Second chance marriage

April 21st, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

I’ve been listening to your videos on YouTube and I’m so grateful for the valuable information you share.

I am a religious Jewish woman and very family-oriented. I got married at 23 which was over 2 years ago. There has been too much unsureness & insecurity & we recently got divorced.

I don’t even believe in divorce – not that it’s a religion – but basically I think there’s always something that can be done or worked on. I’d never believe that I’d go through it, & with our 1 & 1/2-year-old, but I realized so much negativity can be too much.

I’d like to be with the right person G-d willing, but aside from having a good time dating & good company how can one ensure that the person is of high value & will be lovingly there for them in the long run?

Thanks a million.

Yvonne     (name changed for privacy)

Dear Yvonne,

How can one “ensure that the person is of high value & will be lovingly there for them in the long run?”  One can’t. However, we can up the odds of entering into a positive and long-lasting marriage.

The two separate components of doing so are first, finding the best person and then second, making the union work. In God’s Biblical blueprint, neither Adam nor Eve were given choices.  God didn’t parade a choice of women before Adam like an early MIss Eden contest.  Neither did He allow Eve the option of looking at Adam and saying, “Hmm….really? That’s it?  Could You maybe show me another one?”  The emphasis in the elemental model of marriage was on what happened after the wedding rather than on the process of choosing.

Nowadays, it is not so simple; partially because to some extent, we are all greatly influenced by a deteriorated culture around us, and indeed, some of us are damaged.  For that and other reasons, choosing wisely is now an increasingly important part of the process of building a lifelong marriage.

Unfortunately, we are aware of occasions when people have been rushed into marriage by a respected rabbi or by parents. You don’t have to obey anyone urging you into a marriage about which you may still harbor doubt.  Ancient Jewish wisdom reminds us that one of the very few instances when one is exempt from obeying even parental instruction is on whom to marry. 

As much as circumstances allow, get to meet his family and observe his interactions with them.  Get to meet his friends, especially those with whom he’s been friendly for a long time.  Is he the same person with you as he is when in the company of those friends? The words he speaks about the future need to be measured against what he has done so far and how he has acted in the past. Do they match?

If all of that checks out, and the physical attraction is there, and you both share a common vision of marriage and life including the spiritual, you’ve done all you can.  From there, the emphasis moves onto the correct behavior expected from each of you in building this special new thing called your marriage.  And that is far more complex and demanding than part one.

To be sure, we’re not suggesting that we can adequately steer your marital future in these few paragraphs. 

We have great respect for the way both Jewish and Christian young people we know court in contrast to the recreational dating or worse, hooking up, that goes on in much of secular society. However, as your letter points out, meeting and marrying “within the system” is not foolproof.

As you mention, you never expected to be in this position. You saw marriage as a lifetime commitment and probably expected to emulate wonderful marriages all around you. Instead, you faced terrible disappointment. We don’t know the particulars of your marriage, so we can only deal with the future rather than the past.

Our guess is that as a divorced single mother you are facing many challenges. We would like to encourage you to meet those head-on and focus on growing as a Jewish woman and mother. Your evolving maturity will allow you to examine what your own mistakes were, both in courting and in marriage. Again, without knowing you, we can only ask if you missed red flags or, perhaps, you didn’t have as many necessary skills as you needed to deal with the realities of living with a real human being rather than the picture in your dreams. We’re not trying to place blame—however, you need to examine your own opportunities for growth in this situation before moving on. Finding a trustworthy advisor and sounding board is most helpful. We do strongly recommend that you take a look at Chana Levitan’s book, I Only Want to Get Married Once along with the rest of our Lasting Love Set.

There are even some pitfalls that abound because of being part of a religious group that values marriage. Sometimes, those of us in religious circles rely too much on the opinions of others or are so eager to join the ranks of the married that we ignore the voice inside us that is hesitating. We may have been blessedly sheltered in a way that makes us somewhat naive about the darker corners of life.

Yvonne, we hope and pray that you and your daughter become part of a thriving marriage and family that allows these difficult years to fade away. Sadly, this earthly world doesn’t supply absolute promises of success, whether in marriage, business or raising children. Along with asking for God’s help and guidance, you need to do your part to become a wise evaluator of character, a worthy mate for a wonderful man, and a woman with the fortitude to face the challenges that life will surely bring.

Looking forward to hearing good news in the future,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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13 comments

Vanessa says:

Hello Rabbi and Mrs Lapin
This is the perfect opportunity to ask a question I have been pondering after listening and re-listening to an ancient jewish wisdom episode of 2018. AJW episode titled: “being best friends forever”, 20 mins into the program Rabbi Lapin said “…. one can’t always get married…..these are in the Hands of God”. I want to be married and have my own family. How do I find out from God if marriage in His plan for my life? I sure hope it is b/c I genuinely value family relationships and am looking for this blessing in my life.

In the Christian tradition divorce and remarriage by some is seen as a violation of Gods will..in the Jewish tradition is it much the same

Susan Lapin says:

Gregg, remarriage after divorce in Judaism is subject to some specific restrictions, but forming a new marriage and family is encouraged.

Grandpa says:

I was fortunate to hit a home run the first time to the plate. 47 years of marriage, I would do it all over again. My in-laws were the best example for us and we learned very well. The Bible says to teach your children and they will teach their children. We are now passing on a Biblical Godly marriage. With God all things are possible.

Susan Lapin says:

It is a sad fact of today’s world that many young people are not exposed to Godly, joyous and long-lasting marriages. Without having a model, it is harder to believe that it is possible.

Reid Corin says:

We all hope your encouraging words for “Yvonne” leads her to a future filled with happiness and wisdom. I’m intrigued by your comment that “Ancient Jewish wisdom reminds us that one of the very few instances when one is exempt from obeying even parental instruction is on whom to marry”. Are you able to direct me to a passage in the Torah about this or to one of your programs? Shalom, Reid Corin, Cape Town, South Africa.

Reid Corin says:

I know television isn’t a priority in the Lapin household – and rightly so – bit have you perhaps watched the limited series “Unorthodox” on Netflix about the struggles of an Orthodox, New York, bride not coming to terms with her Orthodox marriage? I found the story line compelling and wonder what your thoughts on the series might be.

Susan Lapin says:

Reid, we have not watched ‘Unorthodox’ and have no plans to do so. We must correct your statement that it is about the struggles of an “Orthodox, New York…” The story is of someone who left a particular subset of a subset of a subset of Jews. It would be less of a stretch to state that a TV show like Friends gives you insight into the life of a S. Dakota farm family. Hey – they’re all American, aren’t they? This is also the story of someone who was dissatisfied (and maybe from a dysfunctional family?) so it is far from the way someone happy with that life would see it.

Lisa Beausay says:

As is usual, your advice is excellent. I would only add, due to my own unwanted and unplanned for divorce, that it’s so easy to jump quickly into another relationship since you’ve probably spent some time feeling unappreciated in the last relationship. I would advise everybody who has gone through a divorce to take some time to heal. My divorce felt like somebody ripped off one of my limbs. I almost began a new relationship almost immediately but I made myself take the next 2 years off from any male/female relationships and I never regretted that time. Looking back now had I gotten involved right away with “potential husband #2” it would have been the mistake of a lifetime.

Susan Lapin says:

You are making an excellent point, Lisa.

Terry Sterling says:

Dear Rabbi and Susan,
There were red flags and I ignored them foolishly. It was all about love (I thought) yet, after the honeymoon, I knew something wasn’t right. I made a commitment before Almighty God thinking I was marring a Godly man. All I know is that God gave me two beautiful children out of the marriage and they will succeed beyond my husband’s failings of being a good husband or father. Of course, I am not perfect and can’t be, but I have always taken care of their needs physically and spiritually. Guys can put on a false sense of being good, then you find out they were not as good as you thought.
Thanks Again For your wise words,
God Bless You!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Terry–
Thanks for writing. I am sorry to hear your marriage didn’t fulfil your hopes.
It goes without saying, I’m sorry to have to tell you, that for every guy who has “put on a false sense of being good,” there is also somewhere a girl who did the same.
Cordially
RDL

Chad says:

Thank you Rabbi Daniel and Susan for thoughtful and divinely inspired answers to life’s perplexing questions. You are both lights shining in a dark world! I don’t say this to praise you specifically, but to recognize the value of your counsel as you adhere to Devine teachings and commandments. I especially appreciate how you explain the Hebrew context of specific letters and words, as it deepens my understanding of the scriptures. Thank you again!

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