Romantic Delusions

Romance is wonderful, isn't it? Too bad it ends so shortly after marriage! Of course, the Torah advises against this practice; courtship should last for120 years. Unfortunately, the Torah faces tough competition with today's newspapers, glossy magazines, movies and internet communications. The message of modern society is: "You deserve a perfect mate and if yours doesn't fit that description, then ditch him and try again."

The divorce rate in large cities tops 60% and in smaller, more "family-oriented" towns, it hovers around 50%. People – in large numbers apparently – find their spouses unsatisfactory. Could it be that their expectations are out of line with reality?

Grounds for Divorce

Judaism allows for divorce. It is there as a healing tool in cases of marital toxicity. It is assumed that all or almost all marriages will be challenging, somewhat painful, very painful at times, disappointing, boring, crushing, hurtful and otherwise difficult. Jewish divorce wasn't created to address the pain in marriage any more than suicide is condoned to address the pain in living. Jewish divorce is meant for that small number of marriages that suffer fatal flaws such as untreatable marital violence or sexual or emotional repulsion (neither of these is a "fatal flaw" when responsive to treatment). In fact, most of your spouse's irritating behaviors do not qualify as "fatal flaws."

Human Imperfection Personified

Your spouse is "human imperfection personified." So are you, but that probably doesn't bother you that much. In any event, if your spouse engages in any of the following behaviors, he or she is within the normal, unpleasant range of personality possibilities:

  • Disrespectful and/or hurtful speech
  • Forgetful, neglectful or irresponsible behaviors
  • Inattentiveness
  • Lack of self-care
  • Disregard for your feelings
  • Poor communication skills
  • Poor listening skills
  • Poor parenting skills
  • Improper allocation of resources such as time or money
  • Mood issues
  • Insecurities, anxieties, fears and phobias
  • Anger issues
  • Negativity, excessively critical, demanding
  • Immature, impulsive
  • Controlling, selfish, inconsiderate
  • Not nice in any other way

Imperfect people get married and have children. Maybe they shouldn't, but they do. In fact, since there are no perfect people, it's probably better for the human race that they do. In any event, you married one and you are one, so don't be surprised when your spouse lets you down in a million different ways. Help your spouse to improve but most of all, help YOURSELF to deal with it. Enlist books, classes, counselors and prayer; do whatever you have to do to bring yourself, your spouse and your marriage to a higher level. Unless what you are dealing with is a Torah Certified Fatal Flaw, then divorce cannot be considered part of your solution. Divorce curtails the growth process. (If your spouse divorces you, on the other hand, then this is part of G‑d's divine plan for your life and very much a part of your growth process.)

Living with Your Bashert

G‑d knows you and your spouse intimately. Your spouse is, in fact, your "bashert" – the soul chosen to accompany your soul on life's journey. Your spouse - your spiritual partner, your other half – is there to help you develop YOUR potential. One's bashert is not necessarily a feel-good buddy. One's bashert can be someone who gives you quite the run for your money. He or she can irritate you to bits until you learn to be more tolerant, patient or understanding. He or she can hurt your feelings constantly until you learn to love yourself more. He or she can walk all over you until you learn to be assertive. He or she can ignore you until you learn to stand up and fight for what you want. Your spouse can draw you into dysfunction and despair until you learn to give others space to be themselves and do their own work. In other words – if you haven't quite got my drift – your spouse, even through his or her bad behavior, can help you perfect your character, correct imbalances and achieve what you never would have otherwise achieved. This, in fact, is one of the purposes of marriage – to help us grow.

When Does the Good Part Come?

As you develop into all that you can be, guess what happens? Your spouse improves! Your marriage improves. Your life improves. Romantic love is given as a gift from G‑d at the beginning of marriage to show us what we will be able to attain later on as a result of our own individual conscious efforts. Point your compass in the right direction and stay on track. Hard work in marriage is the norm. But the reward is commensurate with the effort.