Why do you want to get married? Take a moment and write down your reasons. How you answer this question will reveal much about your emotional and mental readiness for marriage. Compare your answers to what I think are the four best reasons for getting married.
Most people get married for selfish reasons. They expect to be loved rather than to give love. Most people on their wedding day feel happy because they are anticipating that now all their unmet needs will be fulfilled and they will at last experience true happiness. Such an attitude is one of a taker. Judaism emphasizes that a mature person wants to get married primarily to give and to promote the happiness of one’s partner.
It is natural to take. It is unnatural to give. Human beings are born takers. And unless one makes a conscious decision to become a giveR, one will forever remain a taker. It takes an act of will and hard work to overcome our natural inclination to take. One of the ultimate challenges of life is to become someone who gets more pleasure from helping others succeed than from one’s own success.
Marriage is the ultimate opportunity to grow as a giver. Many marriages fail because people measure their marital satisfaction by how happy the other person makes them. How often do we hear people say, “He doesn’t meet my needs.” This is of course not to say that having our emotional needs met isn’t important. But if our primary goal in marriage is to get our needs met rather than meet the needs of our spouse, we will never truly be happy. Only givers are truly happy people. Takers are truly miserable people. If two people’s primary motive is rooted in self-centeredness, they will never experience the true pleasure of loving each other. A fundamental principle is: The move we give, the more love we will experience. The more we take, the less love we will experience.
A question to ponder is: Do I want to get married primarily to be taken care of and be loved or to care about another person and give love?
I often ask singles who are contemplating marriage, “So after the honeymoon, what are you going to do for the next fifty years together?” When a couple gets married, there is a traditional blessing people give to newlyweds: “Together, you should build a solid home among the Jewish people.” There is a crucial insight about how to achieve martial success here: To be successful in marriage, two people need to build something meaningful together.
In every marriage two outcomes are possible. A couple either grows closer together over time or grows further apart. A study done at Brandeis University demonstrated that couples who share even one Jewish practice together have a lower rate of divorce than couples who don’t share that practice. For example, couples who are committed to having regular Shabbat dinners had a 25% less chance of divorce compared to couples who did not. A clear lesson here is, couples who share meaningful activities together create a stronger bond that brings them closer together and protect them against growing apart.
A question to ponder is: What do you want to build with your future life partner?
TO BE COMPLETED
A well know tradition says, that G-d made the first human being androgynous and then split this being into two halves, male and female. This is not meant to be taken literally, but to teach us that the definition of a complete human being is the union of a male and female through a metaphysical rite of passage called marriage. Of course, this in no way implies that an unmarried person is in some way psychologically, spiritually or mentally deficient.
There is a type of aloneness that goes beyond mere existential loneliness. This aloneness is not a mere psychological phenomenon but a metaphysical one. Judaism teaches that a person needs to be married in order to rectify this metaphysical aloneness and incompleteness. Marriage meets a need that goes beyond our psychological and emotional needs for companionship, friendship, and even love.
A question to ponder is: Do I understand that marriage is necessary to make one a more complete human being?
Judaism maintains that one of the ultimate purposes for living is to become a more expansive and greater person. Traditionally speaking, this means striving towards emulating the greatness of G-d. The more we give, the more people we care about and take responsibility for, the greater and more expansive we become.
Marriage forces us to become givers. Marriage demands we grow in taking responsibility for another person and in fulfilling our basic obligations to nurture, provide and care for another person. Marriage offers us the opportunity to move from being a self-centered child to becoming an expansive, mature adult. Marriage is hard, difficult and at times painful. And as I like to tell singles, much to their chagrin, “marriage is nothing but problems!” But it is in taking on the challenge of dealing with problems and not running away from them that provides the opportunity for us to grow-up, expand and to become stronger and greater people.. Marriage is boot camp for becoming an adult.
A question to ponder: Am I ready to become a fully responsible adult?