What is marriage? We could tie the earth in a pretty bow, many pretty bows, made out of the reams of paper on which have been written attempts to answer that question. And have these attempts actually answered the question? Clearly not, for the writing continues and continues and continues. Am I going to add to that ribbon? Only to say the following.
If we agree that all human beings are individuals, no one being an exact clone of another human being, then the whole discussion of marriage is nothing but "Let me tell you about my marriage," emphasis on "my." What two unique individuals create when they get married is also unique to them.
There are some generally held parameters for what a marriage should or should not contain. Fidelity to each other is one of those parameters. An absence of violence or abuse is another, both physical and/or mental/emotional abuse. Love upon marriage is not one of the paramenters although liking each other is. Beyond that, people are free to build the kind of marriage that suits them and makes them happy.
Can we learn anything from observing the marriages of other people? Both yes and no. We can see others doing things in their marriages and want to replicate them in our own. And that may be possible or it may not. But to say that we are going to duplicate someone else's marriage completely and take their pattern as our own is simply not possible. You are not them. You don't bring into a marriage every last thing that those people did. In short, you are not clones of those people.
Hand two people the exact same ingredients and the same printed recipe and they still will produce two dishes that are not identical. Marriage is like that. Every marriage may need to have some basic ingredients in common, but the final "dishes" are all unique.
Young people who are dating and who start out conversations with "My marriage will be this way" seem to be missing the information that they are only half the equation. General ideas about marriage? Okay. A specific blueprint before the marriage takes place? Not possible. Marriage is always a work in progress, never a finished product.
There might be less problems in some of today's marriages if people realized that there is no ideal marriage up to which they have to live. There is no perfect example available to follow. Marriage is a work created by two people once they have gotten married. Yes, there is work involved. Marriage is one thing you can't buy ready made.
If some people grow up in a system which tries to make them 'clones' or 'carbon copies' of others in certain important ways, is it surprising that they later think that their marriage should be a clone or copy of another as well ?
I'm a twin and she and I married very different types of men and have different marriages. People often comment that they are surprised by that. Like there was one pattern we were supposed to follow twins especially. We were lucky that our parents encouraged us to be individuals not just one half of a pair.
Always bothers me when a girl on a date announces which places are the only places she will live when married, which schools she is going to send her future kids to and what hashkafas will be kept in her future home. And does her future husband have nothing to say about any of this? One girl said no to another date because I wasn't enthused about living in Brooklyn when I get married. This was supposed to say something about my frumkeit. I had a lucky escape there.
When my oldest daughter started thinking about shidduchim she asked me what you need to have a good marriage. I answered "A husband. If you have one of those you can then the two of you make whatever kind of marriage you want." And then she rolled up her eyes and said to me that some columnist from one of the jewish publications said X and gave me the whole spiel. It almost makes me sorry we ever taught her to read.
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