The Right One
I’d like to settle down and get married, but I see so many of my friends getting married and then divorced after a few years. I don’t want this to happen to me. What advice do you have?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
The first step is to make a list of all of the qualities you think are important in a future spouse. Traits that define a decent, honest, caring human should be "givens.” You absolutely need to trust and respect the person. A good way to measure this is to ask: Do I want my children to grown up to be like him/her?
Now look at the other qualities on your list. How vital are they? In the long term, things like looks and hobbies are much less important. The big thing to look for is life goals that are compatible with yours. Rabbi Nachum Braverman writes that Jewish wisdom defines marriage as "the commitment a man and a woman make to become one and to pursue together common life goals."
Couples may argue over a stray toothpaste cap, the style of a new couch or whose turn it is to get up with the baby, but no matter how heated these run-ins become, they should never destroy a marriage. Remember this rule of thumb: a marriage that is threatened by where to spend a vacation is a marriage that lacks the bond of common life goals.
Marriages dissolve when two lives are pointed in different directions. Conflicts over the color of a new kitchen can generally be resolved, but conflicts in direction often cannot. Couples rarely break up over clashes in taste, but they do break up over whether to give priority to career or family, over whether or not to have children, over the education of their children and over which religion. These are life goal issues. They are issues every individual needs to carefully consider before inviting someone else to share his or her life. Two people who don't know where they are going should never commit to getting there together.
Once all this is in place – this person has good character, you trust and respect them, and you share common life goals – the “final ingredient” is physical attraction. This does not means Hollywood-style fireworks, but rather a general sense that this person has pleasant physical features. The stronger attraction will grow as it is mixed with the emotional bond that is deepened over time.
For more insights, check out the excellent dating advice columns at: www.aish.com/d/