Thursday, November 24, 2011

Be careful what you wish for...

One night, almost ten years ago, I sat down with a purple pen and a sheet of lined paper and made a list.

I wrote a sincere and heartfelt list of the qualities that I was looking for in a chosson. I wrote on that list that I wanted my husband to be a sincere person, with true yiras shomayim, who was truly dedicated to yiddishkiet. I wanted someone intelligent who loved learning Torah. I wanted him to be srupulously honest. I wanted him to have smicha or be in the process of getting it, and ulitmately work in klei kodesh. I wanted him to focus on ruchnius rather than gashmiyus.

I davened to Hashem that I should find a chosson with these qualities. Whenever I davened shmoneh esrei, I focused my requests on finding a good chosson and building a Jewish home.

I got everything that I wanted. I got married at 18, on my first shidduch, to a chosson with every quality on my list. I had won the shidduch lottery. I had succeeded, by background had not prevented me from getting married, as I had feared that it would. My husband was even a FFB. I succeeded.

Or not.

What I needed was the exact opposite of what I had asked for. I needed more time and more life experience. I needed time to "find myself", despite my confidence that I had already done so.

Perhaps if I had done so, my list would have been different.

What I needed, or at least need now, is the freedom to grow and explore. What I need now is a partner who will view life as a journey, a person who is willing to question and search.

My husband recently showed me my purple list again. He explained that he has every quality on the list. He is right, he does.

But the list changed because I changed. Of course, I cannot expect him to change because I changed, but I can't refrain from changing because of him.

So I remain, tenuously perched on the fence.

For now.


  1. > I got married at 18, on my first shidduch

    Yeah, there’s the problem.

    I got married at 24, to the thirteenth girl I went out with. I got lucky. My wife doesn’t have all of the qualities that were on my (metaphorical) list, but she has all of the important ones, and those priorities haven’t changed. Then again, what I was looking for was mostly about personality, and what little had to do with religion was about open-mindedness.

    Still, I wonder what dating would have been like if I had any experience with girls. My wife is the first girl that I ever had any sort of relationship with. I think that if I had known then what I know now, after years of marriage and having developed friendships with other couples, dating would have been very different. Not necessarily better, but very different.

  2. One thing I'm doing research in is the effect of age at marriage on divorce, and one reason people who marry young get divorced at a higher rate (which they do)is because people tend to hang a lot in their early 20s and the ways they change may lead to new goals and values that are not as compatible with their spouse as when they were younger. Another reason is that younger people are less equipped to choose a compatible partner in general. ( not that this means you're going to get divorced, just that what you are going through is normal). I think in every relationship that lasts a long time, people change, and they are not going to be the same as when you married them, the key to a lasting relationship is probably how you face those changes.

  3. Change a lot not hang a lot( sorry on iPad)

  4. I think that one of the reasons the UO community pushes people to get married fast is for them not to find themselves (or attempt to do so). You simply step out of high school with all its brain washing into the Huppah.

  5. So based on your wishes being fulfilled as you you had asked, do you believe in God? ;)

  6. Please allow me to look at this from a different angle. Your husband's.
    He is exactly what you had wanted at the time, and - I'm guessing - so were you, or at least close enough to make a go for it. Does he currently see a future with you? While you obviously changed, he has too, even though it may not seem that way on the surface. Life and experience change everyone, and the trick to a great marriage (from my experience of almost 20 years) is to change with the times. This is true for both sides. If he is still committed to make your marriage work despite how you've changed (and it is entirely possible he still loves you and wants it to), and you as well are committed to the relationship (despite the changes) - then why should you stop. Do you still love him and see qualities in him (some of those you mentioned apply equally to non-Jews/non-Frum - "scrupulously honest", for example)?
    I have also been questioning if mixed Frum/OTD/non-Frum relationships can work. I believe they can - as long as they have the same basis as all marriages - trust, caring, concern, mutual respect, and mutual goals. The last one might sound like a real problem, but I think that just as goals change over time for fully FFBs, same too they change for everyone.

  7. On The Fence, you'll leave him and then chances are in ten more years you'll realize what a mistake you've made and you'll go back to the first list. If you would still be able to.

  8. Fence,
    I hate to point this out but why in the world would your husband have brought out a list of what you were looking for when you were dating? I've been married 12 years and have never said anything of that sort to my wife...

    Could it be that he is starting to realize a change in you and is showing you how perfect he reallyl is for you?

    Recently much of your blog has dealt with philosophy/theology. But you have a real husband and real kids who are going to really be affected by any change in you. You need a heart-to-heart with your real husband, and not philisophical musings with your virtual friends. Be honest soon (isn't that what you wanted in a husband? Shouldn't you be the same way?), before he figures things out himself...


  9. JP, I highly doubt that.

    Fence, I know that religious people fear that people will change (at least they fear they will change from being frum towards otd) but that is simply not a realistic expectation, especially for people in their twenties. Either your husband can realize that and help make it work, or he wont and will be forever disappointed in people, because people aren't static, people are dynamic.

  10. Elitzur,

    I am honest about this with my husband. He knows what my beliefs are and what my level of observance is. It has been causing issues, which is precisely why he brought out the list.

  11. Isn't there a little bit of a pattern here: she was secular, became orthodox, now is becoming secular again, next I'll bet she'll miss orthodoxy and want to come back.

  12. Abandoning Eden tells us that "Those who marry young divorce more than those who marry later". One should always be suspicious of social scientists who produce data that just happens to match with their own life choices and values.

    Isn't this partly because a huge swathe of the population have replaced "marriage" with living together, and hence they "split up" rather than divorce? So, they don't appear in the divorce figures, leaving that to some of the (often more relgious) who marry early, but that makes little difference to the people (adults and children) getting hurt.

    Afence - isn't marriage is about compromise, about yielding, about thinking of one's spouse and children before oneself?

    I read too many of these OTD stories that end in divorce, with various lives destroyed in the wake, because (based solely on the evidence of the accounts)people forgot that idea. Of course if one cares only for oneself then the marriage is doomed; two people can never follow the same path if they just seek their own happiness exclusively.

    Your blog is reading like a tragic repeat of so many others, and one can easily guess what will be the next few chapters. I weep for the fate in store for your children. Maybe it's time that their interest should be considered more important than anything else - yes, anything else.

  13. Just incidentally, arranged marriage is still the norm throughout Asia.

    and arranged marriages seem to work better than love matches.

  14. It's done in plenty of Africa too. I had a boss from Guinea, arranged marriage, 3 kids, she's happy. She's not the most devout of Muslims out there, but it's a cultural thing she's held on to.

    But that doesn't make it right, now does it? Obviously, it will "work better" for those who haven't gazed outside their own 4 cubits and seen how the rest of the world does things. If you don't know any differently, then you can never change. And seriously, all the Shadchan horror stories I hear of...back in my frum days, I used to get asked a lot "how do you ever expect to get a shidduch?" I would answer wryly "if whoever I'm being set up with can't stand me for who I am, then why would I want to shidduch date her to begin with?" Little did I realize at my young age that forget not wanting to shidduch date, no shadchan would even look at me!

    So this shidduch system: it works? Or only for a certain "demographic" of Jews?

  15. I have no idea who you, what your beliefs are etc. However if your goal is produce stable homes which will create happy, healthy children, there is no question that the arrange match works better than the love match. If your goal is to have an exciting sex life with many partners, then maybe not.

    Here's an interesting recent book on the subject.

    A very disproportionate number of Ivy League students are Asian.

    On the other hand, about 20% of American men, the highest percentage ever recorded, don't have a job. The either can't or won't work. This statistic is for men born between 1956 and 1985, the first products of our selfish sexually revolutionized culture.

    Food for thought perhaps.  

  16. Since the majority of my husband's med school class was Asian and since I practice divorce law in an area that's around 50% Asian, I'll give my $0.02.

    There is a similarity with Jewish culture when it comes to the influence of family and emphasis on academic achievement. We actually found it easier to relate to our Asian friends than non-Jewish whites. It's not that arranged marriage produces Ivy League students - it's that cultures in which children are raised with strong family structure, sense of obligation toward parents and especially a sense that being an academic success will bring honor to their families tend to produce Ivy League students. These same factors sometimes lead parents to being more involved in their children's choice of mate. At the same time, I should point out that arranged marriage is not common today among Chinese students, although it still exists in some Indian families. Based on my professional experience, I wouldn't call the Indian model particularly healthy.

  17. "At the same time, I should point out that arranged marriage is not common today among Chinese students"

    How about among the parents who produced those students? Did their parents (in other words the grandparents) play a major role in choosing children's spouses or was it all justing hooking up at parties?

    Everyone today is panicking about how the United States is becoming a "third world" country while China and India surpass us. Could our attitude about sex (including marriage, divorce, bearing children, raising child) have a little to do with that?

  18. In past times people were very impressed by the legendary "Yankee ingenuity".

    But today if I read about a top computer engineer, half the time he has a name like "Gurbir Singh". 

  19. No evidence whatsoever that "marrying for love" is better than arranged marriages. (no arranged marriage in my life, no interest in it for my children, just an acknowledgment of what we observe.)

    Children are usually "like their parents" -- parental level of education is ALMOST identical to individual level of education for predicting income, parental political affiliation is the strongest correlating factor for one's political affiliation, same thing for religion, etc.

    Singles between 14 - 35, those dating for love/sex/marriage know what they "feel" but they don't know what being married means. Parents, likely similar, often know better about what will make a good spouse/partner.

    The Indian friends/classmates that had arranged marriage seemed uncomfortable by the shock of their western classmates, and none seems "ecstatic" about the wedding, but 10-15 years later, they seem as happy (or happier) than the western marriage couples, with fewer divorces.

    Now, if you are the child that is NOTHING like your parents, an arranged marriage might be a disaster.

  20. But young people also live together, so how would that explain the effect of age at marriage on divorce? If anything that should lowere the divorce rate for young people, since young people are more likely to live together before marriage, so if that means they didn't get divorced cause they break up with bad matches before marriage then they should have better matches when married.

    Anyways I dint know why you think its my values and life choices to not get married young, I mysef was engaged at she 20 and that engagement ended because my ex fiancé ended it, not. But it is well established in academic literature going back to the 1970s and confirmed in study after study after study thtpeople who marry younger are more likely to divorce, at least until people reach their mid to late 20s at which point the effect plateaus, and people who marry in their 30s or later have a slightly higher divorce rate, in part beacause that group includes a larger percentage of people who are not great st relationships which is why it took some of them, but not all, so long to get married. Bt their divorce ate is nowhere near as high as people who get married as teens, who have a 40-50 percent divorce rate vs. 10-20 percent for those in their late 20s and 15-25ish percent for those who marry in their 30s.

  21. Again sorry for all the typos, stupid iPad

  22. And how is the discussion of arranged marriages at all relevant to Fence's current situation? Regardless of how she met her husband she is now married to him and the shidduch aspect doesn't really matter. What does matter is change and how to handle it.

  23. " But it is well established in academic literature going back to the 1970s and confirmed in study after study after study thtpeople who marry younger are more likely to divorce"

    I don't think that's true in arranged marriage cultures.

  24. "But young people also live together, so how would that explain the effect of age at marriage on divorce? If anything that should lowere the divorce rate for young people, since young people are more likely to live together before marriage, so if that means they didn't get divorced cause they break up with bad matches before marriage then they should have better matches when married"

    Except, the evidence shows that people that cohabitate outside of marriage/pre-marriage have a higher divorce rate. It's hypothesized that the move-out break-up cycle of "mini-divorces" has the psychological impact of divorces, causing higher problems. This does NOT apply to those that co-habitate prior to marriage (engaged, serious relationships that are more similar to marriage), but rather those that cohabitate with multiple partners.

    So it "should" result in stronger partner selection, unless cohabitation chooses partners differently than marriage, and/or partner selection is less key to behavior of the parties.

  25. JP. how many times have you been divorced?

  26. By bringing out the list he's blaming you for changing. And you sound like you're "blaming" yourself for not waiting to get married until you found out more about yourself and what you wanted. Blame is useless. People change, circumstances change (and by the way, people who can't accept change don't function as well as people who can.)

    I understand why a religious fundamentalist would choose his religion over his wife; I don't agree with it, but I understand it. But it sounds like he doesn't want to ditch you, he just wants the "old" you back. That obviously can't happen. If he can't accept you for who you are, the signs don't look good.

  27. Prior to the Communist Revolution in 1949, arranged marriage was common in China. The children born of those marriages, though, would be older than me. The Communist Revolution and later the Cultural Revolution had significant impacts on gender roles and family structure. For a more in-depth view, I'd suggest reading "Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China" by Jung Chang.

    In India, there is a very strong cultural push to excel in engineering, computer sciences and medicine, especially in certain caste groups. It's seen as the ticket to prestige and prosperity. India has developed a system elite technical universities, and that has allowed it to compete on the world stage. By contrast, Pakistan has a similar population and tradition of arranged marriage, but none of the economic growth.

    AE - which populations are included in your data on the effects of early marriage on divorce rates? I would imagine that the reason for the early marriage would be a major factor. If the reason is that someone is doing it because they are part of a very traditional religious and cultural group, I imagine the divorce rate would be lower. If someone is getting married young because it's a shotgun marriage, or because they have no plans to continue their education, or because they see it as an escape from a bad home life with their parents, then I'd expect that there would be pressures that would raise the divorce rate.

  28. "JP. how many times have you been divorced?"

    That's a problem you'll never have since probably no one will ever marry you.

  29. The fact is that what may be a higher rate of divorce among newcomers to judaism may be because they DO NOT have parental supervision in their dating lives. This proves that point that marriages arranged by parents are better.

  30. So JP, you've been married/divorced so many times because your parents didn't make your shiduch?

  31. JP, that may be your most honest response yet. Being adopted, and then not having a loving bond with your adoptive parents, seems to have resulted in an attachment disorder. Since you never received unconditional love growing up, it's hard for you to understand that it can exist or know what it looks like. On a subconscious level, it may feel safer to assuming that rejection is the norm, so that you don't experience more hurt and disappointment.

    These patterns are likely so ingrained that they are difficult to change, but for the sake of your children, I'd highly recommend reading Rabbi Noach Orlowek's "Raising Roses Among the Thorns".

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  34. So rather than invalidating my opinions because I don't have a rabbi, now we'll invalidate them because I don't have parents, or because I experienced 20 years ago a (very amicable) divorce. What's next? I'm a socialist because I voted for Obama?

    Perhaps it would be more worthwhile to focus on what I'm saying rather than my biography, especially since almost no other bloggers reveal their own identities which would surely be fascinating to dissect.

  35. I dispute that many of your opinions are truly representative of the Litvish wing of Judaism. The fact that you have been unable to identify another living rabbi who supports those positions, despite the fact that you live in a town full of Orthodox Jews and that is pretty much unheard of for Litvish Jews, even those that have smicha, to fail to consult with a rav or get rabbinic endorsements for anything that they write, unless they happen to be the gadol ha'dor (biggest rabbi of the generation), leads me to believe that this lack of rabbinic endorsement is no accident or oversight.

    As for parenting, you have offered your views on parenting and the relationship between parents and children. You have also made it clear that you never received unconditional parental love. That's a tragic and abnormal situation. You yourself mentioned that you were totally rejected when you converted, so you don't understand why someone else would expect to have a relationship with their parents if they don't agree on religion.

    Did you read the portions of Rabbi Orlowek's book that discuss how a parent can demonstrate that they trust their child?

  36. "I dispute that many of your opinions are truly representative of the Litvish wing of Judaism."

    Sources please?

    "that is pretty much unheard of for Litvish Jews, even those that have smicha, to fail to consult with a rav or get rabbinic endorsements for anything that they write"

    I know of no orthodox newspaper, magazine or website which includes a rabbinical approbation. When and if I publish a book I may include approbations.

    "You yourself mentioned that you were totally rejected when you converted, so you don't understand why someone else would expect to have a relationship with their parents if they don't agree on religion."

    I don't know of any statistics, however I believe it is very commonplace for devout, or even not really devout, parents to reject children who convert to something else. Jewish parents traditionally sat shiva (seven days of mourning) to mark the "death" of a child who married a Christian. Islamic families will traditionally murder an apostate child. And let's not even mention interracial marriage in societies where race is a major issue. These are not little deals like whether or not to invite creepy old uncle Ralph to the reception; these are very major big time issues which commonly split families.

  37. Maybe some Ultra Orthodox parents sit shiva for intermarriage, but the Ultra Orthodox do not have a monopoly on Judaism, and they certainly do not represent the multitudes of Jews who would NOT sit shiva for children intermarrying.

  38. Well, we have a monopoly on truth, as my blog demonstrates.

    Anyway, just watch Fiddler on the Roof for a traditional Jewish reaction to intermarriage.