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February 13, 1987 - Image 85

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-02-13

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ing, it is not so difficult to
understand couples who
believe that living together
as a premarital trial period
will increase the odds that
their marriage will succeed.
Furthermore, people believe
that a living together ar-
rangement will give them
an opportunity to exper-
ience intimacy without the
emotional hassles asso-
ciated with marriage.
Then why do people still
choose marriage if they
already live together?
Often, couples get married
because of their age and
the desire to have children.
Almost 70 percent of the
couples who enter my office
state that having children
is the main reason to get
married. Most of the
couples are in their late
twenties and thirties and
established in their careers.
Many have experienced in-
timate relationships more
than once in their lives.
Commonly, I hear brides
say, "I am in my thirties, I
want a child. It's either
now or never." The wed-
ding, and the idea of mar-
riage, holds more of a legal
than a spiritual
This explains why some
couples are at a loss for
words when the rabbi asks
if the wedding will repre-
sent a change in their rela-
tionship. "How so, Rabbi?"
they ask, or "We really
didn't get into that sub-
ject," they say. This reac-
tion shows that the couple
has yet to face the implica-
tions of permanence in
their relationship. No mat-
ter how strongly they felt
about each other when they
lived together, underneath
they knew that they always
had the freedom to end the
relationship with few, if
any, legal implications.
A few years ago, this
situation was changed by
California's Marvin vs.
Marvin case, which in-
troduced living together
contracts into the public
arena. In this case, the
court made an important
point — it determined an
implied contract from the
circumstances of people's
actions rather than their
spoken words. Although
most states do not yet
recognize the California
court's decision, it repre-
sents a trend for the future.
No longer can couples
argue that by living
together they can get
around the legal require-
ment or hassles that seem
to plague marital relation-
ships. Living together has
become an institution in its
own right, and the bottom
line is that the financial

and legal responsibilities
are superficial items that
misdirect our attention
from the real issue — the
idea of permanence in a
relationship. It is this fac-
tor that has an impact on
the three areas previously
First, the idea of per-
manence has an impact on
the relationship between
the couple and their
parents. Parents often have
ambivalent feelings about
their son's or daughter's
decision to live with
another person, but they
usually keep quiet in order
to preserve peace in the
family. Despite this accom-
modating attitude, parents
often have difficulty
treating their child's
"significant-other" like a
true member of the family.
The act of getting married
enables the parents to
respect the seriousness of
the couple's commitment to
each other.
Second, the idea of per-
manence changes the cou-
ple's relationship to the
community. The Jewish
community still reflects the
traditional values that
classify people in the
categories of "singles" and
"marrieds." For example,
membership applications
for Jewish organizations
have the option of joining
as a single, husband and
wife, or family. Living
together couples do par-
ticipate in the community,
but their status is not
recognized and falls in a
category — "semi-married" —
that the Jewish community
does not acknowledge.
Once the couple is mar-
ried, the community feels a
greater sense of investment
in encourging their par-
ticipation. At the same
time, the couple will feel a
greater need to reach out
and be welcomed by the
community. One couple,
who had lived together for
three years before their
wedding, reflected, "Before,
we felt a little uncomfort-
able agout getting involved
in the Jewish community.
We had each been active as
singles, but not as an of-
ficial couple. Now we feel
that new doors are being
opened and we like the at-
tention from the different
Third, the decision to get
married affects the couple's
relationship itself. It is an
awesome experience to gaze
into your spouse's eyes
knowing that this is the
person with whom you will
have children and grow old
together into the future.
There is no way that living

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