Last week I began answering a woman who wrote, “In my marriage, there are some issues that I’m convinced I’m right about, but my husband won’t see any side except his own. I am very often envious of my friends who seem to have a perfect marriage of mutual respect and understanding.”
She noted that in a previous column I wrote that it’s often good for a husband and wife to have differing opinions, and asked: Wouldn’t it be better if husband and wife agreed “so they could easily work together towards their common goals?”
We often think someone else has the “perfect marriage.” Let me, therefore, share with you an illustrative story. A woman once came to consult with me, complaining at great length about her husband. At one point in the conversation, she sighed and said, “If only he could be more like my neighbor’s husband.”
What she didn’t know was that exactly two nights earlier, her neighbor had come to see me regarding issues in her marriage with that very same husband she had just mentioned.
Rabbi Abraham Twersky shares a similar experience in one of his books. He writes that a woman was upset that one of her in-law children had consulted with him and said to him, “In our family, these things don’t exist; we are normal people.” He didn’t disclose to her that someone in her direct family was actually seeing him at that time on a regular basis.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am a firm believer in the “perfect marriage.” It exists. As a matter of fact, every two people who walk down the aisle have an opportunity to create it.
We can draw some very enriching lessons from Adam and Chava whose marriage serves as the blueprint for marital bliss. They were invited to live in Gan Eden. It was paradise, which is actually the natural domicile of every couple. But next to this scenic garden with blossoming trees and waterfalls was a “tree of life” that was inaccessible, forbidden. “Exclusion” is part of the divine blessing.
Every one of us has a journey ahead. Along the way, some pieces will intentionally be missing. They are part of a plan and serve a purpose. They play a crucial role in bringing out the best in us. What a shame we spend so much energy fighting the blessings of our life.
You write that it would be better if husband and wife always agreed. But is it possible for two people to constantly function on the same wavelength? How often do we ourselves, within the range of a few hours, change our opinions on any given topic? How often do our own opinions diverge from those we had yesterday or will have tomorrow?
We all are going through phases; nothing stands still. Incidentally, that is why a human being is called adam. The word comes from adama (earth). Just like earth takes seeds and turns them into crops of produce, so too man can develop and change himself. Indeed, growth characterizes a human being.
Let’s assume for a moment that “seeing eye to eye” would be ideal in a marriage: At what stage of one’s life would one wish to experience this? When starting out? When the kids are young? When they grow up? After marrying them off?
Our life, b’ezras Hashem, spans many moments, many years, many decades. Patience is an extremely precious commodity. Believe me, many marriages that started out shaky end up ecstatic and harmonious.
Strain on a relationship is caused by a myriad of reasons unrelated to the husband and wife being similar or different. How do we perform under time pressure? When tired, worried, tense, or ill? When under financial pressures or unsolicited parental involvement? A multitude of never-ending factors can affect our mood, and anything, in the blink of an eye, can ignite a fire unless…
Unless we absorb the message contained in the names of the first three parshi’ot of the Chumash. A whole life philosophy is folded into the words Bereishis-Noach-Lech Lecha. Literally translated: Bereishis is “at the start,” Noach is “comfort/ease,” and Lech Lecha is “keep going.”
Bereishis – when we start – all we wish for is Noach – ease, staying in our comfort zone. No ups and downs, no throwing us off balance; only navigating calm waters. But the Almighty, who assigned us jobs, says “Lech Lecha” and pushes us to keep going and accomplish.
Since “no shake up leads to no wake up,” Hashem fights our inborn laziness by giving us a bundle of challenges. These challenges lead us to ascend and answer the call of Lech Lecha. Go, my son, go!