Clearly several months have passed since I last posted, and clearly some big events regarding my niddah (or pseudo-niddah) practices have occurred–specifically, I got married approximately four months ago.
I doesn’t seem practical to continue writing about niddah on a month by month basis, as I only sporadically have have time to post, so I think I’ll change the format to posting about niddah whenever I have a chance, rather than feeling glued to the every single month format. I know the every month format is preferable in terms of being able to see my development with niddah, but at this point in my life, it’s just not practical.
This post is actually part 1 of 2. I think that since I last wrote about keeping niddah as a single person, and now I am married, I should write about the transition in going from single person niddah practices to married person niddah practices. In my next Niddah Diaries post, I’ll write about how my niddah practices have evolved each month since we’ve been married.
When I first got married, people kept asking me “So, nu, how’s married life??”. I didn’t really have a good answer for them. Of course it was fun to move in to a new apartment and spend lots of gift money furnishing it, and of course it was nice to NOT have to deal with the stress of wedding planning anymore, and of course it was nice to never have to worry about making shabbos plans ever again–but those things all seemed trivial. I knew what the Yentas were really all getting at was “So, nu, how is it living with a BOY?”. I didn’t really know how to answer that question. I mean, my husband and I spent a heck of a lot of time together before we were married. He’d usually come to my apartment straight from work, we’d eat dinner together, hang out, and then when it was time for him to catch the last bus of the night, I’d go to sleep and he’d leave to catch the bus. Sure, actually going to sleep next to a person is totally different than having said person tuck you in and then leave, but could I really share such a distinction with the Yentas? The real distinction in married life came with the way we practiced niddah. As a dating couple, we essentially decided to be full shomer negiah during the time which I had my period. No touching, but also none of the harchakot–we’d sit next to each other on a couch (even on the same cushion), we’d pass items back and forth to each other, we’d share food with one another, there were even a few times when we’d intentionally use an object (see day 5 here) to touch the other person.
In the months leading up to our marriage and the weeks afterwards (Iook for another post on my thoughts about sheva brachot niddah practices, but suffice it to say we were only keeping niddah in public at that time), we spoke about niddah A LOT. I was insistent that whomever we found to teach us the laws of niddah should teach it to us as a couple, not to us individually (And look out for another post about that). We found someone, and every time I left her house, I’d express frustration with each thing she taught us. My husband seemed lessed phased by it–to him, he wanted to learn what the halacha was and keep everything, because that was the halcha. He was open to digging deep into the halcha and looking for original sources or other explanations, but at the end of the day, he wanted to keep halacha because God said to. That wasn’t my opinion. It goes back to my deeper issues with halacha, but for me, “because God said to” wasn’t enough. It has to also satisfy meet the “because it’s good for me” test, or at a minimum, “because it’s not bad for me” test.
I was, and am, able to accept that some level of Niddah is good for relationships–hence this blog. I’ve written several times before that I do think absence makes the heart grow stronger and some level of separation is important in a long term relationship. However, I thought, and still think, that one really has to evaluate each aspect of niddah practice, and determine if it works for them.
I told my husband that I didn’t think the harchakot would work for me, I didn’t think that they would accomplish the goals that I had identified as my reasons for wanting to practice niddah, and that they were more detrimental to a relationship than helpful. He reminded me that I felt the same way about keeping our version of niddah when we were dating, but in the end, appreciated the practice. We agreed that the first month, we’d try it completely and take it from there to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. We also made it very clear (this was something he feels strongly about) that the niddah laws don’t apply when one of us has an overarching emotional reason for needing niddah. Just like the laws of shomer negiah don’t apply when a member of the opposite sex is physically injured and needs assistance, the laws of niddah shouldn’t apply when one’s spouse is upset or hurt and needs physical touch.
During that first month keeping niddah, we did everything as we were supposed to. We changed the sheets on our bed (two twin size mattresses on one king size frame, we used king sized sheets during non-niddah times and twin sized sheets during niddah). We didn’t touch. We sat far away from each other on the couch.
The hardest thing for me was the sleeping. We were used to cuddling with each other to go to sleep, and it became really difficult for me to fall asleep without him cuddling me. I hated looking over and seeing him sleeping a distance of approximately two feet–but what felt like a mile–away from me.
However, despite the little inconveniences, mikvah night was INCREDIBLE! All that desire that had been built up inside of us for the past two weeks was released with a vengeance! It was so, totally, completely worth it. Even beyond that night, that energy and desire we had kept on going.
I thought I could handle niddah, and I thought it was working for me. But in subsequent months, I realized I couldn’t take it. I also realized that the energy and passion we had on mikvah night that first time might have simply been the result of being newlyweds, and it might have been there just the same if we hadn’t done niddah. I had two and a half weeks to think about how I wanted to handle niddah next time.