You may find it strange that I am writing to you, rabbi. You know I’m not very involved in Jewish life. I’m spiritual, but not religious. I’m turning to you because you know my boyfriend well. We’ve been together for so long and he still won’t commit. He says our relationship is fine as it is and we don’t need to be married. Maybe you can give him a little nudge and explain that a relationship needs commitment to be real?

Answer

I would be glad to try and bring him around. You are a great couple and he would be a fool to lose you. But I must say, you can't blame him for not committing. You are doing the exact same thing.

When he says, “I love you, but I don't want to marry you,” it means he wants the benefits without the obligations. He likes the feeling of being in a relationship, but doesn't want the commitment that marriage demands.

It sounds great, which is why more and more people are choosing love without marriage. But what it really means is he is stuck in himself. He is looking at what he can gain from the relationship, but isn’t willing to make himself vulnerable and put himself out for it. That’s not love, that’s convenience. I would tell him, “If you really mean it when you say ‘I love you,’ then commit. Do it for her.”

That’s my speech to your boyfriend. But I could give you the same speech.

When you say you are spiritual but not religious, you sound exactly like him. You are open to spirituality, but not open to the discipline of religion. It’s like saying to G‑d, “I love You, but I’m not ready to commit to You. I will do what feels good to me, but it has to be on my terms. My meditations, my fixing the world, my way. Just don’t ask me to do things Your way.”

True spirituality is not about feeling good; it’s about doing good, no matter how you feel. You aren’t limiting yourself when you commit to observing the Divine commandments; you’re opening yourself up to the infinite, transcending your limits, and committing to a higher purpose. There can be nothing more liberating.

Getting married doesn’t limit you either. It expands you, because your life isn’t just about you anymore. By committing, you are making yourself vulnerable, answerable to another person. What you do matters to someone else. That is at once humbling and exhilarating.

So here’s the deal: I’ll talk to your boyfriend, and explain to him the beauty of a committed relationship. And you back me up as a living example of just that, by doing a mitzvah and committing to G‑d. Maybe he will do it for you if you do it for Him.