TITLES AT A GLANCE
FOR MARRIAGE TO SUCCEED,
THE "COUPLE" MUST COME BEFORE "SELF"
HOW CAN I TELL IF MY
TEMPERAMENT AND ATTITUDE ARE READY FOR MARRIAGE?
MAJOR READINESS BAROMETERS
"M.Q." (MARRIAGEABILITY QUOTIENT)
BEING READY TO ACHIEVE
TRUE SPECIALNESS WHEN YOU FIND YOUR MATE
[Note 1: Rabbi Forsythe is sometimes asked
about personal matchmaking. However, for the last few years, he has restricted matchmaking
to people who he knows personally and knows well for a considerable period of time. He no
longer does matchmaking for the public at-large. His current work with singles is
primarily compatibility-profiling interviews, private counseling, public lecturing,
shabatones, workshops and the like.]
[Note 2: In halacha, there is NO kibud av
ve'aim in shidduchim. A single should marry the person who he gets along with and who is
good for him/her. There is a world of difference in halacha between a parent giving mature
advice or sharing life experience vs. making or killing a shidduch. The ultimate criteria
for suitability of a shidduch is: what is good for the couple.]
FOR MARRIAGE TO SUCCEED,
THE "COUPLE" MUST COME BEFORE "SELF"
Gemora Baitza tells how Raba, one of the
Talmudic sages, was the rebbe of Rova and Abayay (who grew up to also be Talmudic sages)
when they were little children. Raba asked Rova, "Where is Hashem?" Rova pointed
upwards. Raba then asked little Abayay, "Where is Hashem?" Abayay ran out the
front door, thrust his finger upwards towards the sky and pointed it in every direction.
Raba said, with his ruach hakodesh (holy insight), "I see you two are going to grow
up to be great Rabonim." Notice that Raba, one of "Chazal," did not say
that Rova and Abayay were going to be great rabbis because they had terrific yichus or
were masmidim in Lakewood who knew loads of masechtas. He knew they would be great rabbis
because they had DUE RECOGNITION OF HASHEM. King David says, "I place Hashem before
me always" (Tehilim 16:8). The Brisker Rov said to his son Reb Berel that always
concentrating on this verse, keeping G-d with you and considering Him your master is a
segula for protection. King Solomon says, "In everything that you do, know G-d"
(Proverbs 3:6). The first step to being a happy and successful person is ALWAYS
recognizing that Hashem is EVERYWHERE and that nice, proper behavior is defined - and
evaluated - entirely BY HIM.
In the book of Numbers (the fourth of the
five books of the Torah), the first portion (Bamidbar) tells of how each of the twelve
tribes received its own banner, to give each its own unique identity. This story takes
place on the first day of the SECOND MONTH of the second year after the departure from
Egypt. The second portion (Naso) tells how each of the twelve tribal leaders brought
generous sacrifices to inaugurate the service of the sanctuary (which was the forerunner
to the Holy Temple). This story takes place on the first day of the FIRST MONTH of the
second year after the departure from Egypt.
Notice that the first portion,
chronologically, takes place second (a month later) and the second portion takes place
first. We have a principle that the Torah is not required to be chronological. Its
writings often are positioned so that adjacency, context or sequence of the writings give
us instructive lessons. By the same token, when there is no reason to veer from
chronology, the Torah maintains it. For example, the story of Creation IS INDEED right at
the beginning of the Torah! So what is the lesson when the above two stories in the Torah
are placed in reverse chronological order?
The story of the 12 tribal leaders bringing
sacrifices represents (in Midrash and Kabala) STARTING A MARRIAGE! Each of the 12 leaders
brought the exact same sacrifices (flour, incense, animals, etc.) and the Torah repeats
the list (of about 70 words) 12 times with each leader's name (for a total of about 800
words). The Torah is concerned about brevity, and we have here the most extensive case of
"non-brevity" in the entire Torah! The Torah could have said that all 12 leaders
brought the list of gifts, and saved about 700 words! Ramban explains the repetition. The
12 leaders had utmost honor for Heaven. Their intention was pure. None was looking to
out-do the other. THEY WERE ALL UNIFIED AND AT PEACE. Each was only concerned with giving
respectfully and wholeheartedly for a cause greater than self. THIS IS WHAT MAKES A
Every couple wants a happy marriage. The
gemora says, "The happiness of a man's heart is his wife (Shabos 152a)" and
"Her husband makes a woman happy (Rosh HaShana 6b)." At a bris (circumcision) we
say that the boy should grow up to achieve "Torah, marriage and good deeds."
Note the order! First, he must incorporate Torah into himself; then, only when he has
genuinely embodied Torah, he can be fit for marriage; and, last, marriage is the most
significant context for a life devoted to good deeds! "A woman's wisdom builds her
house" (Proverbs 14:1). She uses her wisdom to protect her husband from downfall and
to make him be successful. But, not all couples get along well and, sometimes, troubles
escalate. Each partner must catch and stop his unworkable behaviors and patterns. All that
they do and say to, and regarding, each other must be always accomplished as nicely,
cooperatively and considerately as possible.
In the story of the banners, each tribe had
its own identity, its unique and separate individuality. When a person looks at the Torah
superficially, his flesh and blood eyes see the story of separate identities first, and
see, as last, the story of what makes a marriage. Yet, chronologically, the story of the
sacrifices actually comes first. Because the 12 leaders' giving was so complete and
perfect, and was so beloved in G-d's eyes, the Torah included, in full, every detail of
each leader's identical set of gifts. The Torah is instructing us NOT TO FALL INTO THE
TRAP OF SEEING SEPARATE IDENTITY AND INDIVIDUALITY FIRST. The "G-dly
perspective" is to see that THE PEACE, UNITY, SACRIFICE, GIVING, RESPECT,
UNSELFISHNESS, RESPONSIBILITY AND FREEDOM FROM EGO - WHICH ARE CENTRAL TO MARRIAGE - COME
FIRST. Do not say, "I got to be me! I have to fulfill myself! You must do more for
me! I have to do my own thing!" IN G-D'S EYES, the couple comes before the self! Your
unique "self" is never an exemption from giving; it is the DEFINITION OF HOW
YOUR UNIQUE PERSONALITY, IDENTITY, INDIVIDUALITY, TALENTS, STRENGTHS AND ABILITIES
CONTRIBUTE TO THE "TEAM;" it is HOW YOU GIVE AND SUBORDINATE YOUR UNIQUE
"SELF" TO THE MARRIAGE!
HOW CAN I TELL IF MY
TEMPERAMENT AND ATTITUDE ARE READY FOR MARRIAGE?
Chazal say in several gemoras and midrashim
that, "It is as difficult to find one's true mate as the miraculous opening of the
Reed Sea [Yam Suf]." Our sages understood the limits and nature of analogy, so
whenever they make one, it stands up perfectly to analysis from every angle. There are
many miracles recorded in the Torah (Sara giving birth at age 90, the 10 plagues, the
giving of the Torah with thunder and lightening, manna coming from Heaven and water from a
rock for 40 years, the earth opening under evil Korach and swallowing him alive, etc.). If
Chazal wanted to say that finding one's zivug requires miraculous aid from G-d, why was
the opening of the sea the analogy they used?
The place on land from which the Jews
entered the Sea, when it opened, was "Pi HaChirus," which translates,
appropriately enough (since they were escaping the Egyptians), "the beginning of
freedom." Pirkei Avos (ch. 6) tells us "There is no one free except he who
engages himself in the Torah." One thinks he is free when he can do what he wants,
but the gemora (Gitten 13a) says, "A slave likes to be unrestrained." When a
person likes to do whatever he wants or to be selfish, he is a slave - to himself!
Submission to control, to rules and ethics, is to be truly free, free to do what is right
in the eyes of G-d. When the Jews left Pi HaChirus, where were they headed? To Sinai, to
receive G-d's Torah. The beginning of freedom was setting off on the path to accepting and
submitting completely to G-d's law. The giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai was analogous
to a wedding in which G-d was the groom and Knesses Yisroel (the Jewish nation) was the
bride (Midrash). It was a marriage, with an exchange of commitment and love, acceptance of
roles in relation one to the other, the inauguration of permanent devotion and
responsibility between G-d and Israel. This is where the Jewish people were headed to,
from Pi HaChirus.
Targum Yonasan tells us that Pi Hachirus
was not an ordinary desert. In an ordinary desert, there is nothing but sand on the
ground. At Pi HaChirus, the ground was not covered by sand. What covered the ground at Pi
HaChirus? Gold, jewels, diamonds, pearls, precious stones. The Jewish people became
wealthy. There was plenty for everyone. Not only did G-d, in His kindness, just save them
from slavery, He prepared wealth for each and every Jew so that they each could proceed to
their new life generously provided for.
Let's go back to our initial point: the
analogy of finding one's zivug to the specific miracle of the Yam Suf opening. Finding a
mate is like finding a valuable jewel. One is only ready when one is able to view a mate
as "human wealth," a jewel, when one is mature and unselfish enough to view
finding a mate as finding someone whom he or she must care for and act responsibly with.
If you had a huge and beautiful diamond,
the size of a watermelon, worth a vast fortune, you would take superb care of it! You
would polish it, hire an armed guard, put it in a vault. There is no question that you
would take care and assume responsibility with diligence, with discipline and with drive!
Finding a mate requires being ready to care
for, be devoted to and accept responsibility for that mate; the way one would if he found
priceless jewels that had to be protected and properly treated. Finding a mate requires
viewing oneself as headed towards "the Sinai of his/her life;" with the exchange
of commitment, inauguration of devotion, acceptance of roles and obligations, submission
to daas Torah and unselfishness, giving nonstop love and respect.
It is very intentional, very precise, very
meaningful that Chazal used the opening of the Reed Sea as the analogy for the miracle of
finding one's mate. Much of today's marriage trouble and fighting would disappear if
couples were truly mature enough and ready to start and maintain their marriage this way
and concerned for each other's happiness. When is one ready for G-d to work the miracle of
bringing one's "basherte/destined mate?" Only when he or she is ready and mature
enough to see the other person as a priceless jewel who must be cherished and cared for,
to give of oneself for, to live with according to Torah rules every moment and for whom
one must accept lasting responsibility.
MAJOR READINESS BAROMETERS
Sefer Alay Shor (analyzing Proverbs
5:15-16) writes that a baby is born with all of his attributes in the form of potential.
The baby entirely needs others to give to him and to take responsibility for him. As the
child grows, there are progressive stages during which he increasingly learns that he is
not alone, that the world does not center around him, and the ratio of others giving to
him and taking responsibility for him gradually diminishes in relation to his gradually
giving and his assuming responsibility for himself and others more and more. He gradually
becomes socialized and tamed. He can't put his finger in the wall socket. He can't grab
the next child's toys. He can't stay up to any hour. He has to clean his room. He has to
say "please" and "thank you."
At one point in a normal, healthy person's
maturation and development, the amount of giving and of taking responsibility for others
for this youth (by others) and the amount of giving and of taking responsibility for
others (by the youth) grows to be equal. Then, more and more, the youth thereafter
progressively gives more than he takes and accepts more responsibility for others than he
requires from others. At one point, his giving on behalf of others is equal to how much he
needs to be given to, and his exhibiting responsibility on behalf of others is equal with
the amount he needs responsibility taken on his behalf.
After the point of "crossover" to
giving more to others (than taking from others) and to accepting more responsibility on
behalf of others (than needing from others), the person is defined as ready for marriage!
This is when the person achieves adulthood and can begin to bring his abilities and
virtues from potential to actual, in the world.
The difference between something that is
called gadol [big] and something that is called koton [small] is that a thing which is big
gives to others and a thing which is small takes from others. The moon is called the
"small light" because it takes light from the sun. A child is called
"koton" because he depends on the table of others. A "gadol hador [biggest
of a generation]" is a leader and guide in Torah who the generation needs. The heart
is called a "big organ" because it supplies nourishment to the entire body
[Rabainu Yerucham]. In order to be ready to marry, one must be ready to be a gadol: one
who gives to and dependably supplies the needs of others; and not to be a koton: one who
takes from or depends upon others.
Where one genuinely stands in relation to
1. giving on behalf of the good of others
2. accepting and fulfilling responsibility
are prime measure of readiness for a
The gemora (Kesubos 17a) says, "One's
temperament must always be sweet with other people." We know the rule that all Torah
sources are required to be as concise as possible. Whenever a wording from Chazal or
TaNaCH is longer than the bare minimum with which to convey the message, there is
something extra being taught. I would understand what the gemora here is saying without
"always." I would understand that without qualification, one must be pleasant
with other people. Why add "always?"
Some people are very easy to be sweet with.
They are lovely, generous and adorable; have manners and a good heart. One would find it
natural, even delightful, to be sweet to such a person. Some people are not so pleasant.
Some are even a trial not to be violent against! Nevertheless, the Torah obligates us to
always be pleasant - even with the downright rotten, nasty, cheating, offensive,
aggravating, trying person. Unless you are at the point, in making yourself sweet, that
you are ALWAYS sweet with other people, you have not reached the Torah's standard or
obligation for being a sweet person.
The Vilna Gaon writes that the most
essential purpose of human life is FULL-TIME working on midos (character improvement). Any
MOMENT that one is not working on midos, (s)he is wasting life (Evven Shlaima). Being
ready for marriage requires full-time conquering bad midos and practicing of good midos.
The Chazone Ish said that the first and
foremost test as to whether or not one is Torah observant is whether the person is
subjugated entirely to halacha (Torah law). Since halacha covers every aspect and event in
life, being ready for marriage means being prepared to obey halacha across the board (e.g.
Shulchan Aruch, psak din and gedolai Torah).
The midrash says the "derech eretz
(civil, polite, thoughtful behavior) comes before Torah." To be a Torah Jew, one's
practical interpersonal behavior must always be characterized by derech eretz. To be ready
for marriage, one must be prepared to apply this with one's spouse, in particular, at all
The Talmud, Rambam and Tur all stress that
a couple is obligated to give one another enormous kavod (honor, respect). Without this,
they will not be able to have peace. To be ready for marriage, one must be prepared to
treat another with ongoing and massive kavod at all times.
Michtav Me'Eliyahu says that couples only
have happiness and satisfaction with each other when each one's focus is to give on behalf
of the other's happiness at all times. When one takes or demands, their happiness dies. To
be ready for marriage one's orientation must be to give for the purpose of pleasing and
benefitting the other on a steady and constant basis.
The Maharal says that the essence of
maintaining a marriage is trust (e.g. keeping one's word, fulfilling responsibilities and
promises, behaving steadily and reliably, etc.). To be ready for marriage, one must be
prepared to be trustworthy and constant in all things and at all times.
One of the elements of my research has been
interviewing people about marriage: mature veterans of happy marriage, Torah gedolim,
therapists, people who have been through divorce and "learned lessons,"
matchmakers, etc. Let me share some of the ways successful, mature, experienced, wise,
learned people have capsulized marriage. Marriage is:
* taking care of a person
* spending a lifetime making someone else
* being with someone you're comfortable
being yourself with
* completing each other (A is complete
where B is lacking and B is complete where A is lacking)
* TRYING to build a relationship with
another person over a lifetime
* commitment (don't think, "If it
doesn't work, we can get divorced" - have the firm idea right from the start and all
along that it is for keeps)
* constant forgiving
* overlooking (e.g. faults or mistakes)
* accepting less than perfect (or less than
all that you want)
* giving in
* giving yourself up
* accepting what marriage "costs"
for what it "gives."
No one said anything grandiose about
"saving the world" or "getting a catch." All answers focused on
getting along, making each other happy or living maturely and responsibly; day in and day
out, for a lifetime. Everything else is subordinate.
Getting along and making each other happy
must be a stable, ongoing, fundamental and practical state. Before this, nothing is
appropriate, adequate, in place, effective or healthy.
Readiness for marriage requires:
* getting along with a spouse and making a
spouse happy at least reasonably consistently
* doing so to that person's satisfaction
* and as the main focus in your life for
getting along and making another happy with anyone.
Without these, there is something seriously
lacking that had better be immediately and effectively addressed and fixed in order to be
defined as a person ready for marriage.
There has to be sufficient shlaimus (inner
perfection with wholeness and internal integration) to have a successful marriage. Only a
person with adequate shlaimus can be half of a couple that has shlaimus. A couple with
shlaimus can make a contribution to the world (beyond the marriage itself). You can't do
things out of order and succeed. Only when these three "Shlaimus stages" are in
place (1. self, 2. marriage and 3. community), there can be blessing and success.
Any time you do anything that makes another
Jew happy (or less unhappy), it is a mitzva (Sefer Ahavas Chesed). How much moreso, then,
is one obligated to make one's spouse and children consistently happy, help them and keep
your home peaceful. You may want to consult a rov to determine for your individual case:
* what measure of shlaimus is appropriate
for yourself, a partner and a relationship in your choosing of a spouse, since no one is
perfect and part of marriage is bringing one another to greater shlaimus and
* how to balance emphasizing peace and
happiness in your marriage with other life obligations. An example of this last point is
that during the shana rishona (first year of marriage), kollel men are told to skip their
night seder (evening learning session) and spend that time with their bride, as part of
making her secure with his love for her.
In halacha, there is NO kibud av ve'aim in
shidduchim. A single should marry the person who he gets along with and who is good for
him/her. There is a world of difference in halacha between a parent giving mature advice
or sharing life experience vs. forcing or blocking a shidduch. The ultimate criteria for
suitability of a shidduch is: what is good for the couple. One of the test's of readiness
for marriage is the ability to evaluate a shidduch independent of inappropriate parental
agendas, manipulating or coercion.
"M.Q." (MARRIAGEABILITY QUOTIENT)
In various sections of this internet site
we have explored many obstacles to shidduchim (avoidance of commitment, incompetent
matchmakers, etc.). Another major obstacle to forming or keeping an intimate lifelong
marriage is when people's own behavior or contradictions stop a relationship from
succeeding. This can be blatant (angry or nasty behavior) or can be obscure (the person
who starts certain of wanting a kollel life and ends up miserable with the hard work,
sacrifice and poverty).
Have other people ever given you feedback
about yourself? When people come to me for counseling, whether alone or as a couple, one
of the remarkable things I repeatedly see is how often people can have impressions of
themselves or their behavior that, shall we gently say, is not matched by the impression
that others have of them or their behavior. That is important for someone looking to marry
(unless you marry yourself). The other person may have some views of you that don't match
your view of yourself AND YOU WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH THAT PERSON'S VIEW OF YOU ON A DAILY
When you are under pressure, provoked or
angry, how do you behave? How do other's feel about that? Can you CONSISTENTLY remain
calm, controlled, pleasant and considerate of the other person, regardless of whether that
person is the cause? Can you communicate and resolve differences or is this very
What religious and psychological
characteristics in another make you attracted, compatible, contented or frustrated? What
weaknesses of yours would your mate have to compensate for and what strengths of yours
would compensate for another's weaknesses - without this being adversarial or engendering
resentment!? Have you had needs that are unreasonable to expect another person to supply?
How much imposition upon another person is OK with you - and is this a workable level of
demand - AS FAR AS OTHER PEOPLE ARE CONCERNED, ON A SUSTAINABLE BASIS? Are you capable of
PROMPT compromise, adaptability, patience, sacrifice and behavior changes ENOUGH - based
on what a relationship or another person needs or feels? When on a date, in what ways
might you regard or disregard the feelings or dignity of the other person? Do you provide
a reasonable sense of companionship and presence to the other person?
What potential in you would you want a
relationship to bring out? What are you able to bring out in another person? What makes
you want to give to another person? What in another person makes you feel that not taking
nor demanding in the relationship is OK? Are you capable of feeling empathy and bonding
with another person unconditionally, so that you are a genuine (not a "lip
service") "us" (instead of a more adversarial and separate
"me-you"); and you can prove your "us-ness" by extending yourself for
the other without complaint when the other is hurt, pressured, needy, annoying or
troubled? Do you spontaneously give people in relationships benefit of doubt and
presumption of innocence?
What kind of spouse would find you
attractive and, AS A PERSON (not for your money, contacts or other self-serving
Are any of your unhelpful behaviors or
patters modeled after those of one or both of your parents? How has your behavior in close
relationships been affected by what one or both of your parents did or failed to do?
When a relationship does not work out, do
you learn from it and face what you did that was wrong, off-putting or destructive? Do you
talk to objective, capable and trustworthy people to obtain constructive criticism and
feedback so that you can change for the better and grow in whatever ways are needed?
When married and single people come in for
counseling, their position often is that they are fine and the other person in their
present or past relationship is wrong or crazy. If that is one's stance even before
marriage, especially when rigid about this, the prospects for a compatible and happy
marriage are crippled. One of the best things singles can do in searching for their mate
is to take control over their own part in it. The single is the only element which is in
his/her control. The as-yet-unfound mate is not even there, any relationship partner is
not in your control and, for sure, Hashem, the Ultimate Matchmaker, is not in your
control. The main advice that I can give any single seeking his or her mate is to be the
best and most marriageable mate you can possibly be - but in a very real sense. The more
you are ready to be the spouse G-d wants you to be, the more likely He will let you be a
BEING READY TO ACHIEVE TRUE
SPECIALNESS WHEN YOU FIND YOUR MATE
Not all of my relationship counseling is
restricted to married couples. A part of my practical counseling work is with single
couples who are trying to evaluate whether they are right for marriage to each other. When
single couples come for counseling, there are recurring issues which I see, and I believe
writing about some of them will help couples who are confused, have mixed feelings about
their prospects for marriage or a complex package of positives and negatives.
It is not unusual for couples to have
differences. Mature people who can work through their differences can end up even closer
and more attached than they were before. When there are differences, I am more concerned
if their approach to differences is hostile (vicious, sabotaging, critical, malcontent,
confrontational, unstable, explosive, punitive, etc.) or "resolution-oriented"
(calm, peaceful, honest, compassionate, patient, supportive, compromising, respectful,
etc.). Further, if differences appear which indicate to me that both partners want
something from each other which will help them both grow, I take this as a good sign that
the couple can be "basherte" because this means they each can bring each other
to "shlaimus (completeness as a human being), which is an important component of
One of the techniques I use to advise
singles who find it difficult to decide who to marry is to make a thorough and brutally
honest inventory of their positive and negative attributes as an individual. Starting with
the positives (e.g. "I am kind, communicative, adaptive, caring, sensitive"
etc.), consider these as a basis for relating standards. How does the person you are
interested in compare? Is the person capable of appreciating you and exchanging on a
compatible two-way basis? Would giving yourself to this person be a waste or a reasonable
investment of your time, interest and qualities?
I want to caution the reader about the
person who is "sensitive." Some people are sensitive about THEMSELVES while they
can be sadistic or irresponsible to others. Such "sensitivity" is unhealthy and
destructive. Sensitivity is only of value in a relationship when the person 1. is AT LEAST
as sensitive, preferably more, on behalf of the other person than for self and 2. never
uses the sensitivity to cost or hurt the other person!
Now list your negatives. Divide them into
two categories. Are any of them destructive, neglectful or harmful to others? If so, I
would not recommend proceeding because no relationship should harm either of its
participants and these negatives must be worked on. Although it would be logical to put
this question (of harmful negatives) first, some people get too defensive or closed about
their faults. They may deny that they have faults or become angry. Mentioning their
positives FIRST is more likely to put the mind at ease and convey that this is a fair and
balanced exploration. People are often more PSYCHOlogical than logical!
Then, we can inventory the non-harmful
negatives that make us human and I will ask what kind of a person can help you grow out of
your faults, accept them or compensate for them with their strengths? Make a similar
inventory of the person you are in the relationship with (as well as other past
relationships, if a pattern or sabotage-
condition is indicated): list each person's
1. positives, 2. harmful negatives and 3. neutral "human negatives." Then we can
compare the results of all this exploration with what the Torah, as well as helpful
guidelines for psychological health, indicate; and we can consider what this indicates
about the individual's readiness for marriage and prospects for a workable relationship
with any other particular individual. The person or couple generally can have some useful
tools for evaluating prospects in a committed, intimate and sustained relationship. Bear
in mind that this is one tool and any given case may require others.
Another thing which I believe is vital for
the marital success of the frum Jew is to only marry someone committed to halacha. Find
out early on before marriage if the person has one or more rovs who (s)he goes to for
halacha and life questions. Find out from the rov(s) if the person obeys faithfully;
especially when doing so is a test of will, character or self-discipline. If you would
only marry someone who has A CONSISTENT HISTORY of uncompromisingly and steadily obeying
halacha and daas Torah, and of having derech eretz and refined midos; the chances are much
greater that you will never be abused, abandoned, a moreddess, an agunah, emasculated,
tormented or think that you need a prenuptial agreement; because the Torah tells the
mature person truly devoted to the will of G-d what to do in every single situation of
HoRav Shimon Schwab ztz'l, former leader of
the German Jewish community, once told me, if one wants a "segula" for success,
let what (s)he does be completely leshaim Shomayim (for the sake of G-d).
One of the great keys to specialness in a
match is giving what each has to offer in accordance with what would please and benefit
the other. We only have our Jewish people because Rivka gave unhesitatingly to Eliezer. He
asked for some water for himself and she gave to his entire entourage and animals,
fulfilling what Shammai says (in Pirkei Avos), "Say little and do much;" which
she RAN to do and which she did politely and with a good attitude! It is the trait of
diligent, constant giving for the good of the other person which creates love for that
other person (Tractate Derech Eretz Zuta); and only when this is practiced mutually
between man and woman can their marriage have happiness and satisfaction (Michtav
Me'Eliyahu]. And it was only after marriage that Yitzchok loved Rivka [Genesis 24:67]. We
see that we do not love by taking nor by "trying" to give casually without
marriage. The "system" only works when the two evaluate before marriage their
ability to give to each other what they each individually need from the other, as well as
what spouses are objectively responsible to give in marriage. DEMANDING KILLS
RELATIONSHIPS. The time during dating must be used to concentrate on exploring the
couple's ability to relate in serious domains such as these. Yitzchok could exchange love
with Rivka by their making COMMITMENT to give to the other and to accept what the other
gives. Only when this is applied steadily can the couple truly develop love for each other
and be happy and satisfied. When a couple is able to establish and to trust that they are
both willing to work together and "custom tailor" each one's giving to please
and benefit the other ongoingly, theirs will be a marriage that will endure and be
"special" every day for a lifetime.
Let me provide some ways to chart several
crucial characteristics that help measure readiness for marriage, which audiences have
At first glance, these charts seem
impossible and impractical. This is understandable, with a superficial glance. Keep in
mind that a healthy and Torah-based marriage will consist of two people each of whom
approaches the other with the same approach and standards. When both come together
lovingly, trustworthily and harmoniously, the system makes the ideal understandable,
fulfilling and practical.
It is a destructive and selfish
rationalization to object to any of these criteria. All are based on timeless Torah
sources. Some may be disparaged by the values of modern society. Any objection will be
rooted in the extent to which one has been influenced by the contemporary values, most of
which are antithetical to Torah and which do not work lastingly.
A person who authentically has the charted
traits with high scores will be attracted to, appreciate, and relate well with someone
else who has comparable high scores. What makes these ideals valid, practical and
beautiful is that, in psychologically healthy people, these traits (in conjunction with
good scores) bring like people together. They want and value the same things. Therefore,
there is no significant shortchange. Fear of the system breaking down can basically take
care of itself. If it doesn't,
1. one really has a low score and fears
(understandably) being rejected by someone with a decent score
2. one is psychologically not healthy and
can neither deliver what a high score demands or be attracted to a healthy partner who
could deliver what a high score demands, or
3. one is subjective or inaccurate in
It's easier to call the Torah's standards
unrealistic than to call oneself unworkable. Remember from the chapter on self-image: all
who delegitimize do so from their own blemish.
In a serious relationship between two
mature adults, at the bottom line, both partners should end up receiving all legitimate
needs reasonably evenly. If both parties approach the OTHER as the only one who counts,
each will receive everything humanly possible to expect. What will be achieved is an
ATTITUDE, APPROACH and VALUE SYSTEM through which you both make the other happy,
appreciative and content. This will be the key to building a happy marriage WITH TWO
Then, we get into the separate but critical
question of "can I be attracted to and choose someone who will share these
approaches, attitudes, values and standards? That is addressed in the chapter on
self-image and the psychology of choosing a mate.
The charts each use a 1 to 10 format. The
Torah doesn't allow for mistreating or damaging another person, so "negatives"
won't even count. I structure the charts so that zero is neutral. Negatives are below zero
and don't even rate. There can be no credence to negatives, so they are "off the
chart." If one charts any negative numbers (minus one, mildest negative; through
minus ten, severest negative) one can chart self-development projects which MUST be
devised, implemented and achieved before prospects for a reasonably successful marriage
can be realistically developed. In any event, one must get above positive number one (on
all of the charts) at least a few integers, to be where choosing and having a functional,
healthy, satisfying and durable marriage would be probable.
These charts will "give you a way to
go," so you can know what you have to work on to overcome your obstacles to being a
"married-person mind-set" person. You may think of more charts for yourself. Use
the same criteria:
* negatives don't even make it onto the
* each factor which you chart is crucial to
marriage or to your becoming marriageable
* you have to judge yourself with painful
and courageous honesty and objectivity, or else the value of these measures are lost
* you base your assessment on your
practical "track record" and honest attitude; not on abstractions,
rationalizations, wishful thinking nor on your intellectual ideals.
If a confidante who knows you can score you
(with your permission to be brutally honest and uninhibited), you will gain from
constructively discussing the disparities between your scores for you and your friend's
scores for you. Your friend must not be judgmental, you must not be defensive.
When charting, writing will help concretize
your thinking. Repeat the chart for each factor. You may use half-numbers in the interest
of accuracy (e.g. + 1 1/2 for A, + 3 1/2 for B, + 2 1/2 for C, etc.). If you want to draw
charts, use any system that you find to be effective and reliable. For example:
-10 -9 -8 -7 -6 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3
+4 +5 +6 +7 +8 +9 +10
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In anything in which you have a negative
number or a zero, consider yourself as not having a fundamental and non-negotiable
prerequisite for a lasting or happy marriage. Be objective enough to have others who know
the "real you" corroborate your findings. If handled without resistance or
defensiveness, this will open up very healthy, constructive and helpful dialogues that can
give insights and lead to significant life-changing breakthroughs.
On a scale from one to ten, since giving is
crucial to marriage, grade yourself as a giver to other people. To do this correctly is
tricky because there is subtlety here. A zero means that you give as much as you take
(remember, more taking isn't even on the chart; and zeros, for the purposes of these
charts, are neutral). A one means that you give slightly more and make other people happy
slightly more than you require or take for yourself. A ten means that you give exclusively
except for the barest minimum necessary to stay alive. You would have to be an absolute
tzadik to be able to give totally (i.e. a "ten") except for what you need for
barest survival, but this also gives some perspective. This is the Torah's reference point
for the end of legitimizing taking. You should have a good few points on this chart to
demonstrate readiness for marriage. Think through your "track record" and
attitude regarding the spectrum from giving to taking. In relationships do you give more,
less or equally? Do you chase opportunities for kindness. Are you creative about doing
good to please and benefit others? How much do you feel for the unhappiness or happiness
of other people, and does such concerned feeling intensify commensurately for people who
are progressively closer to you or in greater need? How much do you want to give to a
spouse and children?
Peace is the single highest value in all
human relations...and all the moreso in marriage. So, on a scale from one to ten, chart
yourself as to avoiding and resolving fights or differences (in all aspects, including the
four steps of interpersonal tshuva, sincerely apologizing, controlling temper, handling
provocations gently, making resolutions endure, etc.) pursuing and striving on behalf of
peace. The confrontational person is a negative who is below zero, "off the
charts." A zero means that I want to win and lose equally. Sometimes the winner can
be you and, an equal amount, it has to be me. A one is: I let the other in any
relationship win slightly more. A ten is "I want the other one to always win and
never have a speck of breach of the peace. For peace I will travel, exert myself, spend
money, sacrifice, cancel or conquer my ego, do whatever it takes to promote peace between
people, whether it is a case which involves me or not - and all the moreso in my marriage.
I'm always soft, compromising, I give in and I back off for the preservation or building
of peace." Do you have a few points? Where are you on the chart?
It is vital for marriageable people to be
able to make another person feel that (s)he is the most important in the universe. One who
demands to be more important than any other person, is a negative number, not even on the
charts. A zero is: I make us equally important in my human relations. One: I make the
other slightly more important. Ten is: I make the other totally important, except the
least amount necessary for me to survive. I am a paragon of thoughtfulness and
consideration. I demonstrate that I am thinking of you by phoning you from wherever I am,
bringing presents, using my talents to create things that please you, I anticipate or I
let you have what matters to you, I give compliments and express appreciation, and I am
responsive. I keep sending concrete messages that say that you are important, special,
precious and valuable.
Crucial to marriage is acceptance of
responsibility for other people. To need others to be responsible for you or for others to
be highly responsible in your arrangements with other people is negative and off the
chart. A zero has us accepting responsibility equally. A one is: I accept slightly more
responsibility for other people than I require them to accept for me. Ten is: I accept
total responsibility all over, all the time, in all relationships, except for the minimal
necessity for survival. This is the Torah's description of the level of a
"gadol," a leader or a king who has responsibility for his generation. How much
do you strive to be responsible several digits onto the positive side?
Crucial to marriage is "working on
myself." This pertains to being able to grow, to be sensitive, adaptive, principled,
to work on developing and elevating myself. Backsliding or declining is a negative. A zero
is: I stagnate. I'm comfortable and/or rigid, "treading water" where I am. One:
I work on myself slightly, relative to my potential (NOT relative to any other person).
Ten is: I am totally, steadily, diligently, perseveringly and intensely working on growing
and elevating, becoming increasingly more spiritual and mature. I am working to my utmost
and potential. I am growing constantly and significantly.
Respect is vital to marriage. Any contempt
or demand for respect for any person is a negative. Expecting an equal entitlement or even
exchange of respect is a zero. Respecting you just a little more than I respect myself is
a one. Respecting you totally, except for my needs for survival, is ten.
Self-control, especially in relation to
anger; or any cause of abuse, hurt or shortchange, is vital to a marriage. If you ever
display a speck of outburst (active damage) or negligence (passive damage), that's a
negative, not on the chart. A zero is: sometimes I'm willing or able to be in control of
myself, sometimes it's your onus and responsibility. One is: I would like to get angry or
lose charge of myself but I control it; albeit with difficulty, tension or resentment. Ten
is: I am always calm and in control of myself, I operate on the basis of intellect and
Torah principle, I don't ever feel anger, I am diligent on behalf of always behaving like
a mentsh and feeling good-heartedness for every other Jew at all times, and I only look to
do good (and guard against bad) in every way at all times.
In order to choose a happy partner and have
a happy marriage, one has to be happy within. An unhappy person cannot choose or have a
happy relationship. One is attracted to people who are like one's true inner self, who are
a reflection of one's true inner self, and who serve the needs of one's internal emotional
condition. This is because that is how one's true inner personality is "wired"
or "programmed," and this, in turn, determines how the personality defines and
understands reality. An unhappy person cannot provide happiness, or appreciate treatment
that should make a recipient happy. Your inner state can be measured by the extent to
which your relationship behavior makes other people happy. If you make others unhappy,
that is a negative. If you make another happy on condition that the other make you happy
equally, that is a zero. If your outpouring of self, in relationship terms, causes the
other to be made to be slightly happier than you expect to be made to feel, that is a one.
If you are fully capable of outpouring constant joy, humor, happiness, security and
delight into another, that is a ten. Orchos Tzadikkim, in defining "happiness,"
requires absolutely no sense of hurt in one's heart.
Vital is trustworthiness. Not being
trustworthy is a negative. A zero is seeing yourself and the next as equally obligated in
trustworthiness. A ten is utter commitment to unending and unchanging total
trustworthiness in every area of life, with utter preoccupation on scrupulousness,
attention to detail, erring on the side of being too reliable and competent.
It is vital to see these charts (and most
important of all, the inner qualities which they are designed to measure) in concrete,
practical terms. To keep detached or abstracted is to deny their purpose - and the purpose
of your life: to achieve your potential and mission, especially in spirituality, and which
you cannot do without your soulmate.