Search Me (My Blog)

Jun 1, 2012

Relationship Without Marriage

Boy, do I have a lot to say about this topic!

After spending nine months doing shidduch dating, online dating, friends-setting-me-up-with-someone-random dating and the like, I had enough. I was exhausted, from putting myself into each date and each person, from getting nix'd over and over again. Feeling more judged and rejected than any other time in my life. I crammed a lot into those nine months.

Also, school completely swallowed me up. I had no more time -not a single night in the week -to go out. And then this happened. So when I found myself around someone who was simply a joy to talk to, to laugh with, to delve into the depths of conversation in so many topics, who was simply there while I was going through so much and had so much stress, I was overjoyed.

More than that, though, meeting and getting to know someone casually, without pressure for marriage -which I realized only afterwards is a giant boulder weighing on my every word, thought and consideration in formal dating -allowed me to appreciate her for who she is, to get beyond little details and arbitrary criteria. For once, there was no need to analyze or worry about what her words mean for marriage, how my own actions and words are coming across. Without the pressure, I felt a lot more free to just be myself, to have fun.

Aside from the freedom, lighthearted joy and support, there was more that drew me to a relationship. Being in one -even without looking forward to marriage -is something I wanted to experience. Sure, I have been in relationships before. There was something distinctly different about being in a relationship with someone so self-aware and growth focused. Someone with whom I could explore my own faults and fears, with whom I can share my innermost core, someone who would do the same with me. There is never enough time, always so much more to explore of who we are, and who we are together too.

I wanted to have that, I wanted to know what an argument looks like when two people can be sensitive to each others' feelings and needs. I wanted to know what it's like to hold someone's anger, to feel open in expressing my own, to know that I will be heard and understood first, and to deal with the issues afterwards. I wanted to experience these aspects of a relationship (even in a limited capacity) and I wanted to see it in practice. I saw so much of what I think I'm looking for, and I wanted to experience it so that I will know when the right person comes along.

Which brings me to the next point: the conflict. Clearly I knew early on that she isn't for me (and I'll leave out the specific reason[s] why, because they're not important for this post), and I made sure very early on that we are on the same page. We discussed the issue at length, we weighed the benefits and consequences of being in a relationship that almost assuredly won't lead to marriage. We engaged in that concern, we talked about the value(s) and whether they are worth it. We discussed the limited nature of the relationship, recognizing that by necessity it will be short term. We talked about these issues over and over again, we opened up our feelings and frustrations, and we listened and empathized with each other over and over again. So much care and patience, such a wonder to experience.

In all these conversations I found myself wanting more. I wanted to be in a relationship with such fantastic dynamics, to hold onto someone who can have that kind of sensitivity, to learn about being in a relationship from each other. We made that choice together, and I'm  glad we did. That experience is something I will hold forever, and is invaluable to me.

Sure, it was tough. There was a lot of conflict, and the issues came up over and over again. In some ways, it was more like playing house than a real relationship, because there's no permanence without long-term commitment. Short term commitment may not be an adequate substitute. But it sure beats the pants off of my experience in dating, which as thus far been much more "no commitment" and very selfish in terms of criteria and choice-making.

Where this leaves me in dating now, I'm not sure. I have a lot more to think about in terms of shidduch dating versus meeting and building a relationship. I certainly don't want to have a string of short-term relationships that don't go anywhere, even though I hold this experience as one of the most valuable in my life.

In the meantime, I'll continue plodding along, living, exploring, and learning to handle the conflicts in life.


  1. I have to wonder: how would you feel if a young woman you were dating seriously said she'd had a "friends with benefits" boy as aone time thing, in order to feel more prepared for married intimacies?
    Before you say they're not the same thing at all, why is physical different from emotional knowledge?

    1. Fascinating perspective!

      I think there are differences between physical and emotional experience/knowledge, for example on a basic halachic level. I assume that's not your point, though, so I'll move on...

      I'd be very accepting, though curious about what brought her to that line of thinking and how she handled the experience. I'd be thrilled to be with someone who actively works on growing and improving herself and her relationships, and if she approaches every life experience that way, send her in my direction!

      Personally, I don't mind if a woman has had experience with physical intimacy (be that in previous relationships, before becoming religious, or in a previous marriage). I'm not simply searching for someone who reserved themselves, even if that is often called "innocence" or "purity." Those are not my highest values in a relationship.

      It's hear heart, her mind, her soul.. her character and who she is that I truly value.

    2. Halachically, absolutely different. There, you're completely right.

      It was just the closest analogy I could think of to your situation. It's not a situation I've been directly involved in, but I've helped a few friends through the aftermath.
      Shouldn't you always be trying to learn though? Does it always have to be from experience? I don't need to, for example, pick up a hot potato bare handed to learn what a burn feels like. It also seems as though only learning from your own experience is a bit limiting, and egotistical. Does the wisdom and life experience of others count?

      I think a few too many people are prioritizing ignorance over innocence. So I'm clear, ignorance isn't knowing the difference between good/evil, but choosing good. Innocence is choosing good in total knowledge of your choice and of evil.

      As far as valuing a soul - does physical appearance not matter to you at all?

    3. Sure, I believe learning from others' experiences is quite valuable. There's also a distinct quality to living through experiences yourself. I think both are extremely important; we stand on others' experiences, knowledge and wisdom, but also have a need to explore the world ourselves.

      I don't really get what you mean by innocence and ignorance, or perhaps I just don't identify with the way you define them.

      Appearance absolutely matters, I relate very strongly to the world physically. It's simply not my TOP priority. I'm open and flexible to seeing a person in a different light, of becoming more attracted to a woman through getting to know her. Her character is far more important to me, especially in the long term.

  2. Finding the right girl is like falling asleep. It happens when you're thinking about something else.