Marriage is for good. Or for bad. Or, most likely, for a little of both. That is, marriage feels both good and bad but is, according to our tradition, supposed to last a lifetime. Of course, Judaism allows for divorce. In exceptional and intolerable circumstances – for example, if there is violence, sexual repulsion or an inability to support one's family – divorce can provide for healing and renewal. Nonetheless, the Torah tells us that G‑d Himself mourns the death of a marriage. We can think of divorce as a necessary amputation for an infected limb. The severe loss of the limb allows the overall body to survive, but the person is left disfigured and limping. Two souls that have become attached under the chuppah (marital canopy) can be "surgically" separated through the process of a "get" (Jewish divorce ritual), but the souls carry the scar of that surgery.

The Grass is Greener

The vast majority of modern divorces are not caused by the conditions that the Torah describes. Rather, they are caused by various kinds of emotional suffering. Men and women feel neglected, unappreciated, insulted, wounded, hurt, betrayed, disappointed, frustrated, bored, lonely, enraged and otherwise unhappy in marriage. Living with a flawed human being is really hard and causes lots of pain. Influenced by magazines, novels and movies, people today feel that they can avoid this pain by ditching their partner and finding a better one – one who will treat them right.

If this solution were viable, we would not observe that second marriages have a higher divorce rate than first marriages and third marriages have a higher divorce rate than second marriages. First marriages have divorce rates averaging 60% now in larger cities, 50% in smaller ones. In other words, something is seriously wrong!

Some people claim that the emancipation of women is at fault. Now that women can pay their own way, they don't feel trapped in an awful relationship. They can just leave. No need to put up with someone's bad behavior. However, the timeless Torah – our map for all generations – tells us that marriage is meant to be a lifelong partnership. The ability to leave is not the permission to leave. G‑d wants us to work on it.

Moreover, He wants us to work on it with the spouse we have (except in extreme situations as described above). This means that the unpleasant and downright painful experiences of our marriage are there for a reason; they are there specifically to assist us in our spiritual growth. When we work within a committed, lifelong marriage contract, we work hard to stop the pain. We learn new tricks, we seek counseling that helps us break old patterns, we push ourselves to the limit – we GROW. This is exactly what G‑d wants from us. Growth.

On the other hand, the "I'm outa here" mentality prevents growth. "You've got a problem and I don't need to live with it!" – the focus on our spouse's shortcomings gives us no opportunity to improve our own. Looking outward, we feel that our marital problems lie within our partner and changing our partner will be the solution to our marital problems. As stated previously, the statistics say 'not true.' While it is definitely true that our spouses have a problem or many problems – being human this must be the case – in the vast majority of cases it is not true that we can't be happy living with them.

Our happiness may involve seeking professional marital counseling. It may involve seeking personal counseling. It may involve tons of tearful prayer. It may involve learning new skills that can bring out the best in ourselves and our partner. But what is true is that couples who hang in there for the long haul, very often pull through the difficult times and come out happy in the end. Psychological research reports that good marriages can survive many years of pain, betrayal and disappointment. The pain itself prompts partners to work hard to find healing and as a result – they find it.

Take Courage

It's easier to succeed when you know that a positive outcome is possible. G‑d tells us that it is not only possible, but highly likely, that our hard work in marriage will pay off in love and harmony. Moreover, the hard work will help us become better and better, wiser and wiser, more and more spiritually elevated. Take courage; you are not alone in your marital struggles. G‑d is very close to all those who call upon him in sincerity – ask G‑d to strengthen you and to help both you and your spouse overcome all personal limitations in order to find true love and happiness.