Can You Test Drive a Marriage?

Can You Test Drive a Marriage?
Question: 

I liked your take on traditional Jewish dating, and can see some of its advantages over modern dating. But one thing doesn't make sense. In traditional circles, you only live together after marriage. This is crazy. The only way to really know someone is to live with them for a few years first. You wouldn't buy a car without first taking it for a test drive. So how can you get married without trying living together? 

Answer:

Test driving a car is very similar to driving the same car after you have bought it. But living with someone before you are married is nothing like living with the same person after you are married. The relationship is totally different. 

When people are emotionally involved without any formal commitment, there is an invisible sword dangling over the relationship at all times. When we are just living together, I know that at any moment, you can just walk out on me. Nothing is stopping you from leaving except your feelings towards me, so I'd better be on my best behaviour and do everything I can to please you. I am being held hostage by my own feelings, threatened by an unspoken warning - as long as I make you happy, I'm in. But if I say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing, you're out of here. 

How can I be completely myself in such an emotionally volatile position? No wonder so many people live together for six years but can't stay married for more than six months. Ask them, "What did you find out after the wedding that you didn't know before?" They'll answer, "The person I married was not the person I lived with before." And they're right. The person you lived with did their best to keep you happy. The person you married had the security to finally be themselves, with commitment as a safety net. After walking on emotional eggshells for years they can finally let their true self out. And that self may be far less agreeable than the insecure live-in partner that did all they can to please you.

Not every couple that lives together before marriage is doomed to failure, but there is no indication that they are better off either. But if you follow the traditional system - first use the mind and do some research, then slowly introduce the heart when you meet - you are more likely to make it. First find out about their values and their character. Do they see marriage as an ideal, do they believe in family, are they committed and focused in their personal life, do they have integrity and trustworthiness, are they good-natured and considerate? If so, then they are probably good marriage material. Meet and see if you click. You don't need to live with them to find this out.

You can test drive a car, but you can't test-marry a person. Use your mind first, then your heart, pray for guidance, and you'll find the right one.


The content of this page is produced by mikvah.org and is copyrighted by the author, publisher or mikvah.org. You may distribute it provided you comply with our copyright policy.