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May 24, 2016 / 16 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

David Petraeus and the Biblical Lessons of Why Men Want Two Women

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

The David Petraeus scandal, where a national hero betrays a solid, devoted, soul mate of a wife to be with a young hot thing who gets his blood pumping seems as old as time itself. In earlier times a general or king would usually have two women to being with to  fulfill two very different needs. The pedigreed wife for children and to rule as a consort – and recall that Petraeus married the daughter of the Superintendent of West Point – and a mistress for passion and excitement. But Petraeus had to resign because our society does not tolerate unfaithfulness. It expects men who are accomplished in their public life to be equally accomplished in marriage by finding find both dimensions in one woman, namely their wives.

The Biblical story of Jacob and his two wives, Rachel and Leah (which we read in last week’s portion) provides insight into what men search for and the tragedy of not  orchestrating disparate needs into one indivisible woman.

When Jacob first meets Rachel, he seeks to impress her by moving a giant stone, then kisses her, and breaks into tears. He then offers Laban, her father, seven years of work in return for Rachel’s hand in marriage. The years pass by so quickly that ‘they appeared in his eyes as if they were just days.’

Jacob’s love for Rachel is one of deep passion and yearning. It is love as covetousness, lust, and desire. It is the fieriest kind of romantic love. It is also the most tragic. Romantic, passionate, lustful love that is balanced by partnership and intimacy nearly always ends badly. Either because the fires die down, or because the fire burns so brightly that it consumes both participants. Fiery, lustful love rarely ends up with a happily ever after. Jacob feels in his bones that his passion for Rachel must end disastrously. Thus, he is drawn to kiss her, but he immediately weeps. He recognizes that in this imperfect world, perfect love is impossible to attain. He wants Rachel to be his soul mate, but he intuits that he will never fully possess her is destined to lose her.

By contrast, he experiences none of the same passion for Leah. When he is fooled into marrying her, he accepts Leah as a partner and eventually the mother of his children. But his yearning is for Rachel. Leah feels hated and names the first of her three children after her experiences of rejection from Jacob. Reuben is for the God ‘who saw my affliction and granted me a son.’ Simeon is for the God ‘who saw that I am hated.’ Levi is the son whose birth ‘will bring my husband closer to me.’ Only with the fourth son, Judah, which means ‘praise to God,’ do we begin to see a name that gives the child an intrinsic identity rather than one that relates instead to the relationship of his father to his mother.

Leah longs for Jacob the way that Jacob longs for Rachel. But for Jacob, Leah represents a maternal, practical partner with whom he shares a life but has no passionate connection. It reflects, arguably, the way Petraeus viewed his own loyal wife. They have intimacy but no intensity. They have a family but no fervor or fire. He loves her but does not long for her. He does not want bad things to happen to her. He wishes to protect her but she is not the delight of his soul.

Yet Jacobs knows in his heart that Leah, rather than Rachel, is destined to be his soul mate. (No doubt Petraeus knew in his heart as well he was always destined to return to his wife, if she would accept him back). She is destined to bear most of his children, share his life, and share eternity with him by being buried at his side. Leah represents stability and order. She will be Jacob’s anchor. She is his permanence. The woman who tethers him to family. Yet he will never make peace with love that is only functional and not romantic, stable but not passionate.

Rachel is playful, girlish, and evinces, at times, immaturity that is often characteristic of   women whom men desire mightily. She can also be callous about Jacob’s love for her, so confident is she in the  of his desire. When Reuben brings flowers for his mother Leah, Rachel strikes a deal with Leah to exchange the flowers for a conjugal night with Jacob. What Leah longs for, Rachel treats as mere currency. Unlike Jacob who understands intuitively the tragic nature of passionate, romantic love, Rachel thinks they have endless time to be together. One night will make no difference. But Jacob knows the clock is ticking.

Women like Leah ultimately both triumph and suffer. They triumph because in their stability they end up gaining the commitment of men who build families and lives with them. But they suffer because they never feel the passionate desire of their husbands. They never really feel wanted. They never truly feel special. And a woman wants to be lusted after even more than she wants to be loved.

But it is the amalgamation of both types of love that is meant to characterize the successful marriage. Not a man in a relationship with two women, but a man and woman whose marriage incorporates both dimensions. Husbands and wives are meant to have passion and practicality, fire and firmness, lust and love, desire and durability. Rachel and Leah are meant to be one.

The Jewish laws that will follow with the giving of the Torah at Sinai will prescribe half of the month devoted to passion and sexual fire, and half of the month devoted to soulfulness and intimacy. The orchestration of the two is what makes a marriage whole. We are meant to be lovers and best friends, paramours and soul mates, people who ache for each other but settle down with one another to create a life of stability and permanence. Our wives should be our mistresses and our companions, our excitement and our anchor. We never wish to lose our lust, but we also need to accompany lust with love.

It was Jacob’s inability to value both dimensions that lead to many problems in the life of his own family. Jacob seems scarred from his childhood. His father favored Esau, so from his earliest age he tasted rejection. Later, he will repeat many of these mistakes in favoring Joseph, creating even more dysfunction and sibling rivalry among his own children than he experienced with Esau. Likewise, he favors one wife and one type of love. He struggles to appreciate the stability of Leah and gravitates exclusively toward the drama of Rachel. With Rachel he fights and argues. She accuses Jacob of being responsible for her not falling pregnant. He fires back that he is not God and is not responsible for her infertility. But dramatic relationships are addictive and Rachel is the drug of choice. But in favoring Rachel so exclusively Jacob risks becomes emotionally monolithic, never quite mastering the art of relationships. He is, interestingly, far better at adversarial relationships than intimate ones. He outmaneuvers the wily Esau to take his blessing as well as his immoral and cunning father-in-law Laban. He wrestles with an angel and defeats him. He has learned from an early age to survive on his wits.

Like many a man who has experienced insufficient love in his childhood, Jacob finds intimacy challenging. Love for him is more of a high than a deep sharing of self. He seeks the deep thrill of love that comes from a woman of passionate nature like Rachel rather than a woman of deep emotion like Leah. Jacob gravitates to the romantic love of the poets rather than the practical love of real life.

But, whatever man’s plans, God often intends something different. Jacob lusts for Rachel but his future is with Leah.

We men of the modern era can draw the appropriate lesson.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

The Road Map To A Happy Marriage

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Creating direction in a marriage is similar to going on a long journey. To get to where you want to go, you need to have a plan that includes directions, supplies and the ability to navigate along the way. You will also have to be prepared for many possible factors that may interfere with your trip, including wind, rain, unpredictable mechanical breakdown and human error. Most importantly you will need a map to guide and help reorient you in case you lose your way.

Many couples who seek my advice are simply lacking the guidance of a relationship road map.

Take Shmuel, 25 and Rivky, 23. They came to speak with me about the lack of excitement and enthusiasm in their marriage. They had only been married for about six months, but were already feeling as if they were traveling down a bumpy road to an unknown destination.

From the outset they looked like the perfect couple – well-dressed, articulate and extremely well-educated. All of the excitement surrounding their engagement period and wedding had just about ended. Now, in their sixth month of marriage, they were feeling unequipped to deal with each other’s emotional needs. They were constantly bickering about the small things – like garbage collection, cooking dinner and cleaning up around the house.

Marriage wasn’t supposed to be so hard. Unable to cope, they started to withdraw from one another, instead of working together to solve their problems. It’s important to note that these were two healthy individuals who had the potential to have a great marriage, but they were lacking a roadmap or emotional GPS that could guide them on how to communicate and gain greater understanding of one another.

This couple’s relationship was clearly going off course. They needed guidance to stay focused on their destination.

To make their job easier, I suggested that they follow an emotional road map based upon what I call “The Four C’s of Relationship Theory: Connection, Control, Communication, and Conflict Resolution.” Together, they provide a clear guide to help couples evaluate where their relationship is going, and where and how to make changes if necessary.

Imagine, for example, if Shmuel and Rivky could read each other’s minds and understand what makes the other happy or sad, or scared and the way each wants to be cared for.

The Four C’s help couples see the bigger picture, and then make a distinction between the areas that demand attention, and those matters that are superficial and should not be the focus of their relationship. For example, you may find yourself arguing over small things like washing the dishes or doing the laundry. You may also be feeling as if your spouse is overly controlling and denies your feelings. Or, you may feel the two of you are drifting apart and aren’t as connected as you used to be. If so, should you try to be more assertive? Or should you learn more about you spouse’s inner world, increase the amount of quality time you spend together, and carefully work through their issues with them? A look at the Four C’s should provide an answer.

The following chart summarizes the principles of Relationship Theory.

 

The First “C”: Connecting to
Your Spouse’s Inner World

Learning about the total person you are married to is one of the main goals of marriage. As a therapist, I help couples explore both sides of their personalities – their external behavioral characteristics as well as their inner emotional worlds.

It’s important to note, that as human beings, we live in two distinct emotional worlds: an outer world and an inner world. The outer world is merely a façade, a layer which covers up our deeper and unseen emotions. The inner world, however, is the place that holds the key to understanding what makes people tick. Regrettably, many husbands and wives never learn about the complex and delicate issues in the other’s inner world; each relates only to the other’s outer or external side of their personality.

How in touch are you with your spouse’s inner world? Listed below are common negative behaviors that are based upon underlying “inner” world emotions. Take a few moments to evaluate your awareness of these issues.

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch

What Were They Thinking?

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Sometimes you just have to wonder, “What were they thinking?” My wife and I speak on marriage-related topics to variant crowds. We know what we’re going to say, but we have no idea what the audience may offer. So, when we speak publicly, before we open the floor to comments or questions (which we welcome), we always preface with a cautionary word not to make any personal or disparaging remarks about one’s spouse.

Nobody wants his or her dirty laundry aired out in public. And no one wants the neighbors to be privy to his or her intimate goings-on.

A woman who attended one of my wife’s lecture series on enhancing marital harmony serves as a perfect example of the damage a few misplaced comments, delivered at the speed of sound, can cause. This (until then) respected woman aired it out in staccato fashion, spilling enough beans to render a public flogging of her soul mate. My wife cut her off as soon as possible but it was too late; her unexpected comments left the audience, who happened to be neighbors and friends from the community, aghast.

Why do that? Why let the genie out of the bottle? Once he’s out, you can’t put him back in. And even if you could, it won’t help much.

A story is told of the chassidic master, Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. Someone once came to him after having spoken lashon hara (slander). The person asked forgiveness. Reb Levi Yitzchak instructed the penitent to take a down pillow to the town square, open it and shake out all the feathers. The person did so and returned to the rav, who promptly said “Now, go back to the town square and gather up all the feathers.” The person asked incredulously, “How can I ever do that?” Reb Levi Yitzchak retorted, “That’s what happens when you speak libelously about another. Like you can never gather up all the feathers, you can never repair all the damage.”

On a speaking tour in New York, a rabbi related a very sad story of a couple who had previously attended marital counseling. During one of their visits, the psychologist encouraged the husband to open up and share his true feelings with his wife. The husband, fortified by the psychologist’s advice, or under his protective wing, told his wife that she was ugly, he never found her attractive and that her lack of beauty has always been a sore spot for him. He finished by telling her that he never really understood how he could have married her. (It was not a case of adding a touch of make-up…)

Needless to say, the wife was devastated. Imagine her hurt. No matter what he says or does in the future, he will never rectify the terrible damage he caused. Does anyone think flowers or chocolates will repair the destruction left in the wake of “just telling it like it is”? With such pain in her heart, will it ever be possible for them to attain true marital harmony? Simply because the therapist encourages a person to “let go” doesn’t mean that therapist is correct or that one must listen.

It reminds me of the 45-year-old man who went to a psychologist because he suffered incontinence problems; wetting even during the day, which caused him terrible embarrassment. After six months of counseling, the psychologist proudly announced, “Well, we’ve successfully cured one problem; you’re no longer embarrassed by soiling yourself. Now we only have to work on your incontinence.”

When we sit down with a couple, one of the first instructions we give them is the following: “We’re here to help but remember, when you walk out that door, it’s just the two of you. You’re going home with your spouse. You two have to live with the consequences of what you say here. Think before you make any statement and do not deceive yourselves into thinking this is the forum to even scores. Neither cruelty nor unbridled ignorance has any place here. No one comes here to destroy his or her marriage. Your goal and our goal is one; to improve your marriage.”

Thinking before speaking is key.

Eliezer Medwed

Social Networking And The Blended Family

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

It still amazes me how the Internet has completely changed our lives and how we view communication these days. My children hardly believe me when I tell them that there was a time when being in touch with someone, meant we actually saw them, spoke to them on the phone, or wrote them a letter and mailed it.

The word communication is defined as the act of sending a message and the completion of that act occurs when that message is received. Today, communicating is so simple, maybe even too simple. With just a quick “point and click” on your computer screen you can let people know that you “like” or agree with something “posted” on a “page.” You can even brighten someone’s day by forwarding on the joke you got in an e-mail. Just like that; instant communication.

Like most people, I have a love/hate relationship with my computer and certainly with the Internet. The World Wide Web played a role in my divorce; allowing easy access for my ex-husband to “step out” and get to know other women from the safety and comfort of our home. At that time, more than 17 years ago, I was naïve and did not even know such a thing was even possible.

That experience certainly made me more than a bit wary of spending time on the Internet at all, but over the past decade it has begun to take on a greater role in my life.

I love the ease the Internet affords me. I am able to work from home, look up new recipes and keep in touch with family and friends. I thoroughly enjoy seeing pictures of my nieces and nephews who live far away and have even had the opportunity to join in family smachot that I would have otherwise missed.

Interestingly “social networking” has us considering people we hardly know as “friends”. I even heard a neighbor remark that she was just talking to a “Facebook friend” meaning they never actually met and only knew each other through their network of “online” friends. Hey, I enjoy connecting to new people as much as the next person, but can you really know and befriend someone based on a string of “statuses,” “comments,” blogs and “posts?” Everyone knows what we “like” and we seem to be “sharing” more of ourselves with the rest of the world.

Lately I have taken notice of the many ways this new era of instant communication and “social networking” has affected families of divorce and the blended family.

Take for instance an acquaintance of mine who is unfortunately going through a nasty custody battle. I understand and appreciate the importance of a good support system during trying times – I honestly do. But when your network of friends has topped 1000 and you feel a need to update your “friends” on how your divorce proceedings are going on a constant basis, something is awry. Do you need your entire list of “friends” to weigh in on every battle? Does posting that you had a bad day in court make the outcome any better? Does inviting everyone into your sorrow lesson the pain?

The misguided belief that venting via “post” and receiving encouraging “comments” is in any way a healthy response to a very frustrating situation is foolish at best – and may even be harmful.

With claims of it being in the best interest of the children, claimants on both sides of a highly publicized divorce case have garnered support this way. Is this truly in the best interest of the children, or a means to gain publicity and exposure?

Another “social networking” issue that has had a personal affect on my family is that this is the way my children are kept updated on their father’s life. I think it has been years since my son has had an actual conversation with his father, but his dad will send a quick 🙂 his way every so often. They found out about his third marriage, and his fourth divorce via Facebook. The message came through loud and clear when his status turned from “married” to “single.” On a positive note, a bond of sorts is retained and my ex-husband has a chance to become “friends” with his children and to meet his grandchildren.

Yehudit Levinson

What Happens To The Children?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

The marriage is ending.

Let’s start with some facts. In the general population, 50 percent of marriages end in divorce within 10 years. Sixty percent of divorces occur among couples between the ages of 25-39. More than a million children are affected by divorce per year. Half of these children will grow up in families where the parents stay angry and resentful toward each other.

Unhappy parents have a hard time raising happy children. Children of divorce have higher rates of substance abuse, conduct disorders, depression, interpersonal issues and problems in school.

In the Orthodox world the figures aren’t quite that high – but they are accelerating rapidly. Years ago a couple got divorced for “extreme” reasons: domestic violence, child abuse, sexual abuse, infidelity, or untreatable mental illness. Now it’s those reasons and more. Couples get divorced because they are too impatient or intolerant or not emotionally connected enough to see crises through and learn the skills that can help them have a really good relationship and a really good marriage.

Landmark studies like the ones done by Judith Wallerstein and others indicate that years after a divorce both men and women are still quite angry with their former spouses. It is important to remember that anger often is the manifest, or outer, layer of emotion that is being used to cover up underlying feelings of sadness, pain, shame and despair.

This anger can be dealt with in many ways. Some turn their anger inward, causing depression. Many use their anger to bitterly malign the former spouse. Often the goal is to destroy any possible relationship the ex might have with the children, the rationale being that the ex-spouse is not worthy of a parent-child relationship.

Even in the best of circumstances – what we might call an “amicable” divorce –children will be affected in a highly emotional and significant way.

The goal of a “good” divorce is for parents to communicate effectively, without bitterness and rancor, and not let the children get caught in the middle. Their commitment to their children should fuel their energies and enable them to work together to help their children cope and adjust to the changes brought on by the divorce.

Unfortunately, more often than not we see maligning, accusations, spitefulness and deep anger. This creates an environment for the children that is fraught with instability, despair, confusion and frustration and that can only lead to feelings of low self-esteem and poor adjustment in all areas of living – psychologically, socially, academically and behaviorally.

In other words, the negative reactions and behaviors of the parents are what prevent the children from coping and adjusting properly, not the divorce itself.

This fundamental and crucial concept is difficult for parents to digest and internalize. Why? Because it requires them to own their feelings, to own their behaviors and to realize it is their behavior, not just the behavior of the other parent, that can be harmful to the child.

Helping Ourselves,
Helping Our Children

Several years ago I spoke to a group of parents concerning “doing it all and self-care.” Consider the following scenario: You are on a plane, awaiting takeoff. The flight attendant begins her (or his) safety and security announcements. At one point she notes the oxygen mask stored above and states that if oxygen is necessary, a mask will drop down. She describes how the mask must be placed properly over nose and mouth. And then she emphasizes that if you are traveling with a small child, put the mask on yourself first, before you place the mask on your child. Because you can’t care properly for your child if you haven’t properly cared for yourself.

Parents who are divorcing or divorced need to take care of themselves so that they will have the positive energy to care for others, particularly their children, who need them more than ever at this time. Some ways include:

• Support Groups. Hearing that you are not alone and that your situation is not entirely unique can be supportive and helpful. Sharing experiences, and giving and getting advice to and from others, can be nurturing and empowering.

• Friends and Family. Allow yourself to get the support and empathy you need by allowing friends and family members to pitch in and help you, whether by babysitting, taking your child to shul on Shabbos, or going out for some relaxation time together. It is best to choose family members who can be strong with you and for you, who can respect your privacy and understand their boundaries.

Dr. Hindie M. Klein

Marriage and Aliyah, All in Three Days

Monday, November 5th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai is joined by Alan & Leora Katz at Yeshivat HaKotel in Jerusalem. Together, they discuss their recent marriage along with their Aliyah to the Land of Israel three days after their wedding. Alan and Leora Katz also discuss their backgrounds along with reasons for moving to Israel from the United States. At 23:30, Yishai presents a short piece from Rabbi Lazar Brody about Aliyah to the Land of Israel where he discusses his love for the land.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Moshe Herman

The Shidduch-Shy

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Thus begins Jane Austen’s classic marriage-themed novel, Pride and Prejudice.

To adapt the line for our world, cross out “‘in possession of a good fortune” (not a requirement) and exchange ‘“should” for ‘“must.’ “ For while it is incumbent upon men and women in frum society to marry, it appears that some who want to want to get married are held back by fears of commitment.

What are some of the unconscious rules by which these “shidduch-shy” live their lives?

Rule #1: Prepare your exit from the start.

Meshulam had always been adamant he wanted a younger girl, even though he was now 30. But he had met his match in a new shadchan his mother sent him to, who (“just trust me”) concealed Kayla’s age. Some good Jewish geography on a third date brought reality to the fore, to Meshulam’s disappointment.

“Look,” he said, “it means a lot to me to marry a younger woman. But, I like you more than a lot of girls, so why don’t we see how it goes?”

Kayla was thrilled to have a second chance, and the couple progressed—albeit slowly—to the point of a real relationship. In fact, Meshulam seemed closer to Kayla than to any other girl he’d dated. But as the time came when parents, shadchan, and Kayla herself felt a proposal should be in the works, none was forthcoming.

Finally Kayla’s parents had words with the shadchan, who had words with Meshulam, who told Kayla they had to “talk.”

It boiled down to this: Kayla was a wonderful girl; Meshulam liked and respected her and wanted the best for her. But, really, he’d always said how important it was to him to marry a younger woman, and Kayla was—older. He was sorry, but it just wouldn’t work.

Meet Meshulam, one of the shidduch-shy—who held his exit card all along.

Rule # 2: Keep yourself unavailable.

When dating, the shidduch-shy may keep her date at arm’s length. Even as the relationship progresses, she does not make extra time for its growth. Motzei Shabbos and Wednesday night work just fine for getting together.

Yitzy’s first few dates hadn’t gone well, and he wondered if the whole process might not be for him, when he met Rena. Lovely, intelligent, lively—she seemed perfect. If he had complaints early on, it was in the amount of time it took her to get back to the shadchan.

It took her a while to agree to “graduate” from the shadchan. When Yitzy pressed she said she preferred having an intermediary, which prevented things from speeding up too soon.

When finally they managed the dating schedule, Yitzy found Rena to be anything but available. Family simchas, homework, shiurim she attended, plans with friends—she was busy, busy, busy. But she had plenty of time for long late-night phone chats. At the three-month mark, Yitzy confronted Rena about the pace of the process.

“Look, Yitzy, I’m a busy, social, well-rounded person. I don’t have time to spend every minute of every day with you. You’re just too needy for me.”

Meet Rena, the Arm’s-Length Girl.

Rule # 3: The more available your partner, the more you want to run.
She’s less available? Time to be interested.

Sarah and Shmuel were making progress, even though the relationship was long-distance. Each dating event meant flying to the other’s city, and therefore entailed three or four dates over a long weekend. Just as it came time for the marriage conversation, Shmuel announced he “wanted a break.” Shocked, Sarah cried hard, then, recovering her dignity, said, “No breaks. If you don’t want to move forward, we’re finished.” Once she gave him the cold shoulder, he was interested again, and asked for another go-round.

The healthy adult usually feels closer to others reciprocally: The more you like me, the more I like you. The shidduch-shy are drawn to unavailable people, or people threatening to leave a relationship. It’s safer that way.

Meet Shmuel—who only runs after the one who runs away.

Rule #4: Insist upon a trait in a partner that’s trivial or very hard to find,
and be rigid in your dating needs.

Dr. Candida Abrahamson

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/the-shidduch-shy/2012/11/02/

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