Who's Afraid of Commitment?
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Who's Afraid of Commitment?
Mom with a View

Who's Afraid of Commitment?

Getting married warrants a good dose of fear.

by

Everyone's a little scared of commitment, even us women. As the wedding day approaches, both the bride and groom feel more and more anxious and tense. In fact, the Jewish custom is that the couple doesn't see each other (some don't even speak to each other) for the week before the wedding in order to avoid the needless quarrels that would arise out of all the stress (and of course to enhance the excitement and anticipation).

Marriage is a heavy decision, and both sides, if they are alert and rational, enter their marriage with joy -- and trepidation. Although men are often chastised for their fear of commitment, Neil Chethik in his book, VoiceMale, points to a recent survey by the United States Census Bureau. Nearly 9 out of 10 American men will marry at least once in their lifetimes. This doesn't support a deep fear of commitment. In fact the high divorce rate suggests perhaps the fear wasn't great enough, or the understanding.

As our desire (and sometimes our desperation) to get married grows (this is not necessarily proportional to age; there are 19 year-olds who convey desperation and 50 year olds in no rush), our ability to choose wisely and carefully, to fully evaluate the consequences of this commitment we are undertaking may diminish.

A friend told me that she spent every post-date period analyzing their conversations for signs of "his" feelings about her. It was only after some gentle prodding on my part that she remembered to explore her feelings for him!

If a woman is not as frightened as her spouse about the upcoming change, then perhaps she isn't taking it seriously enough. Perhaps it's about the dress, the party, and playing house. Perhaps she takes for granted her ability to be a good wife. It takes a lot of effort (even allowing for that innate ability!) to build something positive and lasting with another human being.

If we choose someone whose character we admire and respect, and whose goals coincide with our own (transcendent aspirations, not material dreams), then certainly our fear should be diminished.

But we must still stand in awe of the responsibility we are undertaking. And instead of concentrating on our partner, perhaps we should turn inward. Are we up to the task?

Are we ready for the job of focusing on someone else instead of ourselves, of putting the needs of another before our own? Are we up to the task of ignoring the negative and looking at the positive? Are we up to the task of putting on our best face (and perhaps outfit) to greet our spouse? I heard of a rabbi who eulogized his wife saying "Living with her was a taste of the Garden of Eden." Are we up to that task?

Certainly we're capable of it. The question is: are we choosing it? Making our marriage great takes a tremendous amount of work. (I'm not trying to sound weighed down by this; it's a lot of fun too!) We should be somewhat afraid. But certainly if we can be CEOs of major corporations (to put a reverse spin on the feminist argument), then we can run our families with the same zeal and drive. We just have to prioritize.

We are given many different titles in our lives -- vice-president, mommy, ‘you there', Mrs. Which one means the most? Which is the greater accomplishment? Which requires the deeper commitment?

When a Jewish couple gets married, we are given a blessing that we should build a Bayit Ne'eman b'Yisrael, a faithful home in Israel. Why does everyone give this same blessing?

It's not just a lack of the creative spirit. It's because having a home in which the Almighty's presence can rest, a home that is special and holy, does not come easily or naturally. It requires the energy and good wishes of the young couple and all their friends and family, with help from the Almighty. It requires effort -- and blessing.

Both men and women should have some fear of commitment. And we should take that anxiety and channel it into building a sanctified Jewish home.

Published: March 4, 2006


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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Anonymous, March 15, 2006 12:00 AM

Take Care of Yourself

Although you are offering sound and moral advice for one to reflect upon his or her own level of emotional maturity, physical and intellectual stamina for marriage and ability to compromise when living with another person; I feel that this should take second place to considering one's own needs. One of the major precepts in the Torah is "Im ain Ani Li, Mi Li", If I am not for myself, then who will be for me. Many people marry prematurely or for the wrong reasons and with delusional attitudes of egocentricity. However, in this day and age of difficult dating situations, duplicitous matchmakers, shadchanim with agendas and dating web sites with opaque personal descriptions, one should primarily be concerned with whether or not the other party suits their needs and lifestyle. I sincerely hope that my opinion is not simply cast as being "selfish" but rather exhorting single people to attempt to seize some control of their social situations and remember to perform due diligence EVEN when the date is offered by a Rabbi or esteemed shadchan and continue this type of review while courting the other party. Since your article appears to primarily address women (putting on our best face,outfit) my advice is even more apropos since women generally are afforded a lesser degree of control in the initial stages of arranged dating situations.

(4) Anonymous, March 9, 2006 12:00 AM

To the lady who was married 28 years

I agree with what you said. Personally, I don't believe that Shidduch is good for everybody and everyone has to choose his/her own way to find the one they want and need. There is no point living in a marriege that don't satisfiy both sides, especially if there are kids...
Getting married is supposed to be about building a strong home on a strong foundation. I believe that love and close relationship ties make the strong home and, God, of course, is the foundation. I can only assume that God has its own reasons to make you go through what you did. However,at least now you have been given another chance to live the way you always wanted and I hope you use it to love yourself as much as you can and, God willing, find the people who will treat you with the same love, if not better.
I wish you all the best.

(3) Tova saul, March 8, 2006 12:00 AM

I'd like to be a millionaire, also

Steve Martin once did a routine which began: "YOU can be a mill-ee-yonaire!....Yes! YOU can be a mill-ee-yonaire! First, you get a million dollars, and then...." Well, to find a Jewish man that one respects and who's goals match one's own is no simple matter when you consider that at least 4 times as many American Jewish men marry non-Jewish women than the number of Jewish women who intermarry. That leaves behind a yawning ocean of Jewish women without a Jew to marry, and results in the huge number of great single Jewish women over age 30 who have no matches on the horizon, or on 10 horizons. The sooner Jewish leaders and shadchanim wake up to this fact, the sooner steps can be taken to do something about it.

(2) Anonymous, March 8, 2006 12:00 AM

Just a note

This is not on topic, but I wanted to thank you for a recipe. Two years ago, you had a recipe for chocolate hamentaschen on this website. They are a huge hit...I have made them for my husband's modern Orthodox shul and my mother's Reform synagogue. While they might disagree on many other subjects, they all seemed to agree the hamentaschen. And best of all...I stay out of trouble while I am baking them! :-)

(1) Anonymous, March 5, 2006 12:00 AM

ONE MORE REQUIREMENT FOR A SUCCESSRFUL RELATIONSHIP.

Bs"D

"If we choose someone whose character we admire and respect, and whose goals coincide with our own (transcendent aspirations, not material dreams), then certainly our fear should be diminished."

WE NEED EVEN MORE THAN CHARACTER THAT IS WORTHY OF OUR ADMIRATION AND RESPECT - MORE THAN GOALS THAT COINCIDE WITH OUR OWN TRANSCENDENT ASPIRATIONS. WE ALSO NEED TO BE LIKED BY THE OTHER AND TO LIKE THE OTHER.

28 YEARS AGO, I MARRIED A MAN WITH THE FIRST TWO STIPULATIONS ABOVE - HE HAD ADMIRABLE AND RESPECTABLE CHARACTER, AND MY GOALS COINCIDED WITH HIS TRANSCENDENT ASPIRATIONS. HOWEVER, HE DIDN'T LIKE ME, DIDN'T WANT TO MARRY ME. I DID WANT TO MARRY HIM AND FRIENDS TOLD ME HE WOULD CHANGE. HE DIDN'T. I DID. 28 YEARS LATER, I NOW DO NOT LIKE HIM. DIVORCE IS IN THE OFFING.

ASIDE FROM THE INTELLECTUAL DRAW IN A SUCCESSFUL SHIDUCH, THERE NEEDS TO BE SOME EMOTION INVOLVED - DOESN'T HAVE TO BE HEAD OVER HEELS. DOESN'T HAVE TO BE LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. BUT THE TWO PEOPLE HAVE TO LIKE EACH OTHER. IF NOT, THEN THE COUPLE RISK A MARRIAGE WITHOUT A FOUNDATION. IN MY CASE, WHAT IS LEFT AFTER 28 YEARS OF MARRIAGE IS A FULLY TRAUMATIZED FAMILY GROWN ON THE NON-VIABLE GROUND OF A LOVELESS, APATHETIC SPOUSAL RELATIONSHIP, MASKED AS A "MARRIAGE". THANK G-D, I DIDN'T HAVE TO WAIT 70 YEARS LIKE RIP VAN WINKLE, TO WAKE UP - HOWEVER, 28 YEARS IS INDEED PLENTY LONG OF A TIME TO LIVE WITHOUT BEING LOVED AND WITHOUT EVEN BEING LIKED.

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