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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
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Enhancing A Marriage’s Prospects For Success

Respler-052413

Dear Dr. Yael:

Do you really believe that the Internet is the reason why the divorce rate is so high among young couples? This may be so in some cases, but what about the fact that many singles are pressured to get married at a young age despite not having any idea what they are looking for in a mate? And add to that the fact that many are pressured to make a decision about marriage after dating for a very short period of time.

And then there’s the reality that many girls are encouraged to marry guys who learn, but shortly after getting married find themselves working or in school, then becoming pregnant, and taking care of the house while their husbands are sitting in yeshiva with their friends. Can you blame these girls for feeling resentful? After all, they had no idea what they were agreeing to when they got married.

Additionally, young couples rarely socialize with each other; instead, the wife socializes with her friends and the husband with his – at separate gender events. Thus, how are they supposed to ever get to know each other? And one shouldn’t forget that even when both parties are working or are in school, they often need financial support from their parents. This can lead to major interference (read shalom bayis issues) in the young couples’ marriages by parents and in-laws. Also, how many boys and girls are prepared to handle the practical aspects of marriage, e.g. balancing a checkbook, shopping, cleaning?

In truth, this generation’s young people (including my kids) are spoiled. They are used to having it all since many of their parents have been able to provide them with all they need. Many have never had any responsibilities – especially the boys away at yeshiva who were treated like kings.

It is time to encourage our kids to mature and gain the skills necessary for marriage before they begin to date. After they mature and gain those skills, they should date long enough to get to know each other. They should not rush to get engaged because of the fear of being old maids. Finally (and you briefly touched on this), couples should know that marriage is hard work.

Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom:

Thank you for commenting on this important issue. Much of what you wrote has merit, but we must also realize what’s taking place among today’s generation.

While we allow our children to marry young, this is for the most part what has always been done in our religious circles. Additionally, there is a certain protection for frum young men and women that is derived by marrying young. Truly frum individuals likely find it more difficult to wait until they are older to marry. While many in our generation married a little later, this is not the norm today – at least not by choice. Perhaps because of the yeridah in the doros, it is harder for our children to wait until they are a bit older to get married.

There are certainly cases whereby a young couple has been served badly by marrying before getting to know some of each other’s deep, dark secrets. However, the divorce rate is not higher in the yeshivish world than in the secular world, where couples tend to date for longer periods of time.

While I do not know the solution to our soaring divorce rate, there is definitely a link between the inappropriate things that are more easily accessible today than in prior generations and difficulties in marriages. I see many couples in marital therapy and, more than ever, the Internet plays a negative role in their marriages. That is why I chose to focus on that issue as the main one.

This is obviously not the only reason why more couples are divorcing. But this is not an issue that can be belittled. So many things are accessible today with the touch of a button and the amount of time people waste on social media and texting is shameful. Couples formerly talked at the dinner table, but now too many are busy texting, tweeting and posting things on websites.

I stand by my assertion that couples do not know how challenging it is to create a successful marriage. Most couples in the process of divorcing are not there due to incompatibility. They are not saying, “Wait, maybe I should have dated my spouse for a longer time before getting married.” In cases of divorce what’s usually involved is a serious addiction issue, a serious psychological problem, an abusive spouse, or a spouse that has decided to give up being frum.

Some divorces happen because the husband or wife, or both, did not make the necessary effort needed to create a successful marriage. Thus, I absolutely agree with you that we must “encourage our kids to mature and gain the skills necessary for marriage before they begin to date.”

The most important thing we can give our kids is a strong base, namely a positive sense of self. We need to give our children much love while complimenting them, and at the same time help shape them into independent young adults. These traits will give them the confidence to be successful in their marriages.

One way to help our children is to encourage them to reach certain expectations. This can begin at an early age. Even a two- or three-year-old can help by throwing something out for you, helping you pick up toys, or pouring a pre-measured ingredient into a bowl to help you cook. While many mothers think that they can get things done more quickly and more efficiently without the child hanging around to help, they are making a mistake. Allowing children to help can raise their self-esteem and feeling of competence. And complimenting them for the help they’ve provided makes them feel special, as it is a reward that will go a long way in helping each of them develop a positive sense of self. This is how children learn to become independent and successful young adults.

Everything must be done in moderation and our children should not be overwhelmed. The key is for parents to create the opportunities for their child’s growth – and then praising them for their achievement.

Most frum couples spend a lot of time together and success in their marriages depends on the couple’s ability to communicate. Additionally, any responsible young man will not do “nothing” while his wife does everything. Even if a man is learning, he should still help out at home or work nights to help support his family.

To avoid more divorces, children need to feel more secure – leading to greater confidence as adults. Self-esteem is integral to a solid relationship, and especially important in a marriage. Confident people often make healthier spouses and are better able to handle various issues and challenges in life.

Thanks for taking the time to address this important issue. Hatzlachah!

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