WWYD – friendly hugs

(from a reader)

I had an interesting email exchange recently with a reader, and this WWYD came out of it. This reader is a religious woman, Modern Orthodox with a bit of a right wing twist. She and her husband are friends with a couple who share more or less the same values. These couples have been friends for so long that they are like family. When they meet there are hugs all around. Let’s not get into the whole halachic implications of it all, but that’s what they do. Wife hugs wife, wife hugs other husband. Nothing sexual, just a friendly hello hug.

Lately, this reader tells me, the other wife’s hugs seem to make her (the reader’s) husband uncomfortable. He feels she is overdoing it a little bit and it is no longer just the friendly hug hello.

My friend does not know how she should deal with this. This is a close friendship that she doesn’t want to spoil at all. Her husband says she needs to speak to the wife privately and tell her to just stop with the hugging, and that they all need to cease and desist with the hug hello. (I am just thinking, in Quebec we have the double cheek kiss that means the same as a hug – now THAT I could see being uncomfortable). The reader thinks her husband needs to have a word with the other husband, so he can talk to his wife in the right way so she won’t get offended.

WWYD??

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  1. He should just leave it alone. If she grabs his rear end or something when they’re hugging, that’s call for raising it as an issue, obviously, but as it stands now, the hugs may be totally innocent, and they could end up just damaging a good friendship.

  2. batya from NJ says:

    since there are halachic issues with all the male:female hugging that going on it should probably stop anyhow. perhaps the wife of the guy who is uncomfortable with the hugs can make a joke of it something to the extent of “my husband is becoming such a ‘frummie’ he isn’t comfortable hugging women anymore” or something of that nature.

    i guess what your friend will want to avoid would be to insinuate to her friend that SHE (your friend’s friend) is the problem & being inappropriate with your friend’s husband b/c obviously your friend’s friend will most likely take offense to that insinuation. that is why it is best, to make it seem like your friend’s husband wants to change his behavior for whatever reason & that it has nothing to do with your friend’s friend…then again, if the friend’s friend does in fact have feelings for your friend’s husband then perhaps it is best for them not to socialize that much as couples b/c it may be problematic for your friend & her husband…

    • Mark says:

      Batya – “my husband is becoming such a ‘frummie’ he isn’t comfortable hugging women anymore” or something of that nature.

      Things of this nature can also change friendships.

      • batya from NJ says:

        mark, in that case i would say so be it b/c quite frankly if i had to choose between a female friend (who my husband feels may have the “hots” for him!) or my husband, i would certainly opt to strengthen my marriage & let bygones be bygones with my female friend. or, if the female friend is really such a close friend of mine, i would try to spend time with her alone & not as couples anymore in order to protect my marriage.

        • Mark says:

          Definitely! If she has the hots, it’s worth ending the friendship.

          But what if she doesn’t have the hots and is just feeling emotionally “empty” and the longer hug from an old friend makes her feels a little better just for the short amount of time they are meeting?

          • batya from NJ says:

            i’m not sure that there’s any way to find out for sure if she is having the “hots” or feeling emotionally “empty” but quite frankly even if my girlfriend is feeling emotionally empty, i don’t need my husband satisfying her emotional emptiness so to speak…

          • Mark says:

            Batya – but quite frankly even if my girlfriend is feeling emotionally empty, i don’t need my husband satisfying her emotional emptiness so to speak…

            I was thinking that she may be lengthening all her hugs because she’s feeling down.

          • batya from NJ says:

            mark, but i think it’s impossible to determine & quantify how long her hugs are with each person…

  3. lady lock and load says:

    I don’t agree with the fact that the couples are frum but they are ignoring halachos that would have prevented this scenario from happening, but given that this is what they do, how about if the guy who doesn’t feel comfy with all the hugging use some body language. In other words, when she is hugging him he should be a piece of wood, showing that he does not appreciate this show of affection? And he should respond to her hug in a more appropriate way? Sorry if I’m not describing this in the right way, hard for me for some reason but I hope you get my drift.

  4. mekubal says:

    Without trying to beat a dead horse, the issue of the various halachot being ignored is what has brought it to this point, a point where there may not be solution that allows for the avoidance of a change in the relationship.

    The husband speaking with the other wife “privately” seems like a very bad idea. My reasoning being that if he is correct and this is going somewhere it doesn’t belong, secluding himself with said woman for a private conversation has the potential for all kinds of trouble.

    I always think that the truth is the best solution, so in my mind the best thing would be for the couple to just tell the other couple that for their own reasons they are no longer comfortable with the neglecting of the halachot, that their affection for the other couple hasn’t changed, they just wish to find a different way to express it. If the friendship is truly as strong as they think, it will survive and grow stronger from the truthfulness.

  5. Lion of Zion says:

    MARK:

    “Things of this nature can also change friendships.”

    unfortunately this is true. but it shouldn’t.
    but if it makes the couple that uncomfortable, i say just use the frumkeit line. (only problem is if they see them hugging other couples).

    LL&L:

    “I don’t agree with the fact that the couples are frum”

    do you know anything else about this couple that HS is not telling us? if not, why are you capriciously writing them out of the frum world?

  6. Mark says:

    LLL – In other words, when she is hugging him he should be a piece of wood, showing that he does not appreciate this show of affection?

    Sorry if I’m not describing this in the right way, hard for me for some reason but I hope you get my drift.

    OMG, definitely, DEFINITELY, the wrong way to describe this! Maybe a better way would be to say he should behave as “karka olam” as described here a few months ago – http://hadassahsabo.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/loss-of-innocence/#comment-5933

  7. Lisa Danton says:

    Complete disclaimer: I am not Jewish (although I love learning a bit about the culture from this blog),so I can’t comment of the appropriate customs, etc.

    This situation brings up a couple of questions for me. What variable changed? The hugs have been a pattern of behaviour for this group for sometime. Now either she is changing her behaviour (extending the hug) or he is receiving it differently which makes him uncomfortable. That tells me there is a buried tension some where in the original couples that is coming out in this behaviour. What is she missing in her marriage or what stressor has caused her to inappropriately seek out affection this way?

    My logic behind this is that I noticed no one considered direct communication. Have the man that is uncomfortable about the extended hug ask her directly what is going on. They’ve been friends for years so that shouldn’t be that difficult. But maybe there is a cultural thing here that I don’t know and that is impossible.

    So. The round about route. Figure out why the behaviour has changed. What is missing in the original relationship and then the girls can have a girl to girl talk about making their respective relationships even stronger.

    I’m a fan of the direct route, but if thats not possible then try to make the original marriages even stronger.

  8. lady lock and load says:

    I am not writing them out of the frum world, G-d Forbid! I am just saying that this is something that I don’t agree with, because my solution was involving their negligence of these halachos. I am the last one to say that people are better than me. i am for sure not perfect, this couple might very well be much frummer than I am!

  9. sheldan says:

    I do respect the fact that there is a halacha regarding male-female contact, although I may not agree with the interpretations of it. I think that there is a huge difference between the hug or kiss that is a normal greeting and something that is obviously inappropriate. At the same time, I can see how this can be a problem if relationships can become too casual.

    If the writer’s husband indeed does not like the woman’s behavior, one of them should speak up about it. Probably, the women should do this, as it may be problematic if the husband talks directly to the woman. If the woman continues the unwanted hugging, it may be that the couples will have to keep their distance for a while.

    Of course, this depends on if there is a true objection to the hugging in general. I would probably think that it’s a better idea to dispense with the hugging altogether, but if the hugging can be more discreet and both couples don’t object to hugging in general, they are the ones to determine whether hugging is appropriate for greeting.

  10. Duvii says:

    A few possibilites on the motivation of the husband:

    1. The hugs are becoming more intimate
    2. He feels that it is wrong and
    a. may have always felt that way but something is motivating him to change his outlook
    b. because he is moving towards the halacha

    Ergo, I think there are two options.

    1. Wife speaks with Friend and tells her how husband feels
    2. Husband changes his physical reaction towards hug, like taking a step back or not returning it.

    option 1 will cause a controlled discussion, option 2 may cause an uncontrolled discussion.

    I would recommend 1, greeing with Mekubal that NO WAY should husband have the discussion 1 on 1 just in case the hugs rising intimacy level is not a figment of husband’s imagination.

  11. lady lock and load says:

    He could always wear a necklace of garlic that will keep all females at bay…:)

  12. kisarita says:

    Did someone suggest that someone should inform the husband of the hugger to discuss it with is wife? ABSOLUTELY NOT, that is the worst lashon hara I can imagine, why introduce suspicions into the husband’s head that may be totally unwarranted?

    suggest that she shake his hand instead.

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