One thing I’ve learned by blogging about marriage stuff is that everyone’s marriage is different. I mainly found this out through this post where I suggested what I thought were universal tips that would help with marriage. Boy, was I wrong!
One reason why different marriage advice works for different people is that we all have such different personalities. I’m a laid-back non-confrontational kind of girl, and today’s guest poster, Chana is more direct and passionate. She lives in Jerusalem with her toddler and husband, and loves to write (and read). While she is a teacher by trade and earned a Bachelor’s in Education, she is currently working from home. I’m so glad that she’s sharing her perspective on marriage. Enjoy!
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There are people who spend inordinate numbers of hours and years of their lives dreaming about, and searching for, the perfect match. Unlike many people, however, I never thought my marriage would be perfect. In fact, I don’t know that it even occurred to me that a perfect marriage existed. I wanted someone who would work it out, was a nice, respectful and politically correct person (unlike me, who is usually respectful but almost never politically correct), and who wanted the lifestyle that I did. I wanted him to be someone that I could truly respect (pretty tough), and who wasn’t interested in just following everyone else. In other words, I wanted someone who didn’t fit in, but could be nice to people who did.
As a result of our long engagement and the obstacles we had to overcome before we finally made it to the chuppa (Jewish wedding canopy), we became closer together. I modeled this after what I had done when my parents separated, and later divorced: I told myself, at age 16, that I can either use this to build myself a better life, or I can allow it to completely ruin my life. That’s the approach that we took with the obstacles before our wedding.
My husband also has his own theory: Relationships are like airplanes, they can go up, down, faster or slower, but they must always move forward. We had to work together a great deal to bring our wedding to fruition, and given that amount of time investment, we became quite close. Between the two, we managed, and came out better for it.
It is of paramount importance to discuss important issues prior to engagement or marriage. By important issues I mean the day-to-day, nitty gritty of being married. Some of these issues seem, to dating couples, to be irrelevant. They’re not. The minute you are married, differences get bigger, and couples who have not discussed these issues before marriage may very well find themselves with a few unpleasant surprises, some of them quite large. Once you’re married, big differences of opinion can matter a LOT.
So, we talked, a lot. We dealt with everything together, we argued, we fought, we got mad, we made up. And when we finally got married, we hardly had any unpleasant surprises at all, thank G-d. It’s important to come into the marriage with the understanding, and acceptance, of the fact that your spouse was raised differently than you, and thinks differently than you. Because of this, marriage is one of the best venues for personal development.
Case in point: Right after Pesach, less than a month after we were married, we were cleaning up, and a fork became chametz (could no longer be used for Passover). He threw it in the garbage, and a few minutes later, I asked where it was. “In the garbage,” he said. “It’s chametz, we can’t do anything about it.” I flipped. Completely.
“What?!?!?! You’ve never heard of koshering it? It’s not even treif (not kosher), it’s just chametz (not for Passover)! You take it, do hagala on it (to make it kosher), and it’s fine!!! Plus, even if we couldn’t, you think forks grow on trees? Two more mistakes like that and we’ll have to buy a new set. Not only that, but we can use it for the rest of the year, even if we could never use it for Pesach again! For goodness’ sake, do you have no issue with bal tashchis (wasting things)? What is wrong with you?!”
Oops. His response: “That’s how my mother avoids any kashrus (kosher) issues. Whenever something like that happens, she throws it out.” Notice: He didn’t react to me with anger. He didn’t start a screaming fight. He just said, calmly, that that’s what his mother had done. In other words, he defused the situation.
I apologized. We discussed this category of issues, and I apologized again. From then on, when he did something that I thought was wrong, I asked why he’d done it. Usually, there was a valid explanation.
Was I supposed to have discussed this before the wedding? Well, it would have been useful. But truthfully, there are infinite numbers of issues that can arise, and it is impossible to address them all. What’s important is to understand that what you see as obvious may not even occur to your spouse.
From there, it’s all about communication. But communication is made much easier if you are both willing to put in the effort, and are open about how you feel, while respecting the other’s thoughts and emotions. Each of you has to be willing to say that they were wrong, first. And, if you married a relatively decent person who cares about making the marriage work, you should both be able to manage.