Choosing a life partner is possibly the most complicated process of a lifetime. In this article, we will try to define, understand and explain how we choose a partner. To do so, we need to have some understanding and awareness of the dynamics that bring a man and a woman towards marriage. It starts with the word attraction.
Hashem sends a powerful homing device in search of a mate. Partners choose each other on the basis of their potential to complement each other, depending on how much growth or change is needed. The process of attraction takes place on three separate levels: 1. Attachment Stage, 2. Conflict Stage, 3. Healing Stage.
Every relationship involves an integration between many levels. Each level is comprised of a complex balance of needs, growth and potential for change. These levels can separate, integrate or enmesh as the couple works on unresolved issues of the past.
Depending on a person’s midos (character traits), Hashem determines how many levels will be used to stimulate growth, change and healing.
Level One: The Attachment Stage. This attachment occurs on a conscious, external level. Couples are attracted to each other on the basis of similarities such as religion, education, physical criteria and social class.
Level Two: The Conflict Stage. This is a deeper level, as the couple come to terms with the differences between them. The qualities that we find charming and exciting during our engagement can become, over time, the chief source of our frustration and dissatisfaction. Rather than understand, accept and appreciate our partner’s differences, we resist by trying to change our partners and make them more like us! Many of us do this by complaining and criticizing our partner’s characteristics and natural tendencies.
Level Three: The Healing Stage. The couple arrives at an integrative stage. Many of the dynamics of this stage happen at a deep, unconscious level. Couples in some way choose each other on the basis of their potential to induce change and heal unresolved issues of their pasts. At the healing stage, they begin to accept each other as they really are. This acceptance is deeply emotionally healing.
Partners frequently look to the marriage relationship to fulfill a void in their life, and to provide a caring and loving environment. If the marriage goes in the right direction, it can indeed provide a powerful healing force of energy in which the two neshamos can grow and heal throughout a lifetime.
If the emotional energy of the couple is positive, they can focus on the present and thus move on to the future. If the emotional energy of the couple is negative, they will stay focused on the past, only to recreate and carry over painful memories and emotional wounds into their present relationship.
The physicists were right: energy is never lost, it just changes form. Many of us unconsciously attempt to duplicate the familiar patterns of our childhood. Childhood patterns, whether positive or negative, are familiar, and familiarity brings security and comfort.
Many years ago, I attended a bris in Canarsie, Brooklyn, where the Rav spoke about the conceptual framework for growth. He stated that whenever the Torah mentions the word “vayehi” (and it was) in the past tense, the results were negative. I spoke to him in. depth regarding this statement, and the Rav said that the Torah is hinting to us that living in the past can only bring pain and sorrow. The future is where growth and happiness lie.
Pre-Marital Counseling can give clients the knowledge to understanding their relationships. This frees them to become aware of how their differences and similarities complement each other. It provides understanding, acceptance and appreciation as positive strategies in achieving shalom bayis.
Moishe Herskowitz MS, CSW, is a marriage counselor and maintains his private practice in Brooklyn as founder of CPC. He is an educator, lecturer, consultant and adjunct professor at Touro College. He is the counseling coordinator for Career Services at Touro College and a counseling consultant to F.E.G.S. At Risk Center in Brooklyn. Moishe is presently working as a licensed guidance counse for for the NYC Board of Ed. in Special Education. For more information or to obtain a free brochure, please contact Moishe Herskowitz at 435-7388 or at CPCMoishe@aol.com.