Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Standards In Marriage, or Is Their Marriage Inherently Bad?

There is an interesting discussion going on over at One Frum Skeptic. She was speaking with a kollel wife who delineated her husband's daily schedule (Shabbos and Yom Tov aside). In short, he goes to kollel early in the morning, comes home late at night (11PM) and is home during the day for a brief period during breakfast and for an hour or so during dinner. Other than that, he's out learning at kollel all day. As OFS puts it:

This lady who was telling me, has spent her entire married life, seeing her husband with these teeny amount of hours... meaning their first year of marraige.

I cannot fathom how a marraige can possibly function properly, if the couple sees each other soooo seldomly. Especially the first year of marraige... how in the hell can they possibly get to know each other, with hours like that? Can one even say they're living with each other, or just AROUND each other like roommates?

I responded in the comments section that it is important to discern if the woman was telling OFS about her husband's schedule or if she was *complaining* about it. The difference, I think, is critical, because if she's not complaining, and assuming she's happy (or at least content) with the arrangement, then who cares how many hours he's away from home?

I've learned that not all marriages are equal. For example, Eeees and I are very "touchy-feely" in our marriage. We openly hold hands in public. We don't have a problem expressing intimacy (within limits, of course) in front of our children or even others. And personally, I can't imagine a marriage that doesn't have that.

And yet, I have relatives whose marriage is NOT like that. They are far more reserved in their conduct. They would never hold hands in public. They would never kiss each other in front of their kids (let alone me). And you know what? They're fine with that. Their marriage seems to be working for them. Do I find it a bit odd? Yeah, but so what? It's not *my* marriage -- it's theirs.

The same could apply here. Assuming that the wife that OFS was talking to is happy/content with the situation, then what's the big deal? Yeah, I might not want my marriage to run that way, but it's not *my* marriage that we're talking about here -- it's theirs --- and if they're happy with it, then so be it.

Interestingly enough, I got a bit of flack for that over at OFS. One person accused me of going for an "ignorance is bliss" attitude. My response is that in some cases, ignorance may, indeed, be bliss.

Mlevin, who sometimes comments here, said:

I really hate "If they are happy" excuse. It has been used to defend the ignorant lifestyle of chassidim/ultra frum who do not know anything about outside world and therefor don't know what they are missing. I heard this excuse used to justify poverty in Bangladesh, if these people are happy without getting electricity on regular basis or good food or regular health care who are we to judge. They are happy after all.

I think we could use the same excuse about slavery. If slaves are happy with their lot, because they don't know any better, why do we need to outlaw it, especially since others benefit from it?

Aside from the fact that I think making the comparison to slavery (where human rights are violated) is unfair, I think that this, too, is wrong. Take the statement:

It has been used to defend the ignorant lifestyle of chassidim/ultra frum who do not know anything about outside world and therefor don't know what they are missing.

Well, guess what? The same could be said about the swinger lifestyle. Eeees and I have only slept with one person each -- each other. Neither of us have had any other partners. Perhaps we should start swinging? After all, what do we know from the swinger lifestyle? Perhaps we're missing something?

Maybe we are. Perhaps we're missing the most exciting sexual experiences of our lives. But so what? That's what we want* out of our marriage. We *want* to be faithful to each other and if it means sacrificing some other pleasures, then so be it. That's our choice and that's what makes us happy.

The same could be said with regard to OFS's friend. It's not a marriage I would select for myself. But as long as she isn't complaining and is happy/content, then who are we to interfere? Who are we to say that because we're incapable of imaging a successful marriage that way that we're going to legislate that couples must spend X hours together every day?

The Wolf


* Halachic considerations aside. Even if we did not keep halacha, I can't imagine being with someone else.

42 comments:

Michael Sedley said...

When I was in Yeshiva the Rosh yeshiva physically throwing out newly married students from Night Seder saying that they had an obligation to be home with their wife.

When I got married he told me in no uncertain terms that he didn't want to see me in the Yeshiva in the evenings for the first year.

Sounds like the Kollel couple you described have a different set of priorities.

mlevin said...

Just because people don't like to show affection in public doesn't mean there isn't any in a marriage. But not seeing each other for the duration of most of the marriage is quite different.

Also both you and your wife made a choice to not lead a swinger lifestyle (halocha aside, because we all know there are frum swingers) and both of you decided on the direction of your marriage. The ultra orthodox do not have this choice. Please see my response on OFS's comments.

frumskeptic said...

thank you for the link...
to keep my sanity, i'll stick to our convo on my blog. :)

tesyaa said...

It's not an inherently bad marriage, but it is an unusual one. Are we so judgmental of partners in big law firms who work equally long hours, without the daytime flexibility? Are all of their marriages inherently bad? But it is an unusual choice, to never see each other.

mlevin said...

Tesyaa - a lot of those marriages where a spouse is a lawyer and never home or a doctor and never home end in divorce. My best friend's in-laws are all doctors, and they told her that people shouldn't get married until after they are done with residency because it's too stressful for marriage.

Anonymous said...

The spouses are, of course, free to have whatever type of marriage they want. The children, however, do not get to pick their parents. It's not entirely inappopriate to be concerned for children who will only rarely see their father or for kids not given the opportunity to get a decent education. There is a reason why marriage has legal status and society tries to promote marriage -- because we believe that all other things being equal, two involved parents are better for a child than one.

Off the Derech said...

I'll only say this once: You're given a choice!

Garnel Ironheart said...

Old joke: Guy sees his friend, a Gerer chosid walking down the street and says "Fishel, what's going on? Your wife is two blocks back!"
"Yeah," says Fishel, "we're going for a romantic walk together."

I sometimes wonder if arrangements like this aren't some teenage male's idea of the ideal marriage. Think about it - what does the average guy want a girl for? No seriously, after all the "life companionship" stuff, what really motivates the average guy to choose to go out on a date on Saturday night instead of hang out with the guys watching the game on TV? If it wasn't for that, he'd stay at home with his friends and his cold beer, 10 times out of 10.
Right.
And now think about this guy's relationship. A couple times a month he gets sex. The rest of the time he hangs out with the guys. All the benefits of marriage without the nasty drawbacks of having to help take care of the kids or listen to how her day went. Gan Eden!

(I'm not endorsing this lifestle, BTW)

Aaron S. said...

"We openly hold hands in public."

This is an aveira gamur.

How could you flaunt such lack of tznius?

Aaron S. said...

"we all know there are frum swingers"

Aside from the fact by definition they aren't frum, I (and every frum person I've ever asked this) do not know of any such thing.

People see themselves in others.

Commenter Abbi said...

Well said and I agree completely. We can't apply our standards to others. Some pple have very happy marriages living in separate states or countries. It works for them.

And I agree with your personal marriage standards. We have a very similar marriage.

Anonymous said...

It is not modest to hold hands in public - have you asked a rabbi if this is OK? Also, kids are NOT comfortable watching their parents embrace, did you ever ask your kids if they would feel more comfortable if you did this in private? I know because my parents kissed (casually, not passionately) in front of me when I was a kid, and I never like it (and yes, I am normal, have no hangups).

Commenter Abbi said...

Sorry anon, you definitely have hangups if you had a problem with your parents kissing and hugging in front of you a a kid. My parents did it and it was never a problem for me. If anything, it demonstrates what a healthy normal loving relationship looks like.

There is no halachic problem with holding hands with your wife who isn't a niddah. You don't need a rabbi to tell you that. and if you do, then you definitely need a therapist as well.

BrooklynWolf said...

It is not modest to hold hands in public - have you asked a rabbi if this is OK?

No, nor did I ask my rabbi if it was okay if I drank orange soda last night. I'm fairly certain there is no place in Shulchan Aruch that says that a couple can't hold hands in public. If there is, please advise and I'll look into it.

Also, kids are NOT comfortable watching their parents embrace

Considering this is what they've seen all their lives, I'd venture that they think it's the norm and are NOT uncomfortable.

The Wolf

tesyaa said...

My cousin (half) jokes that the reason her "older" daughter doesn't have a shidduch yet is because the parents have been known to go for a Shabbos afternoon walk holding hands

Anonymous said...

Wolf: I'm all in your court. The older I got, the more terrific I thought it was that my parents had no problems with moderate PDA. It was always comforting to walk in and see my parents holding hands or even stealing a smooch, and knowing that even as they dealt with many trials, old age and poor health, they could still take some pleasure from some romance.

Joseph said...

"I'm fairly certain there is no place in Shulchan Aruch that says that a couple can't hold hands in public."

Wolf,

Being "fairly certain" is no excuse for not having asked a shaila. If you were "fairly certain" (but not certain) that there wasn't a landmine on the street in front of it, would you cross over that street based upon your being "fairly certain", or would you ask a shaila of someone who is certain.

In any event, in fact there IS a "place in Shulchan Aruch that says that a couple can't hold hands in public." It is E.H. 21:5. The Rama explicitly states that it is forbidden to show chibah (love) in public. Accordingly, holding hands in public is strictly forbidden.

BrooklynWolf said...

Joseph,

This isn't post about public displays of affection, so I don't really want to get into a debate with you on this here. Nonetheless, I will respond to the two points you made.

First of all, I would cross a street based on being "fairly certain" that no land mines were there. Just about everyone lives their lives that way. When I get on the train, I'm "fairly certain" it's not going to derail and cause injury. When I order from a restaurant, I'm "fairly certain" that the cook behind the counter isn't poisoning the food. If i walk down an unfamiliar street, I'm "fairly certain" there are no landmines underneath. Do I know for a certainty in any of those cases? No -- but guess what -- I go on with my life anyway.

As to your second point, it's no so clear. The Rema is interesting in that it doesn't really discuss spousal relationships at all. However, when he finally does get to the topic (almost as an afterthought) he introduces with a "yesh omrim." IOW, it's hardly a unanimous opinion. In addition, he gives a specific example of going through a spouse's hair (as in looking for lice). That is something that is far more intimate than simply holding hands, and I might even agree that couples should not do that in public. Holding hands, OTOH, is far more innocuous.

The Wolf

Joseph said...

"As to your second point, it's no so clear."

Yet you never asked a shaila and even compared it to asking a shaila if it is okay to drink orange soda! Now "it's not so clear." Are you, at least, going to ask a shaila now? Or are you still afraid of what the results of asking a shaila may be? (Barring rabbi shopping.)

"The Rema is interesting in that it doesn't really discuss spousal relationships at all."

What else is chibah referring to?

"In addition, he gives a specific example of going through a spouse's hair (as in looking for lice)."

Now you are splitting hairs (pardon the pun.) On what authority are you stating that is halachicly different in this regard from hand-holding? Frankly, hand-holding is a greater form of chibah than checking for lice in someones hair.

"Holding hands, OTOH, is far more innocuous."

Really? Did you ever walk in the street with your best friend, holding hands with him?

Innocuous? We both know that is simply untrue. You absolutely hold your wifes hands as a matter of chibah.

BrooklynWolf said...

Joseph,

Again, I don't want to debate the issue here -- this post isn't about displaying affection in public.

Nonetheless, I never claimed that there was any other reason for holding my wife's hand.

However, there are degrees of chibah. If it were up to you, I couldn't even talk to my wife in public since I use terms of endearment when we talk. But there are degrees of chibah.

I'm afraid we simply have to disagree. I think that running your hands through your spouse's hair is far more intimate than simply holding hands. If you can't see that, then we simply have to disagree.

The Wolf

Joseph said...

"there are degrees of chibah"

Does the Rama differentiate between "degrees of chibah" or is that your differentiation, while the Rama simply say chibah is forbidden in public? I think we both know the answer.

In any event, even if you "disagree", don't you now admit with this knowledge that you should at least be asking a shaila?

Or is public hand-holding still comparable to drinking orange soda last night?

BrooklynWolf said...

Does the Rama differentiate between "degrees of chibah" or is that your differentiation, while the Rama simply say chibah is forbidden in public? I think we both know the answer.

He gives an example, which is a rather intimate example.

The "orange soda" comment was said WRT being "fairly certain." I'm still "fairly certain" that is no section of SA against it. Or is it your opinion that I should ask a shaila before doing so? After all, who knows, there may be some obscure sefer that prohibits it that I don't know about.

The Wolf

Joseph said...

Knowing what you now know the Rama says about displaying chibah in public, can you honestly state that you do not need to ask a shaila if it is permissible to hold your spouses hand in public?

tzniusaboveall said...

Wolf,

Joseph is absolutely right. The Shaarei Rachamim (25:6) clearly states that you're not allowed to walk next to your wife in public, let alone holding hands. The Manhigai Anshei HaTorah (perek 3) says that one is not allowed to use terms of endearment ("honey, dear, etc.) even in private - so certainly in public as you do is certainly forbidden.

Furthermore, Tznius B'Halacha says that a man is not allowed to touch his wife at all even in private except bshaas tashmish so your behavior in public is certainly wrong - and you are ruining your children by doing so in front of them.

tzniuswasnothispoint said...

It is obvious the preceding sarcastic comment is intended to muddle a vigorous point that was made, that the commenter didn't like hearing.

I believe he made up those sources, especially the last one.

BrooklynWolf said...

Knowing what you now know the Rama says about displaying chibah in public, can you honestly state that you do not need to ask a shaila if it is permissible to hold your spouses hand in public?

I can honestly state that I might need to ask a shaila if I want to do something as intimate as running my hands through my wife's hair (or something more intimate) in public.

The Wolf

tzniusaboveall said...

My point was not sarcastic. It was to further the point that hand-holding in public is assur.

BrooklynWolf said...

Joseph is absolutely right. The Shaarei Rachamim (25:6) clearly states that you're not allowed to walk next to your wife in public, let alone holding hands. The Manhigai Anshei HaTorah (perek 3) says that one is not allowed to use terms of endearment ("honey, dear, etc.) even in private - so certainly in public as you do is certainly forbidden.

Furthermore, Tznius B'Halacha says that a man is not allowed to touch his wife at all even in private except bshaas tashmish so your behavior in public is certainly wrong - and you are ruining your children by doing so in front of them.


If that's the way you want to live your life, all the more power to you. Just don't impose your chumros on me.

The Wolf

Joseph said...

"I can honestly state that I might need to ask a shaila if I want to do something as intimate as running my hands through my wife's hair (or something more intimate) in public."

Why do you need to ask a shaila about that?

The answer is stated explicitly in SA as discussed above.

You told us earlier that you do not need to ask a shaila on the obvious.

Or does a shaila only have to be asked when you want a loophole for something?

And when you already decided you want to do something, then what's there to ask? You already decided, after all.

Off the Derech said...

Joseph: Why don't you just piss off?

Joseph said...

OTD: Come back on the derech and I'll listen to your comments. Until then...

BrooklynWolf said...

A Shaila needs to be asked whenever I have a concern that something might be forbidden or if extenuating cirucmstances may require a loophole. I have asked both type of shailos to my rav in the last week.

I obviously don't ask a shaila when I don't have a havah amina that something might be forbidden. I'm not convinced that something as innocuous as hand-holding is forbidden by the Rema -- even if the Rema's statement is standard halacha (which, as a "yesh omrim" is not so clear).

I think we've both made our points Joseph, and, at this point must simply agree to disagree. I doubt that I'll be changing your mind and I doubt you'll be changing mind.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

OTD -- I've warned you about playing nice before. If you have a relevant point to make about the argument, then do so. Otherwise, please either contribute constructively or just keep out.

The Wolf

onthederech said...

Okay, I'm back on...

tzniusaboveall said...

Wolf,

How about just living your life in halacha like the Torah requires you to, instead of just the way you want to. Just because you want to indulge your lust-filled fantasies in public that doesnt make it right.

Joseph said...

Wolf, I won't belabor the point anymore after this, other than conclude by stating I think you must realize that you aren't being intellectually honest with yourself, when after knowing the aforementioned Rama, you still state "I don't have a havah amina that something might be forbidden."

BrooklynWolf said...

Wolf, I won't belabor the point anymore after this, other than conclude by stating I think you must realize that you aren't being intellectually honest with yourself

That's fine... you're free to come to that conclusion. I believe you're wrong, but that's another issue that I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree about. :)

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

How about just living your life in halacha like the Torah requires you to, instead of just the way you want to.

I do live my life the way the Torah requires me to. It's just not the way *you think* the Torah requires me to.

Just because you want to indulge your lust-filled fantasies in public that doesnt make it right.

If you think that hand-holding in public is a "lust filled fantasy" then you are definitely have different ideas about women then I do... and probably 99% of Orthodox Jews.

The Wolf

Aaron S. said...

Wolf: Is it at all possible you are afraid of the Mrs.' reaction were you to tell her "honey, I just learnt this new Rema, so I asked a shaila and the Rov said we can not go hand-holding in the street" ?

Perhaps your fear is an overreaction?

tzniusaboveall said...

Well, Wolf, I see that you can't respond to my posts. So, are you going to follow halacha now, or are you going to continue in your lust-filled orgies when you walk down the street?

Mike S. said...

I really hate "If they are happy" excuse. It has been used to defend the ignorant lifestyle of chassidim/ultra frum who do not know anything about outside world and therefor don't know what they are missing. I heard this excuse used to justify poverty in Bangladesh, if these people are happy without getting electricity on regular basis or good food or regular health care who are we to judge. They are happy after all.

The problem with that statement, to my mind, is to assume that the couple in question is ignorant that one could spend more time with a spouse, or unable to imagine doing so. Frankly, unless they are brain damaged, I find that hard to accept. I am sure that they are quite aware that spouses can spend more time together; I am sure they even know other members of the kollel who do so. They have made a different choice; it certainly isn't one I would pick, but I don't have to live with it either.


For two periods early in our marriage, my wife and I lived on opposite coasts for a few months as we were pursuing our education and couldn't get our schedules aligned easily. I am sure others would have chosen differently; it worked for us. I would have been quite insulted (and would be so even 30 years later) at the suggestion that we had made the choice out of ignorance or stupidity. Adults make choices about their lives; choices that have serious consequences and that others will not necessarily approve of.

mlevin said...

Mike S. - It was discussed more in depth on FS's blog. Let me make two corrections to what you were saying.
1. The living apart choice both you and your wife made were on temporary bases. You did not intent for it to be a life long situation. Life happens, no one is disputing it.

2. Schools today are promoting this separate lifestyle. My daughter's old principal 4 years ago colored it as the best thing ever, this way he is out of her hair, and doesn't bother her. Since then I was hearing more and more people promoting it, as there is more chance of keeping marriages intact, less fighting and etc.

3.Also, a romantic relationship between a husband and a wife is discouraged and dismissed as goyish. Girls and boys are advised not to talk about personal stuff on dates or they could get attached to each other before the engagement.

So, yes, while they theoretically acknowledge that such marriages exist, they fully disregard them as unimportant. Just like I'm sure people in Bangladesh heard of 24 hours of electrical supply that meets all of the family's demands, but they look at reality and see it as wishful thinking and continue being happy in their limited life.