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)
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