A recent Gemara from the Daf Yomi (Moded Kattan 7b) discusses in what situations a Cohen would inspect a metzora on Chol Hamoed. The deciding factor is will it result in an improvement of his situation instead of a worsening. When a metzora is declared definitely afflicted with Tzoraas by the Cohen, he must leave the Jewish camp and be in isolation, however he is still permitted to engage in marital relations. Once he is declared by the Cohen that he is healed, he then must begin a seven day process of purification during which he is allowed to rejoin the camp but forbidden to have marital relations. The Gemara discusses a difference of opinion about whether a Cohen can examine a metzora who is in isolation. On the one hand he stands to benefit from returning back to his friends, on the other hand, if he is declared healed it will begin a process of separation from his wife.  The Gemara tells us the dispute depends on what is more important, a connection with friends or sexual relations with his wife.


This is an interesting idea, as I believe couples work out boundaries about friendship differently. Some couples are focused on making the husband and wife relationship as primary, even to the point of trying to be best friends. Other couples see marriage as a separate plane, and still pursue friendships, often having a ”boys night out” or a “girls night out,” allowing friends to fill a distinct emotional space.


Some would argue that a spouse cannot usually be a buddy. There are different expectations and responsibilities. There are also couples who have such different interests and hobbies that they feel they need friends to fill in that gap. If one spouse likes classical music and the other poker, it is going to be challenging to try to share in each other’s activities.


Personally, I am a believer that you should strive to make your spouse into your best friend. I say this on good authority: Most people who know my wife and I would agree we are about as opposite as day and night. Even if you do have different tastes and entertainment needs, I believe each should take turns trying to join in the other person’s interests, with an open mind and without resentment. It is reasonable to suppose that spouses who spend more positive time together tend to feel closer and more in love.


Couples who have different hobbies and interests can get along well, so long as they feel their spouse supports and cares about their interests.  In other words, a rebetzin type could theoretically be happily married to a successful real estate tycoon, so long as they both respect each other and share in their successes and failures.  At the end of the day, literally and figuratively, if she can share how amazinit was to teach her 9th graders a Ramban on Chumash, and he can share about a successful deal he pulled off, they will be fine if they rejoice in the other’s accomplishments as well as empathize with their challenges. It is not about the actual shared interest, it is about respecting and sharing goals.  It may be ideal to have some common goals, but not required.  Common values are more critical.  For example, both the tycoon and the rebetzin may share common values that they can connect with, such as: Hard work, Chessed, Integrity, Bringing out the Best in People.  Those values can be expressed in both of their professions, or not.  It is not the profession that makes the value, but rather the value that dictates the behavior within the profession.


On the other hand, I also see nothing wrong with spouses having separate time with friends and deep friendships outside of the marriage, so long as it does not become a crutch to fill in and avoid difficulties in the marriage relationship.  When you turn your friends because your marriage is on a ventilator, it may be a good short-term coping strategy, but you also need a cure.


Simcha Feuerman maintains a private practice in Brooklyn, Queens and Boca Raton where he specializes in High Conflict couples and families.  He also has a daily blog and video discussing psychology and the daf yomi.


Photo by Romina Ahmadpour on Unsplash