Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How Long is Long Enough?

Some things that require human input to come to fruition also come with timetables that tell us how long we need to work until a particular something can be considered as ready. Food recipes tell us what temperatures to cook or bake something on and also the amount of time needed until a dish is ready. As anyone who has cooked can tell you those recipes are sometimes only approximations. There are extenuating factors and conditions that can affect cooking and baking time. How close to the ideal does your oven or your burners come? Are your ingredients room temperature or straight out of the fridge? Just try and make an eggwhite snow in very humid weather or when it's pouring rain outside--the snow will "weep."

Put a load of wash into the dryer and you'll be faced with those automatic controls that say "less dry," "normal dry," and "extra dry." And you may also be faced with clothes that aren't dry on any of those settings. Shoe polish containers tell you how many minutes to wait until the polish applied to your shoes is dried. I wouldn't walk on any light colored carpeting if I were you based on that time recommendation. Even schooling gives you a time frame: 8 years for elementary school, 4 years for high school, 4 years for college. And we all know that sometimes it takes more years and sometimes less.

So, if we're honest, we admit that most of the time frames for our human endeavors are artificially devised, and they don't often work as we'd like them to work. Of course, the more work involved in a project, the less time we'd like to have to put into that project. Honesty again compells us to say that humans are, at heart, basically lazy. They are willing to put in X amount of work; anything over that X amount and you hear the complaints zooming in.

And then there is shidduch making. I believe that this area of our lives has become the most blatant--and the most ridiculous as well--when it comes to compressed time scheduling. Start out the process when the kids are just barely over the line of adulthood--and sometimes not even there yet--and scramble as fast as you can to get to the finish line in as short a time as is possible. Heaven forbid that our young people should be allowed to "finish cooking." Heaven forbid that we should adjust our "recipe" to fit the individual "ingredients" we have. When it comes to making a shidduch then our timetable is "one size fits all." (Ever purchased one of those one size fits all garments? Some day I'd actually like to meet the one person in the world who might, just might, be able to wear that garment.)

Without divulging any identifying information, a young couple that was married this past year post-Purim is now divorced. They did not even make it through the entire week of sheva brochos. And yes, the parents checked and checked and then checked some more. And yes, the "courtship," if we can call it that, went according to the proscribed recipe. Apparently eleven weeks from first date to marriage was not long enough. Would that this would have been the first time I had heard such a story; unfortunately, it's not.

There used to be a widely used saying: "Marry in haste, repent in leisure." Perhaps we need to bring it back into usage.


Anonymous said...

A big part of the rush to quick marriage is the rabbinic fear that young couples will "sin" (i.e. engage in touching each other, or going further). Many, maybe most couples do anyway (even the frummest, because human nature is human nature). So the reasoning is that short engagements make it easier for the couple to wait, or at least cut down on the time they have available to "sin".

This is sad on so many levels. At least the couple you mentioned has no children. Once there are children, there is often no "divorcing" yourself from a person; because of the children, couples are sort of bound to each other for the rest of their lives. If the ex-spouse is abusive or mentally ill, a life of heartache is the result.

Here, you write about the rush to quickie marriage. Maybe you should have a follow-up post about the rush to quickie parenthood.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I got married 7 weeks after we became engaged. Just enough time to get a hall and send out invitations. BUT we dated for over 7 months before we became engaged. Anything we had real questions about was asked and answered before we decided to get married. We saw each other's reactions in all kinds of situations. We weren't strangers. Of course we also weren't 20. We were both of us over the 30 line. We had dated a lot of different people and had a chance to figure out what WE needed in a marriage partner, what WE found we could either live with or not live with in someone else. Pretty much all those helpful people who were pushing us to get married while we were still in college had given up on us.

You know the strange thing? When we announced we were getting married there were people whose comments were if this is what he/she wanted they could have had that years ago. No, we couldn't have. We were different people back then and neither of us really knew what WE wanted, just what everyone else told us we should want.

FYI said...

"Marry in haste, repent in leisure."

Actually, there is teaching of Chazal, a gemara I believe, that advises deliberation, not being hasty in rushing into marriage (that is an addition to teachings such as 'first build a house, then plant a vineyard, then marry').

Al said...

I remember a tv commercial that said 'We will sell no wine before its time.' Seems to me we should act the same way. Sure there are people who will drink a wine right after it's bottled, but everyone knows that the best wines need to sit in the bottle for a long time and get aged to perfection.

Lots of products that get better with age. I guess we religious jews aren't gourmets. Shame.

wallE said...

Short engagements in general are a good idea; if you're engaged, there shouldn't be aneed to 'get to know each other' (at least not until after the wedding). The problem is short courtships. I know 3 couples like the one mentioned in this post; they all got married around the same time I did, and all were divorced in less than 9 months (thankfully, none of the women were pregnant). And yes, we were all 20. The difference is that I dated my husband for 8 months, with all the naysayers saying he should propose already, if we didn't know by now it wasn't gonna happen, and blah blah blah. But look who's still standing happily married.

And as someone mentioned above, there's also too much rush to parenthood. We know another 3 couples who divorced within months of having that baby that was conceived during the sheva brachos.

Dave said...

How much of this is a short courtship/engagement, and how much is the social pressure for early marriage?

My wife and I were living together within three days (obviously, I'm not frum), married with in three months, and are fast approaching our 18th anniversary. And we were married quite young by secular standards (21 for me, 22 for her). Mind you, we did not follow marriage with children, so that also is significantly different than the Orthodox world.

I've given up trying to figure out what rules would mean happy marriages. As far as I can tell, the differences in people are so significant that general rules don't work. Of course, that requires you to be able to highlight differences when looking for a spouse.

Anonymous said...

Dave: of course, for some couples there is "love at first sight" or some similar variation. But other couples struggle with making commitment, wondering if "this one is the one" - just as in the secular world. The difference is that in the religious world, the pressure is to make a decision quickly. Some couples might break up, others might get pressured into marriage.

Anonymous said...

If you're going to say that the rules can't apply to every situation, then you cannot automatically assume that the reason the courtship fell apart was because of the short engagement period/dating time. There are so many factors involved that just picking on that one undermines the problem. There are couples who go out for over a year and never discuss the important issues - they're also breaking up after three months of marriage, etc.
The problem is getting people to talk directly about what they are looking for in life, marriage, etc. This doesn't have to take long (depending on the person obviously). If someone is dating someone for three weeks and feels ready to marry that person - the couple involved and their parents should be asking why? Is it just because you're attracted to them? Or is it more than that? Do you see similar outlook and goals in life? etc.
Please focus on the underlying problem instead of saying it's the short dating/engagement period. Since it's not always the case, it will NOT solve the problem...

SubWife said...

Anonymous, you are right. But there is also a very real problem of people being pushed into making THE decision very quickly. I had experienced it first hand, and it's not fun. On the one hand, you don't want to get engaged if you are not sure, on the other hand, you don't want to say "no" if you think it could go somewhere. But there would be real pressure to make a decision one way or another, not just keep going out.

Discussing things is good, but getting to know a person takes time. Some people are like an open book, some are not. There is nothing wrong with short courtship, if all parties are comfortable with that. Similarly, there shouldn't be anything wrong with longer courtships.