A Ruby ORM for RethinkDB



NoBrainer supports belongs_to and has_many associations.

NoBrainer is different from other ORMs: has_many associations are not writable because writable has_many associations are leaky abstractions and provide hard to understand semantics. Therefore there is no has_and_belongs_to associations.

Remember that NoBrainer never saves a model instance under the covers.

In this section, the owner refers to the model where the association is declared, and the target refers to the other side of the association.

belongs_to Association

The belongs_to syntax is the following: belongs_to :target, options

The following describes the different options belongs_to accepts:

  • :primary_key: the primary key to use on the target. Defaults to :id.
  • :foreign_key: the foreign key to use. Defaults to #{target_name}_#{primary_key}.
  • :foreign_key_as: the alias for the foreign key. Defaults to nil.
  • :class_name: the target class name. Defaults to Target.
  • :index: when true, the foreign key field gets an index declared to speed to the corresponding has_many association. Defaults to nil.
  • :validates: passes a validation to target, and not target_id. Useful to provide a presence validation.
  • :required: a shorthand for :validates => { :presence => true }.
  • :uniq (or :unique): a shorthand to specify a uniquness validation on the foreign key.

The following describes the behavior of belongs_to associations:

  • looks up the target instance by performing Target.find(owner.foreign_key). The result is cached regardless if the target is found or not.
  • sets owner.foreign_key = value.primary_key, and caches the value.
  • owner.foreign_key=(value) sets the foreign key and kills the target cache.

NoBrainer will always insert an after_validation callback to check that if there is a target set, then it must be persisted?. If the target is not persisted, NoBrainer will raise a NoBrainer::Error::AssociationNotPersisted exception.

You can read more about how presence validations are handled on belongs_to associations in the validations section.

has_many Association

The has_many syntax is the following: has_many :targets, options

The following describes the different options has_many accepts:

  • :primary_key: the primary key to use. Defaults to the owner’s primary key.
  • :foreign_key: the foreign key that the targets use. Defaults to #{owner_name}_#{primary_key}.
  • :class_name: the targets class name. Defaults to Target.
  • :dependent: configure the destroy behavior further explained below. Defaults to nil.
  • :through: See the has_many through association below.
  • :scope: A lambda that evaluates to a criteria which gets applied to the query. This lambda is evaluated in the context of the Target class, which means that using named scoped defined on Target is possible.

The dependent option tells what to do when destroying an owner that has many targets with a before_destroy callback. The different dependent values are:

  • nil: do nothing
  • :destroy: destroy_all the targets.
  • :delete: delete_all the targets.
  • :nullify: update_all the targets’ foreign keys to nil.
  • :restrict: raises a NoBrainer::Error::ChildrenExist if a target still exists.

When performing the dependent destroy logic, the targets criteria is run unscoped (without the any declared default_scope).

The following describes the behavior of has_many associations:

  • The has_many association is read only. NoBrainer makes no attempts whatsoever in collecting targets as they get created with Target.create(). This also mean that you cannot use Rather, you should use Comment.create(:post => post) and have a presence validation on post.

  • Loading targets through instance.targets will automatically set their matching belongs_to associations to instance, with or without eager loading.

  • instance.targets returns the criteria Target.where(foreign_key => owner.primary_key), which is cached. This means that you will always get the same instance of criteria on a given instance, which will cache enumerated documents. When a custom :scope is defined, the custom scope is evaluated in the context of Target and added to the criteria. Note that using unscoped has no effect on the custom scope.

has_many associations leverage the cache, illustrated with the following example. You can read more about the caching behavior in the caching section.

class Post
  include NoBrainer::Document
  has_many :comments

class Comment
  include NoBrainer::Document
  belongs_to :post

post = Post.create
post.comments.to_a # returns []
Comment.create(:post => post)
post.comments.to_a # still returns [], because the enumerator has already
                   # been invoked, and thus the comments are cached.
post.comments.to_a # contains a comment.

has_many through Association

The has_many syntax is the following: has_many :targets, :through => :association. targets must be a defined association on the through association. You may go through any associations. No other options are supported.

The implementation of has_many through is essentially a thin wrapper around the eager loading functionality, which implies that reading a has_many through association will not yield a criteria, but a plain unmodifiable array which gets cached.

The following show an example of using a has_many through association:

class Author
  include NoBrainer::Document
  has_many :posts
  has_many :comments, :through => :posts

class Post
  include NoBrainer::Document
  belongs_to :author
  has_many :comments

class Comment
  include NoBrainer::Document
  belongs_to :post

author = Author.create
post = Post.create(:author => author)
2.times { Comment.create(:post => post) }
author.comments # returns the two comments

has_and_belongs_to_many Association

NoBrainer will never support such association. Nevertheless, you may create your own join table as such:

class Patient
  include NoBrainer::Document
  has_many :appointments
  has_many :physicians, :through => :appointments

class Appointment
  include NoBrainer::Document
  belongs_to :patient
  belongs_to :physician

class Physician
  include NoBrainer::Document
  has_many :appointments
  has_many :patients, :through => :appointments

has_one Association

The has_one association is a has_many with the following differences:

  • The target name is assumed to be singular instead of plural.
  • Reading the target of a has_one association returns a single document, unlike a has_many which returns an array of documents. Nevertheless, NoBrainer will emit warnings if your association has more than one element.

Note that the dependent option behaves like the has_many association one. In other words, all the targets matching the foreign key of the owner will be subject to the destroy behavior, not just the first one.

The has_one through association follow the same rules as the has_many through association.


This will never be implemented since has_many associations are read only. This sort of feature belongs in a separate gem anyway because it’s a crazy feature.


You can retrieve the association declarations with Model.association_metadata. It returns a hash of the form {target_name => metadata_instance}. Association instances can be retrieved on a model instance with model_instance.associations[metadata_instance].