Dear Rabbi, I am currently in a deep relationship with a girl for the purpose of marriage. As the bond between us grows stronger, I feel that it is important that I show her how much I appreciate, admire, and love her. Both she and I are of the opinion that a couple should marry until there is love between them. (Now I know that love is something that is acquired after great and timely investment. However we feel that there should be some sort of love between us before entering marriage.) I also feel that in order to guarantee that we will feel comfortable with one another, and not feel completely awkward with each other after marriage, it is important that we express ourselves openly and lovingly now. I would like to add that we are completely shomer negiah, and will be until marriage. My question is if I am permitted to say such statements which express my feelings towards her such as, ?I love you?, and ?You are so beautiful?, and the sending little pictures of hearts and little kisses through whatts app? I would like to know in general what the proper approach to this matter is. I would be very grateful if you could include some sources that deal with this matter, whether contemporary or classic. Thank you so much for your time and patience, and for answering the questions of Am Yisrael.
Shalom, Ye’asher Kochacha on asking such an important and common question, which almost everyone should ask at some point in their life but most are either embarrassed or unaware of the halachic issues involved in the niceties of courtship. You’re correct, that just as there are halachic restrictions regarding physical intimacy before marriage, so too there are certain verbal intimacies which are considered inappropriate. On the other hand, you’re also correct that “I love you” and those small but important signs of fondness are extremely important in building and solidifying that special relationship which hopefully leads up to marriage. My suggestion to find the proper balance is to utilize the medium of writing those “love notes” through letters, email or texting, rather than saying them within physically proximity which will easily lead to inappropriate arousal. There are other advantages in writing, where your girlfriend can save the letters and read the message over and over, to “replay” the special feeling which will solidify your relationship even more. If you’re looking for sources, we know that Rav Aharon Kotler allowed himself to write especially intimate letters to his girlfriend (Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer’s daughter), during their courtship (although his future father-in-law wasn't thrilled about it). In addition, see Rav Aviner, Achoti Kalla, pp. 12-15 and Gan Na’ul, pp. 114-117; Kovetz M’vakshei Torah vol. 24, p. 178; Shu”t Zkan Aharon (Tanina) siman 106; R’shut HaYachid, p. 67. With brachot that bizchut the tahara that you practice, you should build a Bayit Ne’eman b’Yisrael! Rav Ari Shvat