My boyfriend recently asked me to move in with him. We’re in a committed relationship, but neither of us are quite ready to get married. My parents don’t approve of this. Should I do it anyway?
— (Almost) Living in Sin
Dear Living in Sin:
I agree with your mother. Maybe because I am a mother, and I have daughters. If you ultimately want to marry this boyfriend, do not move in with him until you have an engagement ring on your finger. Period.
It wasn’t so long ago that I was in your shoes, so I understand your thought process: We’re together all the time anyway, why should I pay rent on a separate place?, we’ll get married pretty soon anyway, or perhaps this will help me figure out if I really want to marry this person? Wrongo, kiddo. My best friend’s father loves to put it this way: If a man can get the milk for free, why would he buy the cow? That’s why your parents don’t like it.
Call me old fashioned (that’s just fine with me), but I say wait until you’re ready to marry. When you’re ready for engagement, you’re ready for domestic bliss. That short time period will be plenty long enough to find out his little peccadillos (e.g. he doesn’t know how to fold laundry, he won’t do dishes unless coerced), and a good way to start your life together. If you don’t think he’s your bashert, however, don’t bother. Just enjoy the dating, then move on.
May I also add that this time of your life (your 20s and 30s) is a great time to learn to live on your own? I think every young woman should enjoy her own apartment at least once, if only to relish the pleasures of playing your music, watching your favorite shows and eating ice cream sandwiches in bed, if you so choose.
So. Tell your boyfriend you’re flattered, but you’re an old-fashioned dame like Shuli, and you’d rather wait for engagement before you shack up.
As a father of two daughters (and a pre-dating son), I read Shuli’s advice about holding off for an engagement ring before living together with some bemusement.
The passage in Shuli’s advice that really made me wince was the horrifically sexist cliche “If a man can get the milk for free, why would he buy the cow”? By repeating this dreadful line, Shuli implies several things:
* A woman’s value to a man is determined by the milk (ie. sex) that she provides him.
* That sex isn’t a two-way street — after all, the cow doesn’t benefit from giving milk, so in this cliche: a man is the only one who gets pleasure from the “milk” (aka sex).
Oddly, the context of Shuli’s advice from her “best friend’s father” implies the strangest counsel — that if you’re not living together in “domestic bliss”, you’re not having sex while dating. Living in Sin wasn’t asking about sex before marriage, she was asking about living together before engagement — love ya, Shuli, but your advice seems to confuse “shacking up” with pre-engagement sexuality.
To use your metaphor, the cow can still be milked even if you’re not living together. Let’s avoid the bovine metaphors — and recognize the many research studies that strongly suggest that men and women who live together before marriage (and often, before engagement) have a lower divorce rate.
Keep on giving advice, Shuli! Paul Maccabee
Who’s to say that ‘(Almost) Living in Sin’ is a woman? The heterosexist presumption of this reply and the sexist nature of it at that is enough for me to stop reading this blog altogether.
I’m a big fan of “playing your music, watching your favorite shows and eating ice cream sandwiches in bed” but I see no reason why I can’t do those things while living in the same apartment/house as my boyfriend. I happen to agree with my father (Paul) on this one. Living with a boyfriend may help you determine whether he is your bashert or not. That doesn’t mean that young folks should rush into moving in with a boyfriend/girlfriend (whether gay or straight) – breaking up and moving out after moving in can be pretty painful. But sometimes the old-fashioned advice is just that. Maybe it’s time to rewrite the playbook.
As for G’s comments, you make a good point that Shuli shouldn’t assume that the writer was heterosexual. However, I hope you’ll continue reading the blog despite your personal disagreements with one post by one of TC Jewfolk’s columnists. Would you stop reading the Star Tribune just because you disagreed with the politics of one of its writers?
Preparing for a class I will be teaching, I came accross a book by Maurice Lamm today: The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage.
In the chapter, The Structure of the Marriage Covenant under “Civil Marriage” it reads,
“The first public Jewish confrontation with civil marriages occured in Holland at the end of the sixteenth century. Most of the Responsa literature on this subject was produced in reaction to the large numbers of civil marriages performed during the last remnants of Jewish self-government in Germany in 1875, and in Austo-Hungary . . . in 1891. Civil marriages were required by the governments of these countries. While most Jews went through this as an addition to the Jewish ceremony, others ignored the religious ceremony altogether.”
and then . . .
“Living Together Arrangement”
“Many couples decide to live together without benefit of marriage. This is akin to common law unions, called yadua be’tzibbut, the history of which goes back to the institution of concubinage. In the fifteenth century Rabbi Israel Isserlein, author of Te’rumat ha-Deshen, responded to the question of those who lived together but wished to separate. He dealt simultaneously with this question and with another regarding religious marriage indicating he believed there was no legal difference between them. The Halakhah shows no concern in this situation for the possibility that the couple contracted marriage by bi’ah. In addition, since there is no legitimate intent to me married, there is no halakhic presumption that this concept is operative. This enables those who are living together not to require a religious divorce if they decide to separate. (In individual cases, this must be checked with authoritatie scholars). Chief Rabbi Herzog considered such a situation to be a nonmarriage.”
I thought of this conversation right away, not because I think the quotation above is authoritative on the situation the person originally asking the question is in, but rather because I LOVED that the references went back to the fifteenth century.
It made me wonder if a couple living together does not by Halakha need a religious divorce when they separate, what other Jewish law actually applies to living with someone and presumably having a sexual relationship with someone in that context.
I’m also very curious what the distinction is in Halakha of the period before engagement vs. after engagement. (since that was raised above as well)
I wonder (given other things in the chapter I found today) whether living together after engagement would actually technically become a civil marriage within Jewish tradition.