Mikvah Night - Anonymous Question
Updated: Aug 7
My wife and I have been married for 11 years and we have 3 children. My question relates to mikveh night.
How can we improve relations on mikveh night? I prepare for this night after a long period of physical distance, but we often find specifically this night to be challenging. We don't find it reflects the deep yearning and romantic meeting we were told it would be.
The question you raised troubles many couples.
According to halakhic writings and Rabbinic teachings, mikveh night is a night that should culminate in sexual relations. But this requires emotional preparation.
In order to create the right atmosphere for mikveh night, the husband should prepare in parallel to his wife. While your wife's preparations for mikveh night are halakhic and technical, revolving around the mikveh, your preparations should focus on creating a conducive atmosphere in the home. If you generally work late, you should make an effort to get home early, clean the house, make dinner for the kids, and put them to sleep. You should shower and put on cologne (if that's something your wife enjoys), and prepare the bedroom, creating a tidy and inviting atmosphere.
The time apart is not enough to create mutual passion. If what you want is a romantic evening, real effort needs to be put into preparing for it.
When your wife returns from the mikveh, make sure your phone is put away, preferably shut off for the evening. There is nothing more insulting than attempting to speak to someone who is busy with their phone, especially on this night. Shutting off the phone is hard, but should be attempted from time to time.
However, even if you both take pains to prepare for mikveh night, some women have a hard time transitioning from no physical contact at all to full sexual intercourse. They sometimes need a gradual process transitioning from distance to contact. Women who feel this way have a particularly difficult time with intercourse on mikveh night. She may not be interested in intercourse at all; she may prefer a sense of physical and emotional intimacy not involving having relations. It is the husband's job to be sensitive to this possibility; the possibility of a gradual transition is something you should discuss with your spouse.
You may wonder in this case how we cope with the halakhah "every man should have relations with his wife on the night she goes to mikveh" (Shulhan Arukh, Orah Haim 240; Darkei Tahara 183). While this halakhah seems to indicate that there is an obligation to have relations on mikveh night, clearly the intention was only if the wife is interested in relations, since this is considered an obligation toward the wife. A man is obligated to fulfill his wife's sexual needs; but if she is tired or weak, or uninterested for any other reason, the husband is exempt from this obligation (Darkei Tahara 184).
The purpose of the obligation to have relations with one's wife is to create closeness between them (in addition to having children). If having relations does not create closeness, but rather contention, certainly the husband is exempt from this obligation.
Therefore, the husband's primary obligation is to be considerate of his wife's needs after a long period of physical distance. On mikveh night you can hug, kiss, sleep in each other's arms, and show physical affection without having relations.
I should note that many women are excited about having relations on mikveh night. The needs and desire are individual, and require discussion and mutual understanding.
When a couple does decide to engage in relations on mikveh night, I recommend focusing primarily on the wife's sexual needs. Not all couples are in sync, and naturally some activities are more pleasurable for the wife, while others are more enjoyable to the husband. There should generally be mutual investment in each other's needs at different times. On mikveh night, focusing on the wife's needs in gratitude toward her preparations and investment can set the right tone for the days ahead.
The question of balance can be discussed in advance, or you can surprise your wife on mikveh night, if you think this would please her more.
Rabbi Rafi Ostroff