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How to Ensure a Happy Marriage
By N. Shuldig
In the past, many successful Jewish marriages were arranged marriages in the sense that they were arranged by the parents through the agency of a shadchan, a Jewish matchmaker. Most of these arranged marriages were successful if judged by the low divorce rate. In today's modern world many things have changed and matchmakers, although still around, are not employed in the greater Jewish world, and the divorce rate is significantly higher than ever before. The very Orthodox Jews who still employ matchmakers have a lower divorce rate than that of the national average and of the general Jewish population.
Today arranged marriages using the matchmaker have a poor image despite their success rate. Part is due to the press looking at it as a relic from the past, but also because the young people do their own choosing for a mate and do not have their parents aid them. However there is much the general public can learn from the success of arranged marriages and apply it to their own particular life style.
The following is a story has been circulating in the Jewish community that echos those very thoughts.
A young religious yeshiva man was engaged to be married. His parents had chosen and fitting girl for him and he agreed to the match. A week before the marriage the boy developed an ugly rash on his face that did not respond to over the counter remedies, so the mother, worried how her son would look under the wedding canopy, called a famous dermatologist whose clients included famous movie stars and made an appointment for her son.
He came to the office and was told to wait. He sat their studying his Talmud while famous personalities came in and out. In the course of time he was taken in by the doctor and the boy explained why he had come.
“What is this?” exclaimed the doctor. “Another arranged marriage? Come on now sonny boy, we live in the 21st century. Go out and choose your own mate!”
“Tell me,” inquired the boy. “How many times was that movie star that you just saw married?”
“I'm not certain, four, maybe five times.”
“I'm on my second marriage. Why do you ask?”
“I don't see that there is much to learn from your methodology of selecting mates.” replied the boy.
While returning to the ancient shadchan system may not be a viable alternative, yet there are certain points and techniques that they use that you can utilize to help you find a proper and suitable mate.
First thing, and most important is before your initial date, if possible, check up on the person. If he asks you out or if you are thinking of asking out a girl, first do research. Yes, a bit of checking before dating can save much problems later in the game. Find out from his/her friends what the personality is like. Look for clues to irritable behavior, instability, and other character defects that can destroy a marriage. Remember once you are on a date, each side puts on a facade which serves as a mask to cover problems and they will act as if they are great people, even if they have serious problems. Every one has good points and rough points. Learn what are their 'fuzzy' sides. What gets them upset. But do this before, not after, the meeting if possible and definitely before a second meeting.
Learn about their goals, where do they want to be in ten years in terms of work, life, activities, and, most important, family. Do they want children? Ask about their past; is there something amiss like learning disabilities, illness: emotional or physical. Were there any past relationships that are sticky? What about family, are they intact and together or is this a dysfunctional family? What about work, is the person respected, how long have they been there, what exactly do they do? What ever you can find out can be important.
Be careful who you ask. Ask neighbors and not such great friends. Close friends will tell you that they are great. Rabbis, bless them, are sometimes frank and sometimes do not tell the truth in these matters, so take their words with a grain of salt. The neighbors and acquaintances will normally tell you what they know. If you are embarrassed to ask yourself, find a close friend or relative whom you trust. You don't have to tell your name, but realize that people may be cautious about giving out information about their friends, but tell them it is in regard to a possible date.
Dating is most often fun, going to a movie or some other form of amusement. Don't do this, rather have a dinner or just coffee in a quiet restaurant where you can talk. Fun is something that you can do later; now focus on finding out about the other person's likes, dislikes, goals, and general life desires. Schmoching and more can be fun, but don't get emotionally involved until this prospective person passes all the tests. The more physical you get,the more involved you will become and the less objective you will be. This heavy emotional and physical Involvement before marriage, in my opinion, is the reason that most marriage end up in divorce court. It has been shown clearly that sexual involvement before the marriage does not promote good marriages, just the opposite, they generally end in divorce.
from the January 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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