Showing physical affection to one’s spouse



Is it a Halacha or a Minhag to not show physical affection to one’s spouse in front of one’s children, such as a hug? What is the reason for it? How should one go about it if the spouse initiates it in front of the kids?



The Halacha is that a spouse should not show act physical affection to the other spouse in public. If done in the presence of children who are not able to speak yet, is not an issue.

There are those who are stringent to also act in “Harchakos” in public; this is a Chumra (stringency).

One should discuss with one’s spouse about not hugging or other affectionate touching in view of others so that a problem should not arise in the future.



The Rema writes (Darchei Moshe, Even Ho’ezer, 21:5; quoting the Nemukei Yosef, Perek Chezkas Habatim):

 דרך ארץ שאינו ראוי להתנהג עם אשתו בכיוצא בדברים אלו בפני אחרים

This is the proper code of conduct: it is not suitable to act with one’s wife in front of others with behaviors which are of a similar manner [to being examined for lice by her; i.e., an action denoting affection, even if not an explicit hug or kiss].

Similarly, the Halachah in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (152:11)—based on the Rema in Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer 21:5 —states:

אין לנהוג אפילו עם אשתו בדברים של חיבה כגון לעין ברישה וכדומה בפני אחרים, שלא יבוא הרואה לידי הרהור

One should not act affectionately even with one’s own wife, such as having his head examined [for lice by his wife] or the like, in the presence of others.

וראה גם לבוש אה״ע שם ה: דנראה פריצותא. ובחכמ״א קכה, ח: אסור לנהוג וכו׳.

The Beis Shmuel (ibid:12) and Taz (ibid: 1) explain that aside for it being immodest to show affection in public, the act of touching or closeness between the couple might bring others to think erotic thoughts, i.e. of their closeness when they have marital relations.

Certainly hugging in public is more concern than checking one’s spouse’s head for lice. However, for an elderly couple that need support as they walk together, it is permissible and there is no concern that people will think improper thoughts when seeing them. (Imrei Yakov -Rav Shtern, Even Haezer p 101.)

ופשוט שבפני תינוק שאינו יודע לדבר מותר ובמכש״כ מזה שמותר לשמש בפניו. ושו״ר במעדני אשר ברכות קנז, שנתעורר בזה.

ובשבט מוסר טז כתב אפי׳ בקטנים מוטלים בעריסה. ופשוט, דהיינו רק מדרך המוסר ולא מדינא עיי״ש טעמו שהראי׳ נרשם בדעתם. ועוי״ל דמיירי כשיודעים לדבר. ודוחק.ובאמת מקום לומר שגם כשיודעים לדבר, כל של״ש הרהור אצלם יש להתיר מדינא, דבכגון דא אי״ז פריצותא, ראה גם מעדני אשר שם. אלא דמסתפינא להתיר בדבר שנהגו בו איסור, ובדודאי אינו מדרך המוסר והקדושה. ודיינו במה שכתבנו כשאינם יודעים לדבר והבו דלא לוסיף. וראה שו״ת אשר חנן ו, עד מש״כ בזה מד״ע.

In addition, the Minhag of many Frum Yidden, including Lubavitcher Chassidim (based on what the Rebbe told Chassanim in the 1940’s) is to keep Harchakos in public even when Tehora (not passing things, etc.).  Any pose or action expressed publicly (even if not affectionate) should be one that can be done regardless of the woman’s status, Nida or Tehora.

About this type of conduct (keeping Dinay Harchaka in public even when Tehora), the Darkei Teshuvah writes:

דרכי תשובה: יורה דעה סימן קצ”ה סעיף ב ס”ק ט’ בסופו – “בכהאי גוונא אין לך יפה מן הצניעות כמובן

“There is nothing more beautiful than modesty, as is understood.”

It seems that this Chassidic custom to act in full Harchakos during time of Tahara is also for the above reason, aside for the primary reason so that people will not know when the wife is in Tahara days.

However, this behavior of full Harchakos during Tahara days is a Hiddur and not obligated.