Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I Do; more than enough for the both of us

Dear Harley,

I absolutely agree with you that the "incessant questioning" is more than irksome. I find it to be offensive in some cases. And as sites like End the Madness show, there is a huge emphasis placed on marriage within Judaism (specifically Orthodox Judaism) and it can come at a terrible price. The social pressure is intense. It can even become economic pressure; while I generally disapprove of anecdotal evidence, I personally spend hundreds more a month on rent than Harley, so that I can live on the UWS and hopefully meet my b'sheret (soulmate).

Yes, the pressure is ridiculous, and I don't necessarily think that the line of questioning is helpful (Really? We should get married? Thanks Mrs. Blum, now that you've mentioned it, I'm sure that he'll propose, he just hadn't thought of it yet.) but I'm not ready to throw out the baby with the bathwater. You see, I am a Modern Orthodox Jew, and I do see marriage as an objective good. I think that in a world where marriage exists, the choice to remain unmarried (for it is a choice) says something about the level of commitment in a relationship. I don't necessarily think that living with a significant other/partner is a good idea (aside from religious reasons), and I certainly don't think that those who live together first are more likely to stay married. The numbers* show that those who live together before marriage are 33% more likely to get divorced.

Unlike Harley and LT I do think that you can be objectively "ready for marriage." Even without a significant other in the picture, you are still not in a vacuum. I am currently in a financial and emotional place where I could look for a spouse. You see, I believe in "dating for marriage." The purpose of dating, in my mind, is to meet someone with whom I would want to spend the rest of my life, with whom I would want to build a strong Jewish family. I think that framing dating in that context changes it. When I say that I'm "ready for marriage" I don't mean tomorrow, I mean that I am ready to look seriously. Dating for marriage is a process by which you look for someone that you could love, respect, have fun with, etc, but also someone who shares your values. It doesn't have to be a perfect match, but it presumes two things, that I think are not necessarily present in non-dating-for-marriage contexts:

1) You recognize that marriage is work, you are looking for the best match (whatever that means) but you aren't with the person ONLY because you love them, but also because you think that you can make a go of it.

2) Marriage is a big step. You shouldn't take it just because it is the next step. So you've been dating for 4 years, you live together, the next step is marriage, should you get married? I don't think that everyone necessarily sees it as a seperate institution, and not just "the next step." When you look at marriage (a good marriage) as the goal, you put more thought into the process, really evaluate the person not only as a good relationship, but as a good marriage prospect.

So, yes, I am ready for marriage, and I want to get married, and I don't think that concubinage is necessarily to the detriment of the woman, or that living together is wrong. But I still resent when strangers, or even aquaintances feel the need to assume linearity in my relationships, and comment on it.


*Harley is going to kill me for saying "the numbers." I'll try to find a source.


Anonymous said...

Unlike Harley and LT I do think that you can be objectively "ready for marriage."

I think you can be at a stage in your life wherein the next logical steps include marriage and having children. I think you can be "ready for marriage" in a general sense. But I think there's a danger in that line of thinking... if a person focuses too much on their desire to get married (as I said in the other comment, if they elevate the institution above the specific), then they become more likely to get married for the sake of getting married... which is to say, they become more likely to get married to the wrong person.

You see, I believe in "dating for marriage."

Aside from the fact that I don't believe in dating (that's another whole post or three altogether), I don't think dating needs to be "for marriage". Isn't there something a little healthier in the simple desire to meet new people? What if you go out on a date with a guy and can quickly conclude he's not a guy you're going to want to marry... you would likely stop seeing him then, and you might never have the chance to realize that even though he'd make a horrible spouse, he could have become one of your best friends. You might respond "I have great friends, I don't need more. What I need is a groom." But I still feel it's a shame if dating in a goal-oriented fashion causes you to miss out on some potentially great experiences. And as for the relationships themselves, dating for marriage can take a lot of the fluidity away from relationships and force them to develop in contrived, unnatural ways.

Anonymous said...

I Do; more than enough for the both of us

Does this mean you plan on marrying three (or more) men? ;-)

Shoshana said...

I don't know if anyone is ever "ready" to get married. You can work on yourself and your relationships with others, your emotional and financial "readiness" quotient, but I don't think you will ever truly know what it is like to be in a marriage until you are there, even if you cohabit or date for a long period of time before marriage.

That being said, I always feel bad for those of my friends whose sole goal in life seems to be getting married. Yes, it is something that I desire, but until I meet that person I'm not going to put a hold on everything else, and I'm not going to pretend that it is the number one thing going on in my life. What really offends me is when people say that I should put more emphasis on "getting married" than other things, as if I can not decide my priorities for myself.

I have many goals in life, one of them being marriage (primarily because I would like to be a mother at one point, though not to the exclusion of a career, but that's a whole 'nother conversation). And while I would say that I am "dating for marriage," I hardly think that means, as LT points out, that you can't view dating as a way to meet people and possibly new friends as well as a potential spouse. You never know what you will get from another person, and I have found great friendships in guys that I have initially gone out with under the premise of "dating for marriage." I think people, especially Orthodox singles, often view marriage as a panacea to heal everything else going on in their life, and to the exclusion of anything else that might be considered important. And that, I think, just leads to being pretty upset when it doesn't actually happen immediately.

AnnieGetYour said...

LT- I agree with your first point. Yes wanting to get married can lead to marrying the wrong person for the sake of being married. It sucks.

When I date for marriage I don't disqualify people that quickly, it is a personal decision. And I have made friends through dates (one came for shabbes lunch) I think that the system can work, it just depends on how careful you personally are.

No, I am not marrying three men, although I wish that I could.

Shoshana- while I agree that dating for marriage can create issues, I think that the issues are easier(at least for me) to personally navigate.

Anonymous said...

F--- Marriage.

Anonymous said...

Aside from the fact that I don't believe in dating (that's another whole post or three altogether)

As promised.


Jack's Shack said...

Don't overthink it. It is not as complicated as you make it sound.

Esther Kustanowitz said...

Ah yes, the elusive "numbers." Unfortunately, any numbers you're likely to find are likely to be general, and not specific to the Jewish community, which as you know is its own beast. If only we had a space to discuss such issues, dedicate financial resources to creating real data and drink coffee at the same time...I know! Here's one. :)