Making Marriage Work
By Arthur Rosen
Have you ever noticed that everyone seems to be having marital problems? There are many divorces in the once bastion of marriage, the Orthodox world. In the secular world it appears that people just stopped marrying because the odds are against them having a happy and lasting marriage are too great. Instead they seem to find a partner and live together for a few years, split, and then find someone new.
What happened? Why is marriage becoming such a difficult test and in a relative easy time a time when we have so much leisure to enjoy life, a time when we have so little back breaking chores to contend with, compare this to our grandparents (who by the way lived together until death did them apart) who had a much more difficult life both in physical amenities and in lack of leisure time. So the question is why is our generation with its many niceties of life so plagued with marital problems.
Let us do a small bit of analysis and we shall see that most marriages are made up of certain types of people. First of all there is the really great person meaning that he/she is a giver 100%, a helper, a sympathizer, a person with a cheerful disposition even when everything goes wrong. These types are unfortunately few. Then there is the grump type, the lump, the person who is grouchy even if he/she got plenty of sleep and food. A bitter complainer about everything because all is so unfair and he/she will immediately point it out. This type of person may even have had psychological help but it did not help; they are always bending the truth, not really helpful, contrary and down right irritable.
The third type of person is the in-between type sometimes up and sometimes down, generally hard working but can be lazy on occasion. This is the average or normal person a person with many good habits and can be helpful, but sometimes can be downright rude and negative. Most people are in this category.
If you haven't noticed, we can categorize most marriages as being between a man and a woman. Therefore we will get some type of mix between one of the above mentioned three types on the male side married to one of those categories on the female side.
Let us face it if we have two splendid people from the first category, the really great person, then this is a model marriage. The problem is that there are very few of these types out there. On the other hand if the marriage is between two of the lumpy grumpy people in the last category, the marriage was doomed from the day one there is nothing to do or say for a marriage of two people who do not know how to behave or relate. They don't last married long and if they do it is a most unpleasant marriage.
Marriage between the great person and the average person will usually be successful. Why because the truly great person will compensate for the lackings of the average person. The great person gives the marriage the stability because he/she is a great person and the average person's lackings are overlooked.
There remain only two more types: the marriage between the grumpy lumpy type to the average person or to a great person and the marriage between two average people. Now marriage to a grumpy lumpy person is a hard manner it requires bending over backward and only the truly great person can put up with the crap that is required to endure (and that is the correct word, endure) a marriage together. Most normal people get fed up and realize it is hopeless and make the decision to either stay or leave and suffer. But the truly great person and truly horrendous person are rarities.
The most common marriage is between two normal people people with some great points to their character and sometimes some not so great points. But generally the normal person is an up person, a positive person, a person who can deal with the problems that the world has given him. This is the great majority of people and the great majority of marriages. Now let us understand why these marriages have been going bad.
The Torah states that "man shall leave his parents and cling to his wife and become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24) It is imperative that man not just mate (have sex) but become a unity with his wife. They must no longer think of themselves as you and me, but rather us. Once two separate individuals decide to marry, they must shed the 'I' part of their psyche and instead begin to refer to themselves as 'we'. What shall we do? What shall we buy? What is best for us? Once the frame of reference begins to shift and the couple begin to see themselves not as two separate and individual people living together, but as one entity a couple (similar to a corporate entity) then they are a unity for they are not looking out for the good (pleasure) of only one person but of the two, but what is best for both, for the family.
When this type of thinking prevails in the home, each person realizes that the other is not out for him/herself. Trust begins to build up and even though a grumpy day may come, the other is willing to forgive it, since he/she knows that the marriage is sound and the other person is basically good.
It is only when marriage is not a ground for two becoming one, for creating a family, but an arena in which one person sees him/herself as getting a full time maid/butler, that the other is only there to fulfill his/her need for pleasure, then that marriage is turning sour. Marriage was made for being one with another, becoming a family, being one, and seeking to find the best for the family and not for the individual. It is unfortunate that in today's pleasure seeking hedonistic society, where seeking personal pleasure has become an unfortunate part of life, that this very self-indulging social value has been imported into the holy ground of the Jewish family. It is a grave mistake to believe that a person can maintain this hedonistic value and still have a good relationship with a spouse or a child. Once the sole purpose of an individual is to gather in all of the pleasure for him/herself there is no room for the spouse except as one who is willing to give pleasure.
It is appropriate for those who desire a proper family life to know and consider the evils that abound in the modern society in the guise of enlightened social values. They loose values are as foul as the sewer and will ruin an average person together with his/her marriage. It is very important to close out the despicable influence of the motion picture, the television, and the news media and fill it with the words of Torah. Only homes in which traditional Jewish values are respected with reproduce children who will be capable of having warm relationships with others.
from the Februrary 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine