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Just The Way You Are

Just The Way You Are

Love is not a do-it-yourself project. So when looking for a spouse, pick one you can live with -- off-the-rack.


Personally, I've always dreamed of a man who came with no assembly required. I am thus continually surprised that so many people seem to think of long-term-relationships as lengthy renovation projects.

"He's great, but I can't wait to update his wardrobe..."

"She's terrific, but as soon as we get married, she'll be interested in more of the things I am..."

Oh c'mon. Don't approach the chuppah with someone you expect to change.

To paraphrase Billy Joel, love him/her just the way they are. There's a simple reason to adopt this motto: the do-it-yourself approach doesn't work!

It's not that your spouse-to-be won't change. In fact, rest assured that the person you marry will not be the same person in 10 years. And neither will you.

In movies, marriage is the happy ending. In life, it's the beginning of a life-long work in progress. You both will change and grow -- and probably expand sideways and lose some hair. But how that change occurs in your partner is beyond your control.

And that should be okay with you.


There's an old cliché that women marry men thinking they can change them, while men marry women thinking they'll never change. Hmmm... I have a sneaking suspicion that there are plenty of guys out there who think their fascination with Home Depot and the NFL can be transferred to their girlfriend. Yikes.

Rest assured that the person you marry will not be the same person in 10 years. Neither will you.

People in love and committed to one another should see clearly each other's phenomenal traits and characteristics -- along with the weaknesses and shortcomings. You have to be able to accept your love's imperfections. Remember: you're imperfect too. (Shocking, I know.)

Loving in spite of or, perhaps more aptly, loving around your spouse's flaws, is that essential pillar of a successful marriage: unconditional love. Both you and your spouse have to feel accepted, as is.

Becoming one in marriage doesn't mean losing yourself completely. The stronger your sense of self going in, the stronger the marriage will be. Don't expect that getting married will necessarily "complete" you. It won't solve your problems, make you a happy person or fill your lack of self-esteem.

You need to feel confident that your partner loves you, flaws and all. Constantly trying to fulfill someone else's image of who you should be is a failing proposition. You have to be comfortable being completely yourself, and confident that your partner wouldn't want you any other way.

Judaism calls on spouses to help each other strive to become the best version of themselves (sounds like something a beauty pageant contestant might say...). That means you want to be able to help your partner channel his/her talents and blunt their imperfections. Playing loving cheerleader or coach is fine in moderation, but it doesn't take a great deal of wisdom to figure out that "drill sergeant" is not a proper role in most relationships.

Inspire and encourage your love to achieve more in their career, to become a nicer person, to dress with more style, to chew with their mouths closed -- if you think they're open to being inspired.

You might be able to help your partner work on the imperfections, but that's not something you can control.

And you need to ask yourself: Can I live with those imperfections?


A relative of mine has a tendency to make slightly dingy remarks or observations. In response, her husband frequently recalls the great Burns-Allen (husband-wife) comedy team and affectionately comments, "Say Goodnight, Gracie." He views her occasional dizzy flashes as a somewhat charming foible; it makes him adore her all the more. And, like George and Gracie, the couple is a team.

The strongest couples are those who view themselves as a unit.

Experts say that the strongest couples are those who view themselves as a unit, who are drawn together in times of crisis.

Rabbi Aryeh Levine once explained why he was going to the doctor: "My wife's leg hurts us." He understood that, in marriage, two become one.

Can you and your partner comfort one another? Can you place your marriage's long-term well-being above your short-term pleasure or comfort? Can you give freely of yourself to the one you love? Watch out if your partner can't provide you emotional support, or if he/she checks out during difficult times. Run if you're not sure you trust him/her.

As you move through courtship and evaluate whether you want to seal the relationship under the chuppah, you'll want to try to uncover the roots of any strange quirks or bad behaviors.

Spend a few days with your prospective in-laws. With just an ounce of effort and observation, you'll see a number of patterns that made your honey into the complex creature he/she is.

A good friend once told me that love is not an emotion, it's a decision. Marriage, she said further, is a commitment to a commitment. Whether you're deciding whether to ask or whether to answer, you need to know that there's no such thing as a perfect mate.

There's only someone you love, who loves you, who shares your values, and who wants to build a life with you. He/she will be imperfect. At times, the most wonderful person on planet earth. And at times, the most clueless.

What makes a successful marriage is when you're both equally committed during the clueless times. Ultimately, that commitment is what makes you The One for each other.

April 28, 2001

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Visitor Comments: 10

(10) Anonymous, April 18, 2004 12:00 AM


I wish I had seen this before marrying at a young age. However, I have been fortunate in working through a lot of issues with my spouse.We are still working things out after 40 years. Your article is the advice people need when comtemplating marriage or already there. Thanks.

(9) Anonymous, March 9, 2004 12:00 AM

ISH.COM is a GOD Send....

This is the most wonderful and profound information on family, dating and relationship that I have ever come across - since doing the Landmark Forum in 1995.

Thank you so much, this website provide so much ongoing coaching and insight to BEING POWERFUL ABOUT THE ONE KEY AREA THAT WE ALL HAVE CHALLENGES-"EFFECTIVELY RELATING TO OTHERS - especially those we are most comfortable to show our worst and hopefully our best selves...our partners..."

Thanks again for your wisdom and insights.

(8) Philip Thomas, February 5, 2004 12:00 AM

Marriage is not a partnership

Marriage is often misunderstood as a
partnership.It is not a partnership-
it is full ownership.
Lack of understanding in this area leads
to the problems of the present generations.Marriage is a divine institution.

(7) Heather, September 6, 2001 12:00 AM

Your words supported a hard decision...thank you!

I've just forced myself from continuing a relationship where I fell very hard for a man who supposedly claimed the same thing. Yet the hurts from feeling alone, the lack of emotional support when I needed it most, and my doubts about integrity and honesty just dwindled my hope for a future. This has been very painful for me to face. Reading your words: "Can you and your partner comfort one another? Can you place your marriage's (relationship)long-term well-being above your short-term pleasure or comfort? Can you give freely of yourself to the one you love? Watch out if your partner can't provide you emotional support, or if he/she checks out during difficult times. Run if you're not sure you trust him/her. ", has helped give me the support to see this ending through. I am amazed that when feelings are deep, that your head can know the negatives, yet like you said, deep love will accept and work around them. But it does get to the point eventually (and I wish sooner than later) that what your gut senses as wrong is usually just that. Again thank you for your words...I can now continue with strength to do what I know I must do!

(6) Alyssa Firger, August 23, 2001 12:00 AM

A very wise article

I really enjoyed reading this article. Marriage is about acceptance. You don't always have to like everything that your partner does, but you have to accept them for who they really are and love them despite their flaws.

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