I can't really thank you ladies enough for sending me so many encouraging and thought-provoking emails. One such email echoed a question about which I have been wondering on my own: what do we do when our loved ones act in sharp contradiction with our own conviction, and with what we believe is the best for them? Do we step aside? Do we intervene, how much, and in what way? How do we do the right thing without arrogant self-righteousness, and how can we be soft and loving without compromising our beliefs?
"My friend is moving in with her boyfriend of several years," - writes one of my readers, - "and expects me to be happy and excited for her. What do I say?"
I think we've all dealt with similar situations, especially when we are talking about someone we love and don't want to hurt, and at the same time we want the best for them so we feel an obligation to be truthful about what we really think.
Sometimes, however soft and loving we try to be, the other side may get very defensive. Usually this is because, deep in their heart, they know they aren't doing the right thing - and when their loved ones turn into living, walking and talking conscience, anger may flare up. And sometimes, confrontation can hardly be avoided.
I had to deal with this when a friend of mine was planning her wedding, and decided to have a reformed "Jewish" ceremony. That was because she had some difficulties in proving her ancestry to the rabbinical court, and simply gave up, out of pride and misunderstanding the court's intentions. So I tried, gently and lovingly, to tell her that if she wants a Jewish wedding (and I knew she did), she should stand up, take an extra effort to prove she's Jewish, and have an authentic ceremony which will link her and any future children to the Jewish people for all generations to come. A watered-down, very much compromised pseudo-Jewish ritual would only bear a weak resemblance to what she wished, and would not bear any real significance by Jewish Law.
Since I wanted to be tactful, and keep that balance between telling the truth but avoiding hurtful words, I didn't mention the word "sacrilege" at that point, though it was on my tongue all the time, remembering that the so-called "rabbi" who was to conduct her ceremony, would marry not only couples whose Jewishness was not certain - but also gay and lesbian "couples" (which is an outright abomination in the eyes of God).
Things took a rapid turn for the worse when she asked me to actively participate in her ceremony (as one of the confirming witnesses), which I of course couldn't do, because my participation would mean that I see the ceremony as legitimate and equal to a real wedding by Law of Moses and Israel. With an aching heart, I was forced to tell her that I simply couldn't do that. Performing in such a ceremony is forbidden.
She didn't speak to me for almost a year, until I called her before my wedding and sent her an invitation. She came and we did the wildest dancing together - at the women's separate section, of course. :-)
So where am I getting with this? Our friends expect us to be happy for them, and rarely want to hear less-than-encouraging words about their choices. Sometimes we have no choice but to remain mute - sometimes we gather our courage and speak up.
You could talk to your friend, doing your best to speak lovingly and in a non-judgmental way. If she thinks that's the "next step" in their relationship, ask her, how does she see their relationship developing from there? Marriage and children? Have they ever discussed that? And in what time frame? I think that if you can make her ask these questions, it will be more effective.
Common sense and statistics show that living together is not a good preparation for marriage; neither is it a "step" towards marriage. All too often, it's a convenient arrangement for one of the parties (usually, the man), who enjoys the comforts of home life without the commitment of marriage. The woman, who at first was certain a proposal is just around the corner, slowly starts to realize she is as far from "the next step" as she was before moving in with her boyfriend - if not further. Very often living together prior to marriage is a dead-end for a relationship.
I think there is little you can do beside speaking to her in a way that would make her realize what her own expectations are. Right now your friend is probably excited because finally, after years and years of dating, her relationship is taking a certain change - and right now she cannot analyze the situation and see that this change might not be the expected step towards marriage and family. But after some time, she might remember your conversation and get out before it's too late, and find someone who truly wants to start a family.