or (gulp!) act on them -- very good observation.

Issue #1) (this is a response also to Ezzie) Doesn't me getting into the habit of telling her I love her cheapen the whole experience and turn the love into just WORDS?

Regarding "how can you possibly have real feelings for me?? You've only known me for 8 weeks, meaning that you've only seen me around 10-12 times..." -- Interesting point. I wonder whether she was telling me she knows better or whether she was actually hoping I'd profess my love and maybe it was me that dropped the ball at the opportunity. One day I'll find out the answer.

Regarding "This is exactly the time to be building the bridge to one another emotionally, while the physical level can't be achieved." -- Maybe you're right, but I am tending to agree with anonymous' comment "if you are close when you should be far, you'll be far when you should be close." Maybe that is reason enough to keep the distance, at least until marriage.

This is all a tricky issue. I'm glad we're all talking about it. -Zoe

Zoe Strickman said...

On second thought, I think that now is not the time to be falling in love. Now is the time to fill my head with Torah and to prepare for married life and to keep my priorities straight.

I also have a serious undertaking to accomplish. I need to graduate law school by passing the two remaining final exams and I need to study hard to pass the bar exam or else I won't get a job and I will not be able to support her and I will be an unemployed loser and I would never respect myself if I wasn't able to hold my own financially.

Ezzie said...

Issue #1) (this is a response also to Ezzie) Doesn't me getting into the habit of telling her I love her cheapen the whole experience and turn the love into just WORDS?

Not if you don't overuse it. But it's not a matter of 'getting into the habit' - it's a matter of knowing and understanding each other's love so there are no questions/concerns when you're trying to build a bayis ne'eman b'yisrael.

Rowan said...

I am late, but I also say tell her you love her and back it up with reasons why especially if as you say she questioned how you can feel anything for someone you haven't known long. When I took premarriage counselling, it was an exercize my major (I'm salvationist) has us do and I found it really helped us both to realize what we worth from a marriage aspect to one another. Tell her, I think it can only strengthen your bonds.