One of the most painful topics to many people in our generation is the topic of marital discord. In Israel, one out of every three couples makes its way to the courthouse, while many others suffer in silence. How many couples are happily and peacefully married?
We can try to form several conjectures in an effort to find the cause of this dilemma, but there is no question that the main cause lies in the misinterpretation of the essence of marriage, which is based on the original Divine plan, and the misconception of what a true partnership in marriage is all about.
After all, it is clear that if the two partners try situating themselves in the same domain, they will end up fighting and have no chance of success. How then, did the Divine wisdom intend for two people to run one household? Isn’t this arrangement bound to fail?
We will examine the Divine plan, which, if implemented correctly, offers a wonderful life of true partnership in marriage.
Contrary to the popular belief that a failed marriage is normal and a successful one is not, this study substantiates the fact that happiness and success in marriage is the norm, provided that the couple institutes the Divine plan so that each side may run his or her kingdom in peace. All of this can be achieved through a mutual alliance that ultimately leads to wholeness and completion.
The Road to a Happy Marriage
It’s quite obvious that two heads of state cannot effectively manage one government, as it will quickly collapse. On the other hand, when two ministers, such as the foreign minister and the minister of the interior, work together in the same government, not only are they capable of operating as a team, but their joint efforts are critical for the integrity of the government. Both ministers, each in his particular area, create the wholeness of the government. One takes care of foreign affairs, while the other one handles domestic policy. Therefore, only the most qualified candidates are to be chosen for the job.
The foreign minister must be someone who is highly connected with the leaders of the world, proficient in languages, and a shrewd diplomat. The minister of the interior must understand the needs of the people, maintaining regular contact with city mayors, and have a keen sense for budgeting and managing the various districts.
It is needless to say that if the country they are running is important to both ministers, each one will readily assist his partner whenever necessary and possible.
This is exactly the case in our situation. When a husband and wife form a partnership on the premise that their roles are identical—two heads of state leading one nation—they can be sure they are setting themselves up for disaster. The Midrash says, “Two kings cannot share one crown.” Clearly then, the Creator of the world would not have created a structure with two people trying to fill the same position during the same shift. This is why the two partners can never be equal—neither physically nor mentally.
Even animals have received the tools they need in order to be functional. For example, the eyes of herbivores, such as deer, zebras, etc., are on either side of their heads, so they can be on the lookout for predators while their heads are bent down toward the ground when eating. However, the eyes of predators such as lions and tigers are located at the front of the head in order for them to be able to accurately zero in on their prey. Herbivores have two rows of molars that help them effectively chew grass, so their heads are elongated. Carnivores have sharp canines for tearing apart meat. Since they do not require as many molars, their heads are rounder. This idea is found in all of nature.
If the various elements of the world received such tools, then man, the crown jewel of creation, had certainly received the physical tools necessary for him to function properly. The male received the tools necessary for him, and the female, the tools necessary for her. In order for the family nest (the home) to operate in the most optimal way, both foreign and domestic aspects have to work concurrently. One side must be soft and flexible, with an esthetic sense for the internal affairs of the household, while the other side must exercise strength and power toward matters associated with the harsh physical efforts of earning a living and protecting the home.
Therefore, the Divine wisdom created one human out of two parts; a masculine part that is tough and bold, and a feminine part that is gentle and sensitive. Both of these parts form a complete vessel called man, in the same way that a pot refers to one complete vessel made up of two parts. This isn’t a mere metaphorical illustration; it is a concrete reality that is clearly expressed by the Creator in the verse dealing with the creation of man: “He created them male and female. He blessed them and called their name—man.” The wording of this verse clearly teaches that the two partners are together called man. From here we can deduce that as long as a person remains unmarried, he is referred to as half a man. As our sages write in the Talmud, “A man without a woman is not called ‘man.’”
This demonstrates the depth of the Divine wisdom with regard to the structure of the couple’s relationship within the family nest. Instead of holding two equal positions as “heads of state,” which is a recipe for disaster, they act as two ministers in charge of separate but interdependent areas. They are, however, willing to assist one another whenever necessary, even though they are not directly appointed to their partner’s position.
For this reason, both the physical and spiritual attributes of man are designed in a way that’s compatible with the external activities and policies outside the home. A man’s body is strong, his voice is deep, his speech is short and authoritative, and his character is rigid. These features prepare him for his role as foreign minister. He carries the burden of earning a living and defending the family nest. The structure and character of the woman is better suited for the activities and affairs taking place within the household. Her body is gentle, her voice is soft, and she is esthetically inclined. She is more considerate, sensitive, flexible, and open to change. Her qualities make her a perfect candidate for the role of minister of the interior. However, it is clear that if one side needs help in his area, the other side will eagerly come to its aid, as they are both capable of handling each other’s jobs to a certain extent and they both strive for the integrity of their home.
For this reason, some of today’s women carry the burden of earning a living, even though the duty had always been intended for the man. However, due to the high cost of living these days, with expenses such as electricity, phone, gas, car insurance, and maintenance that the premodern generations never had, we are forced to take on different roles from time to time. This is true for the man as well, as he must help his wife with her household duties whenever necessary. But both sides have to be aware of their unique roles and abilities, and relate to one another’s character with the appropriate level of sensitivity.
This correct and natural approach to marriage by the two partners creates a constant sense of true joy and harmony between them. When a person understands the Divine plan correctly, he’ll see that there are many implications regarding the appreciation each side must have for the other. When each party recognizes the tools his or her partner was given to build a home suitable for both of them, and understands that these unique tools demand the proper recognition, they will begin relating to each other according to the other’s needs and not according to their own.
Couples are not to be viewed as two identical people handling the same set of duties within the family unit, but rather two distinct individuals created as male and female equipped with the necessary qualities to handle the full range of responsibilities to a certain degree, but more specifically, to fill each of their respective positions in a way that is unique only to them.
They can be thought of as two halves forming one whole body that runs the family domain in perfect harmony.
They’ll also understand that being unequal does not mean being inferior. And the preoccupation people have these days with equating women to men is only appropriate and justifiable with regard to the fight against the denigration and exploitation of women either at home or in the workplace, but none of these efforts have the power to transform a woman into a man, and the attempt to create such a notion belittles the dignity of the woman to such a degree where it implies that a woman is not perfect until she becomes a man.
A couple that internalizes these ideas will be able to pave the way towards a highly successful family life with true, long lasting peace and harmony. Once everything we’ve discussed is processed and analyzed in the hearts and minds of the partners, and they can define the exact needs of their spouse according to his or her character and role in the family nest, they will be able to provide the emotional needs that they each require. This way, both partners will be fully and consistently satisfied, enjoying a life that is both beautiful and praiseworthy.
It is important to emphasize that there is no conflict of interest when a person gives his partner what he or she needs, on the contrary, the needs he fulfills are perfectly suited for his nature. This makes it especially easy and gratifying for him to provide.
Notes and Sources
 Bereishit 5:2.
 Yevamot 63a.
Adapted from “The Keys to Life” by Rabbi Zamir Cohen