Why do so many people struggle with feelings that they’ve made a poor choice in marriage?

In his recent New York Times’ piece, Alain de Botton explains why so many people end up marrying the wrong person. We find it difficult to draw close to others. We mask our idiosyncrasies and appear normal until others get to know us well. One of the first questions we should ask on a date is: “And how are you crazy?”

Getting married involves taking a gamble. We think we know each other sufficiently well by looking at old photos and getting to know friends and family, and feel comfortable enough to commit to a life together. But the truth is we have no idea what is waiting down the road. We are hopeful, committed, but no one really knows how they will act and react under the microscope of marriage.

We are not yet complete. The nuances of our hearts are still being molded and shaped. We are a rough draft in the making. When facing our flaws some of us go into silent mode. Others blame partners and walk away from the relationship. We remain with the perception that we are the ‘right’ ones, and simple to set up life with. It’s everyone else who is wrong.

After falling in the emotional swirl of love, replete with a romantic sunset, deep conversations and buzzing excitement about the future, ordinary life eventually intrudes with a white picket fence, long days in the office and kids who overwhelm us.

Instead of passion we are left with the lingering doubt: Did I make the wrong decision?

Marriage is supposed to be forever even though those initial romantic feelings are not. What happened to the passion? Instead we are left with the lingering doubt: Did I make the wrong decision? Now what?

“The good news,” de Botton writes, “is that it doesn’t matter if we find that we have married the wrong person.” There is no such thing as that perfect person we’ve dreamed about or imagined from the time we were young. None of us are flawless. We don’t need to contemplate divorce when we feel frustrated, angry, disappointed, annoyed, and even incomplete. We have adopted this romanticized version of marriage that has destroyed the truth we must face when living with another. Disney love is meant for theme parks and big screens. That the partner we chose cannot shield us from difficulties, sadness and heartbreak does not create a strike against our life together.

Contemplate what really counts in marriage. It’s the spouse who can best live with our differences who becomes the ‘perfect partner’. A generous heart and forgiving nature are the best ingredients to achieve love. We can right the emotions of imperfection that we fear when our relationship doesn’t work out as we thought it would.

Judaism and Seeking Love

When Abraham sought a wife for his son, Isaac, he sent his right hand man, Eliezer, to search for the girl in his home country. How would Eliezer recognize a woman worthy to become the next matriarch of the Jewish people?

It is not the romance that will sustain the marriage; it is good character.

Eliezer knew that if he would meet a woman who displayed incredible kindness, she would be the proper match. Waiting at the well, Eliezer meets Rebecca. She was not only dignified and gracious, she demonstrated her true character of chesed, deep-rooted kindness. Rebecca offered to draw water for both Eliezer and all his ten camels. She did so without complaining, without hesitation, without expectations. Rebecca was unrestrained in her goodness.

For love to flourish we must give love wholeheartedly. We cannot measure, we cannot hold back waiting to see if our spouse will match our actions. Too many petty arguments snowball when we question our giving versus the amount our spouse gives. We limit ourselves and make our love seem small.

Abraham knew exactly what was needed to bring light into the life of his son. A partner who would mirror his love of kindness that remains our nation’s legacy till today.

When seeking a spouse, let us follow in the wise path of Abraham as he contemplated a match for his son. He knew it is not the romance that will sustain the marriage; it is good character. Good heartedness, a forgiving nature and being kind build the bonds of love.