Did I Make a Mistake By Marrying this Person?
While matches are made in heaven, married life is a very earthly matter.
In Europe, two great Chassidic rabbis once decided to make a match between their children and arranged for them to meet. The girl’s father told his daughter all about the proposed groom, omitting one detail. The moment the prospective bride-to-be saw the prospective groom, she burst into tears. Maybe he was all her father had claimed - kind, brilliant, and pious - but he also had an obvious limp. Without even speaking to him, the girl refused to consider the proposal. The young man, however, insisted on speaking with her. Gently, he told her, "Forty days before I was conceived, a heavenly voice announced whom I would marry. I saw a vision of my bride. She would be a wonderful, kind person, with only one defect - she would have an obvious limp. I was filled with such sorrow when I saw the life of suffering she would endure that I cried and prayed that would remove the burden from her and instead give me the defect.”
Then, looking intently at his prospective bride, he whispered, "Thank G-d, my prayers were answered.”
With new insight, the girl consented to the marriage, and her wedding was arranged with great joy. (Adapted from Souled by Hanoch Teller.)
This is not the kind of story that most of us could tell about our courtship experience. We are probably not on such a lofty spiritual plane to remember the visions that we had when we were only souls, not yet clothed in bodies. Therefore we are not able to tell such a tale to our intended spouses. But we are able to identify with the feeling of shock experienced by the girl in the story. We may experience a similar feeling each time we recognize another one of the vast differences between ourselves and our husbands.
Five months after her wedding, Esther was in tears. She was sure she had made a grave mistake in marrying her husband. By nature, she was a very neat and tidy person. She liked everything to be in its proper place. Her husband, however, left his clothes strewn all over — his socks on the floor, his coat on the couch, his hat on the dish rack. Initially she was surprised, then dismayed, then agitated. As the days went by, she was often angry. She could no longer stand her husband’s untidiness. And after he traipsed across the newly washed floor, without even thinking of taking his muddy shoes, she was convinced that she had married the wrong man.
She consulted the Rabbi’s wife with whom she had studied about Jewish marriage before her wedding. After telling her all her woes, she was taken aback by the woman’s reaction. "Terrific! exclaimed Mrs. Kaye. "What is so terrific about this? Esther asked, bewildered. "Well, don’t you see? Now you have found out one of your differences. So with this recognition in mind, you are one step closer to working out a plan of action for how to handle this very real difference.
A month after the wedding...
The alarm goes off. He rolls over and doesn’t get up on time.
Her idea of "making dinner" is ordering in from a fast-food restaurant.
His personal hygiene needs radical improvement.
She can’t detach her ear from the phone.
He yawns and turns to read the paper when she finally opens her heart to him.
Her moodiness and critical remarks are driving him crazy. They are both horrified.
While marriages are made in heaven, married life is very much a down-to-earth experience.
Do the conflicts and tension catch us by surprise? Of course they do. Our marriages do not measure up to the idealized visions we had of "merging" with our other halves, and we’re disappointed. It’s a far cry from the images we dreamed of as brides-to-be. We had managed to get by just fine in life before, though we may have left our stockings strewn on the floor and we may have had a tendency to interrupt people when we became excited, habits we were sure he would consider charming, or at least have the decency to overlook. But he isn’t overlooking. He’s getting impatient and annoyed. And so are we - as we discover more and more of the peculiar aspects of his character.
"It’s a mistake!" We quickly fear. But what we need to keep remembering is:"G-d made this match. He put the two of us together. And He doesn’t make mistakes.” It’s a cosmic thought that can produce cosmic changes.
A couple, after all, is made up of two different people — not two identical twins. "He is the one,” we need to tell ourselves. ”The challenge was designed, tailored, and then personally handed to me by G-d.”
Marriage involves recognizing our many down-to-earth differences — getting clarity about the distinctions between us. Because, as we know, we can’t try to fit two puzzle pieces together well if we don’t see clearly what each puzzle piece really looks like.
Let’s try replacing our habitual doubts with accurate, affirmative statements as quickly as we possibly can. If every time we missed a bus we debated whether or not we were living in the right neighborhood or working in the right profession, our energy would get sapped pretty fast, unnecessarily.
The next time we’re feeling great, and we’re all set to make our marriages work, and exactly then our husband goes and spoils the whole atmosphere by complaining about our greasy plates again, let’s take a good deep breath and consider. Courtship is a process in which two people construct masks to attract the other. When the masks come off, the marriage starts. Right now the masks are falling off with amazing rapidity. But instead of throwing up our hands in despair, let’s clap our hands in celebration. Now our real life’s work can begin!
Each spouse acts as a mirror to the other. Within marriage we possess a safe and also a holy framework to see ourselves honestly and do the fixing that we may have been putting off for years. The incompatibilities we experience between the two of us are not a sign that the marriage was a complete error. Rather, they indicate what married life is for — the long, hard work required to produce a masterpiece. That’s the reason we two were put together.
Our husband may be lame, or he may be vain. He may be short-tempered, or maybe just plain short. He may be too quiet or too loud, too stingy or too wasteful, or possessed of any of a host of other shortcomings. Nevertheless, as hard as it may seem to believe right at this moment, he is the one destined to bring out our best.
We women, too (believe it or not), have our own shortcomings — many of which we may not even be aware of. But we still bring them along with us into a marriage. Sometimes, however, what an irate marriage partner perceives as a flaw in the other is actually no more than a different attitude.
The fact is that the two halves of one couple come from different homes and environments. They have different personalities, capabilities, experiences, strengths, and weaknesses. These may be the cause of many difficulties.
Adapted from "Two Halves Of A Whole" by Rabbi Yirmiyohu & Tehilla Abramov. Available at www.jewishfamily.org