Why are so many marriages failures? And why do so many fail so soon after the wedding?
This week, in Parshas Chayei Sara, we read about the first shidduch in history. Abraham sends his trusted servant, Eliezer, to find a wife for his son Yitzchak. He returns with Rivkah and they live happily ever after. The possuk tells us “And (Yitzchak) took Rivkah, she became his wife and he loved her.” It would seem that in the Biblical scenario, true love comes after marriage, not before. Before a marriage can take place there has to be a commonality between two people, shared values, mutual aspirations and, yes, certainly a degree of chemistry between them. But true love has to be nurtured over time.
Without doubt, a primary cause of many marital breakdowns today is the unrealistic expectations that some people have when going into marriage. Our generation has been fed a constant diet of romantic novels, hit parade love songs, glossy magazine advice and Hollywood fiction – all of which bear little resemblance to the real world. (Is Shrek possibly the industry’s first realistic love story?)
“We fell in love!” “It was love at first sight.” Let’s face it, but surely "love at first sight" has got to be a contradiction in terms. "Love" by definition takes years to develop. If you are truly honest with yourself, the only thing you can feel at first sight is in fact lust. "Love at first sight" is a monumental “bobba maaise”!
So we "fall in love," thinking it is real, hoping it will be true and lasting, and then at the slightest disappointment we fall right out of love, which only proves that it was not true love in the first place at all. True love takes years. True love is the mature conviction that our lives are intertwined and inseparable no matter what - even when your partner gets wrinkled, goes grey, flabby or loses his money. That kind of love is measured not in romantics but in long-term commitment.
When I officiate at a chupah ceremony, the Rabbi makes a point of observing not only the bride and groom but also their parents. A single glance that passes between father and mother under that chupah – that glow radiating nachas and feelings of shared satisfaction – tells that they have had a good marriage. That is more telling than all the mushy swooning of the newlyweds. As exciting as it may be, their love may still be in the infatuation stage, as yet untested.
The first rule is patience. Love takes time. It needs nurturing. Sadly, too many give up too soon.
Secondly, the Hollywood effect leaves us so naively impressionable that our partners have got to be the proverbial Prince Charming or Princess Grace. But then, at the first sign of imperfection, “Hey, I bought a lemon! I’m out of here!” Remember, nobody is perfect. Nobody at all. In the passage of time we do indeed discover the little imperfections of our chosen partners. Some things can be unlearned, with gentle encouragement and patience. Others, we may just have to learn to live with. Acceptance is an art. Weigh up in your mind the relative significance of minor inadequacies against the greater good in the grand scheme of things. You may very well realize that you can actually live with those small, petty irritants. Admittedly, if it’s something major then some serious counseling may be the order of the day.
In making these calculations consider the following: Do I stop loving myself just because I am imperfect? Do I stop loving my children because the teacher told me they were really bad at school? So why then do I have difficulty loving my spouse because of a perceived fault?
Marriage is the beginning, not the end. If we can be realistic about our relationships we can find true love. But it takes time, patience, and the wisdom to overlook the little things that can annoy us. Then, please G-d, with true commitment will come true love, togetherness, a lifetime of sharing and caring and the greatest, most enduring contentment in our personal lives.