Friday, September 09, 2016

A Match Made in Heaven

Image taken from Aish
One of the most difficult things to accomplish in this world is to find the person you will marry. The Gemarah tells us that finding your life’s mate is more difficult than splitting the Red (Reed) Sea. (Sotah 2a) But then it goes on to explain that this is talking about a second marriage, The first marriage is decreed in Heaven 40 days before the formation of the embryo (Yitziras HaVlad). This is commonly referred to as finding your Bashert (predestined marriage partner).

I am of a mind to see the first interpretation being just as accurate. Because even though a match is surely made in Heaven, it is not so easy for two people predestined to marry each other to actually find each other. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes people get married and get divorced right away. In no way was that marriage Bashert. I have seen it happen too many times. How is that possible? Because the mates that chose each other were not the actual ones made in Heaven.

I believe that the increasing numbers of divorce in our day – even among Orhtodox Jewish couples serves as an impediment to getting married. Even if only subconcioulsy. A lot of young people who are dating - simply do not want to ‘settle’.

Of course not. Why should they? Young people realize that the decision they make now is monumental and has life-long consequences. With so many people getting divorced – or even living in bad marriages, no one wants to take the chance on ending up like that. That is as it should be. One must be careful about whom they marry.

Most young people are looking for their soul-mates. That is what a match in heaven is supposed to be. Does that mean seeking perfection? No. It means seeking compatibility. Which in this case is a tall order - but a doable one. That is what the Hishtadlus (effort) should be all about when dating for marriage. I believe that if one finds a truly compatible mate - that is the one God intended for you to marry. That marriage will be a happy one.

But somehow ‘compatibale’ doesn’t sound like ‘soul-mate’. And therein lies one of the biggest impediments to marriage in my view. Too many young people think that a marriage made in Heaven is defined by perfection. Anything less will end up in a bad marriage. The problem with that is when someone seeks perfection, they will never get married.  You will never find someone that has everything you seek in a mate. There will always be things that one will not be able check off on the list of attributes they seek. Especially if that list is pretty long.

I mention this in light of an advice column at the Aish website. An accomplished young lady expresses her frustration at not being able to find her soul-mate: 
(W)hen it comes to dating, even though I try so hard and go on so many dates, I am still at square one in regards to finding my spouse. Why?
 (W)hen I go on another date and another date, I don’t get any closer to finding my husband. I just go home, bummed out, and have to start all over again! It’s like I’m going full gas in neutral.
How do I keep going when all my efforts and heartache and exhaustion go unrewarded and show no progress?
I’ve been doing this for many years – walking blindly on this road to marriage which has no end in sight. I don’t see any results, any improvement, or any sign that I’m getting closer… 
The answer given by the advice columnist was basically that she should keep trying. That she is not seeing any progress is the nature of the beast. Because there is no progress until  the moment it happens. When it does she will know it right away. Problem immediately solved. She adds that there actually is progress in the sense that she gains experience and maturity along the way that will help her.

All well and good. But what she fails to mention, in my humble opinion is that she may need to shorten her list of requirements in a mate - if it is a long one. She should list only those attributes that are essential. Attributes that will make them truly compatible. And discard those that are relatively trivial.

What kind of things should one seek in a mate that are essential to a successful, happy marriage? That list is subjective. Everyone has their lines which cannot be crossed. So that if a date is seen to have crossed that line, they are off the table.

I do however believe that there are some things that are universal requirements for a successful marriage in all cases. I will list a few in no particular order. There may be more. But these are off the top of my head.

1.  Religious observance. It is important for a couple to be on the same page with respect to Halacha. It would be very difficult for a couple to live together if for example one partner was Shomer Shabbbos and the other was not.

2. Hashkafos should be similar. If one partner is Charedi and the other MO, if each insist on maintaining their own Hashkafos, there will inevitably be fights. Especialy when it comes how to raise children (e.g. what kind of school will they be sent to).

3. Compatible levels of education. It is important to have more or less the same level of education in both religious and secular studies. If one spouse is far superior to the other, there can be embarrassing situations down the road. This does not mean that he education and knowledge have to be identical. Far from it. It just means that you can’t have disparity that is so wide that one spouse will be embarrassed by the lack of knowledge of the other. A feeling of inferiority will surely  develop in the spouse whose knowledge is so greatly lacking. And perhaps a feeling of condescension by the konweldgeable spouse towards the unknowledgeable spouse. 

4. Midos. The character of one’s life partner matters. One should be sure they are not marrying a selfish individual that cares only for him or herself. They need to know that their future spouses are caring people. They need to find out if they are patient or if they have short tempers. They need to see how they treat their own parents (and yours - should it go that far). They need to see how they treat people in general. That is one of the things you discover when dating. One will see the character of their date in the way they respond to these situations when they arise.

5. Physical attraction. There are some people that might will say that ‘looks’ aren’t important. But they are. That character matters more is true. But if you are not physically attracted to your potential mate, you should not marry them.

6. Parental approval. This is a tough one. If I recall correctly, the Gemarah tells us that it doesn’t matter what your parents think of their child’s Shidduch choice- as long as the two of you feel you are right for each other - they may not interfere. But if one is close to their parents, disapproval will cause a tremendous strain on the relationship. I know of two many divorces that have taken place by meddling parents that did not approve of a spouse. They would bad mouth them to the point that a child actually started believing it. Or to the point where they felt they had to make a choice between a spouse and a parent.

I’m not saying that parental approval should be a deal breaker. But it should definitely be a factor.

These are six important things to consider. Other things like insisting your spouse have a sense of humor or that they are a good tennis partner; or love the reading the same books as you - are nice. But not as important. And should not be deal breakers.

This is not ‘settling’ for something less than your soul-mate. If the above conditions are more or less fulfilled - then in my view you have found your soul-mate. And from that, your love for each other will grow to immeasurable bounds