Happily Ever After

“There’s more to life than that…

Don’t ask me what.”

~ “Matchmaker” from Fiddler on the Roof

 

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there lived a miller’s daughter named Cinderella…

And she married Prince Charming and they lived happily ever after.

 

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there lived a hated stepdaughter named Sleeping Beauty…

And she married Prince Charming and they lived happily ever after.

 

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there lived a poor orphan girl named Shprintza…

And with the miraculous dowry money, she married the young tailor and lived happily ever after.

 

Once upon a time, not long ago, there lived a Bais Yaakov maidel named Sarah…

And she married Mr. Bochur and they lived happily ever after.

 

I think there might be just a tad too much emphasis on marriage in our community. Not that marriage isn’t great and all that – I believe it probably is. But we build toward it like it’s the culmination of everything and the beginning of happily ever after. From around elementary school, teachers begin talking about marriage, and the urgency just increases as you get older. Life doesn’t start until you get married, you’re not quite a person until you get married, all the problems of your youth plague you until you’re married. Marriage is the panacea for life until the chupah. We focus so tightly on reaching that canopy, that sometimes we forget that there’s no copasetic happily ever after beyond it. Marriage doesn’t change you; there’s another person to contend with; and all the baggage you’ve been shlepping along come with you into your teeny new apartment.

 

I always wonder about those people who go about getting married with the same energy they’d apply to extracting themselves from a mortal situation. Do they ever stand amid the roses in their voluminous white gowns on the empty dance floor after the wedding and wonder, “Now what?” How will they fill their free time, without shadchanim to nudge? What will they talk about, without shidduchim to discuss? How will they decide what to wear, without hordes of invisible eyes to please?

I think these people become two types: The annoyingly married type, who never talk about anything except their husbands, hang up on you when their husband appears on the horizon; and the complacently married type, who gently relegate their husbands to the back of their minds (hey, they’re married, no need to think about it further) and get on with life. 

But I’m glad to say I don’t have enough of a study pool to draw my data from. Anyone have observations to contribute?

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30 thoughts on “Happily Ever After

  1. the thing about all the stories having the same ending…all fairy tales are like that. becuase little girls want to hear about princesses marrying princes and living happily every after. and my mother once remarked that tevye in fiddler on the roof had to contend with alot of the same problems adults today have to deal with; shidduchim.

    as for the getting-married-and-then-what? i totally agree with you. i’ve got friends that stopped doing things after they got engaged. why bother? they’re getting married. i keep telling them i’ll still be here when they crack or go insane from boredom

  2. There’s much more focus on marriage for girls than boys. And that makes sense because in much of the Orthodox world there isn’t really anything else a girl can do but get married. Our system is designed so marriage must be the end goal for every single girl. That’s also true for guys, but an unmarried guy who can learn can get by.

  3. correction:

    Cinderella married “the prince” – no name.
    Sleeping Beauty married Prince Phillip
    Snow White married Prince Charming

    at least according to Disney 🙂

    About life not starting till you get married – I feel that way sometimes… holed up in my teeny apt I share with 3 other girls. Compared to most, we live pretty normally, but I’d still like good pots. hmpf.

  4. Can you please video-tape the reaction of your chosson (who you should find b’mhayra) when you show him your blog?

    I think your first type wears out rather quickly and either gets burnt out, turns into the second type, or has kids and is completely obsessed with them…

  5. Similar to Elitzur and Nephtuli, there’s little for some to do but immediately have kids; obsess over them; and after just a few short years, start setting them up in every facet of life to “get a good shidduch”. Schools, clothing, etc… It’s a vicious cycle.

  6. Looking back at my bachelor days, I had one particular set of married friends who had singles over their house on a regular basis for Shabbos meals, motzei Shabbos, and random get-togethers.

    Many friendships, some dates and possibly a few marriages resulted from this. (Of course, the men were either in college or working, so this kind of dynamic might be hard for the average yeshiva bochur who doesn’t want to be seen with women.)

    If more newlyweds took the time to turn their home into such clearinghouses, then I think singlehood might be that much easier to tolerate. Nothing wrong with newlyweds being into each other, but they shouldn’t forget their single friends.

    Having said that, I agree that singlehood is not a disease to be be cured by marriage, and marriage shouldn’t be a death sentence either. Balance and perspective, people.

    And by the way, I do think marriage is a desirable thing for singles, especially those who live on their own or in isolated communities. It does make the performance of mitzvahs easier to do. But panic because one is not married at 21 or 24? Ridiculous.

  7. Similar to Elitzur and Nephtuli, there’s little for some to do but immediately have kids; obsess over them; and after just a few short years, start setting them up in every facet of life to “get a good shidduch”. Schools, clothing, etc… It’s a vicious cycle.

    In much of Orthodoxy the family and household in the center of the woman’s world. Some women learn, but it isn’t encouraged and certainly isn’t taken very seriously. So if that’s all there is for them, we can understand why they obsess over it so much.

  8. I never had the “now what?” feeling. Our wedding was so lovely, but the REAL fun part started the next day (no, i’m not talking about THAT!) We woke up the next morning and said “this is awesome! We are our own little family now!” and its like living with your very best friend forever. we enjoy everything and I get dressed up for him when we go out on the weekend or if I’m home from work with enough time before he gets home. There’s no “now what” becuase you enjoy each day. what a huge HUGE blessing to live with someone fun and enjoy each day. We read books in bed at night and make pancakes for breakfast on sundays and take walks with our dog. what could be better!

  9. People DO have lives other than shidduchim, other than their new spouses, and other than their new babies. Yes, the shallow-minded tend to get wrapped up in any one of the three, but that’s just adolescent behavior.

    Sure, some people are just all about their current stage of life, but some actually have an individual interesting personalities, as characterized by the fact that they have a life. No, a spouse does not count as a life. I’m talking about a job, a career, goals other than familial, school, etc.

    Going to school without a concrete future goal doesn’t count.

    The alternative to having a life is, quite frankly, unhealthy. People without individual lives are more prone to abuse, too. In fact, they say that the easiest and most surefire way of preventing domestic abuse is to have an individual life and individual support network.

    Fortunately, going out, having a career, or going to school is far more supported now than ever. While taking advantage of women (by forcing them to do everything they did previously, PLUS be the breadwinner,) is NOT something I agree with, if I could promote having an individual life as a female I would do it in any way possible.

  10. What Jen said is 100% true. All those things you said about “your life not starting until you get married…”? All true. No matter how much you like to gripe, Judiasim places alot of importance on marriage and family, and it is one of the most important things you can accomplish in your life. There isn’t any “now what” because the “what” you’ve been waiting for is there – a husband, the starting of YOUR family. You can do alot while you’re single, but being married is a whole new chapter in your life.

  11. “All those things you said about “your life not starting until you get married…”? All true.”

    So, out of curiousity, if you are married, and then get divorced, does that mean your life ends? And then if you get remarried you come to life again? Wow–here we have it! The scientific rationale for the central part of Christian theology! J was married! And then he got divorced (stopped existing) and THEN, three days later, he got remarried! So he came back to life! And then he got divorced AGAIN! And that was it. I don’t know, maybe he walked in front of an ancient bus or something. You know, out of desperation. To have to go through the entire shidduch process two times in a week? Yeah, that would make me go postal as well.

    Actually, this logic might also explain Jamaican zombies, no?

    And people ask why so many singles find little to attract them in the Jewish community….

    In all seriousness, if you choose to put your life on hold until you are married, then yes, your life will start once you get married. But that is a CHOICE. You can choose something else. You can choose to live your life.

    As in–just because you are single, does not mean that you have to continue living with two roommates in a small apartment with lousy pots and pans. Nu, buy your own stuff already!

    Yes indeedy, enough ranting for one night. Am off to go clean my apartment. One of my fellow zombies is coming for the weekend. We intend to go and terrorize the beach.

    Shabbat Shalom!

  12. You CAN do alot while you are single (I think I mentioned that), but think of it this way: you are (hopefully) married ALOT longer than you are single. It only makes sense to place more importance on a part of your life that spans decades, rather than 4 or 5 years. And if you are a Jewish girl, you WANT to get married – end of story. You don’t live your life without that hope. You are constantly waiting, unsure, at least to some degree. If nothing else, marriage gives you security, because now you now know the “what” of the “what happens next”. When I was single, the truth was I wasn’t that into dating, at least not as much as some of my friends. But I always lived in a state of semi-unease. I felt like I couldn’t do anything TOO concrete, because I would get married and mess it up. As I was discussing with a single friend of mine, she knows WHERE she’ll be for awhile (living at home), but not WHAT she’s doing (married or not), while I know the WHAT, but not the WHERE.

  13. The people that are faced with “Now what” after they get married, are the same people whose primary or almost absolute focus during their single life was “getting married”.

    If while one is single he/she focuses on other things as well – such as personal growth, what direction they would like to take in life and why?, their relationships with others (friends, family); to name but a few things, then when they get married that continues too! The self growth is just channeled towards ones new relationship (spouse), and integrating others in their life along with their relationship.

    Is “Happily ever after” possible? Of course! Except we left out the last few words – it goes like this “Happily ever after a lot of hard work” Hard does not necessarily refer to bad or negative kind of work.

    By default humans are selfish. We like to take. When you see someone truly giving to another (in any way) it is either because they are infatuated, or the excitement of something new, or because they have worked on themselves and learned to give.

    During the dating/engagement period it is excited and fun to focus on the other person.

    Marriage brings on the real test – learning to genuinely give and care for another person as you would for yourself.

    The more you learn and grow and work on yourself – the greater and more satisfying your relationship will be.

    I think with the above, I’ve illustrated a third catagory for married people : )
    (I like to think out of the box : )

  14. i always rather pitied the girls in seminary who, when asked what their plans would be for the next year, replied “I’m getting married” i should go talk to them now and see if they’re satisfied with themselves and their lives right now…

  15. Having your entire ego invested in any one thing, especially when it is something you cannot control, is very dangerous. If your entire sense of self is based on what you do for a living (very common in general American society, especially for men), or your marital state, or anything else that you cannot control, you are putting yourself at tremendous risk.

    More controversially, I would argue that it is unhealthy for any adult to have a single social circle. You should be part of different social circles (and in some cases, you may be the only point of intersection). In my experience, this allows for a better understanding of other perspectives, and avoids falling into the trap where you believe something because everyone you know believes it, without ever investigating it.

    How broadly you draw your circles is a matter of personal comfort. I suspect that mine are far more diverse than many people here would be comfortable with, and I also suspect that the very act of participating in a blog means that most of the readers here have a broader comfort zone than some people in their communities.

  16. I have too much to say…but for now I’ll say re the latter part of your post.
    Whenever I say that, people accuse me of being jealous. That’s not the case. You are 100%right. there are the casual ones and the obsessive ones. I am still friends w/my “complacent” married friends. They talk about their in-laws, their kids, whatever, but NO way as much and with as much enthusiasm as those obnoxious self-centered “annoyingly” married ones. Those are intolerable. They are doing it JUST to stick it to you.

  17. The only group of people who might actually be bored after being married are those that don’t have jobs or aren’t in school. Otherwise -quite the opposite! It’s real tricky juggling all your new responsibilites in addition to all the old ones.
    And frumgirl 1(comment 10)I actually think it’s more shallow to get wrapped up in a career than wrapped up in a baby. This is slightly off topic, but since you brought it up…. I am career mom and as such wear many hats (wife, mother, professional) and I can tell you that I wish I could be a lot MORE wrapped up in my babies’ lives. I feel bad for my co workers who have no plans to have kids lest it interfere with their careers. Priorities, people!

  18. you should read middlemarch if you havent already.

    jane austen novels always end with weddings in the spring. weddings are the culmination of all of the drama and gossip of the last three hundred pages. they take place once everything gets resolved. youre left imagining that each couple goes on to live happily ever after and that the giddy fun continues in perpetuity (well, except in mansfield park, which i would hardly call giddy. i prefer not to think about that romance anyway. people who practically grew up as brother and sister have no business getting romantically involved, but i digress…)

    in middlemarch, george elliot begins where jane austen leaves off. at first the novel sounds like it could be one of jane’s, however the protagonists get married early on and the remainder of the book -all two thousand pages of it- is left to deal with that “now what” situation youve described. the bulk of the novel is devoted to understanding what life is really like most of the time. its about messy relationships, living an unglamorous domestic life, being with a person who may not be suited for you, and figuring out what to do in that situation. virginia woolf called it “one of the few english novels written for grown-up people.”

    satirizing shidduchim is fun! theyre exciting, dramatic, interesting, and undoubtedly have a monumental impact in determining the trajectory of peoples futures. its so easy to get caught up in the hype. but what really comes next, i wonder?

  19. If you really want to know what happens next, you should also read Grown Up Marriage, by Judith Viorst (author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.) The message of the book is very pro-marriage but its also very realistic. It shows you where the fault lines are and the issues that tend to arise. The subtitle is: what we know, wish we had known, and still need to know about being married. By all accounts I’ve heard, it really does give you a pretty accurate picture of what awaits. You can find the first part of the introduction here: http://www.enotalone.com/article/5635.html or on google books, so you can see if you like it. The book should give you lots of food for thought when your dating and for this blog. It also deals with many of the issues and questions you deal with here.

  20. No, a spouse does not count as a life. I’m talking about a job, a career, goals other than familial, school, etc.

    and if you consider the rest of those boring, uninteresting and basicaly worthless?

    what if your spouse really is your life? and your kids? or at least your real life, where you want to be? personaly I don’t think that someone who doesn’t see their spouse as the essential part of their life and the rest of it as ancillary is really fit for marriage.

    Marriage IS REAL LIFE! The rest of it is fake, a totaly sham that’s here today and gone tomorrow!

  21. most people will never make a concrete differnce in anyof those relms and will die in obscurity.

    But a good parent will never be obscure to their family.

  22. tootired:
    There’s wrapped up and WRAPPED UP. One of my old friends that I hadn’t seen in a while felt the need to show my Mom pictures of her new baby at my wedding’s kabalas panim. That’s WRAPPED UP. A different old acquaintance spends her days in Israel dressing up her infant in white, only to change him twenty minutes later when he acquires his first spot. That’s also WRAPPED UP. That’s entirely different than wishing to spend more time with family, or sacrificing career advancement for family. That’s also different from having a large family or just more than one kid.

    Yoni:
    If you consider you spouse to be the most interesting part of your life to the extent that you define your life by her existence, you are in deep %&*#.

    The only partner who will put up with that constant neediness for external identity by way of them is someone who needs it personally for reasons that can not possibly be healthy.

    If you find everything I mentioned boring (even something as simple as having a goal,) or if you have no identity without a spouse, what exactly are you now? An empty shell, waiting for life?

    If someone has eight+ kids taking all their time, they can say that their kids are their life. That’s fine and all good. Someone who makes their first infant their life? Without a social life or anything else? Home all day doing who-knows-what with just an infant, waiting for the spouse to come home to provide them with identity…do you not even realize how horribly unhealthy that is?

    The goal of my life is not to achieve fame or memorability through procreation. I intend to be a good parent, and heaven help you if you mess with my kids, but I do not intend to obsess and/or smother my offspring with my constant attention (unless their toddlers and still their fingers into things if I don’t) or use them as extensions or the definition of myself. The goal is not to be remembered. The goal is to raise frum kids with the ability to think for themselves who feel supported and loved but independent.

  23. Its funny that one of the kids I babysit for was writing a story, and this is how it went: “There was a pretty girl who got married and had a baby, the baby grew up to be pretty and she got married and had a baby….” The most exciting things for kids are marriage and babies. When your younger and you hear someone had a baby your all excited. But as you get older it just becomes another thing you hear about there’s not that same excitement. I think that’s because as you get older you become of the age to do it yourself. Your able to get married and have your own children so its not that big of an accomplishment when you hear others got married or had babies. But yet for children, their too young to have babies or get married so for them they get excited when they hear the news.

    I liked At Peace’s comment.

    Also, I think its ok for someone’s life to revolve around their spouse and children, that’s called family oriented. That rather than hang out with friends and leave the children with a babysitter, they can spend time with their family. Although, its healthy for couples to get away themselves and all. If someone’s goal is their family then the decisions they make in life will be with the result being in the best interest of their family. It doesn’t mean they have no other life besides their family, just family comes first.

  24. It seems to me that too many people consider marriage as just another item to acquire, another thing to own. They look at it like an object that is inanimate and which will remain the same for the entire time these people “own” it. Some people, having “purchased” marriage, put the husband out of their mind and get on with their “real” life. Others obsess with the object they have just purchased and make sure to tell everyone they’ve “bought” one and show it off incessantly.

    And then there are those who see things differently. For them marriage is a living, breathing thing that grows, expands, changes from season to season and isn’t the same from day to day, never mind from year to year. It’s not a domesticated plant that grows the same for everyone. It’s a plant of nature, a plant of the wild. And it’s not the same plant for everyone who is growing one.

    People who “buy” a marriage just so they can say they have one are the penultimate consumers. And as with everthing that is only an object we own, boredom sets in and the item finds itself on the closet floor or buried up in the attic.

    Maybe instead of shopping catalogs and Brides Magazine we ought to be browsing through books on horticulture. A far better preparation for marriage in my opinion.

  25. all these long ideas about how to combat the “what now” phenomenon, i think, are overly complicated. Yes, working and/or going to school combat boredom, but if you’re not happy with your husband, that has nothing to do with not being busy. i’ve worked full time and i have bee home full time, it makes no difference in how i feel about my husband. he’s the greatest whether i’m bored at home or stressed at work!

    I have a suggestion for when you do get married, bad4. Do something together! My husband and I recently got into ballroom dancing! we take classes 2x per week with other Jewish couples. its SO much fun, great excercise (which is GREAT for your marriage and …ahem…”connection”) and we love having a hobby together! and, i can’t lie, we’re really good now! ha! its fun to practice after Shabbos dinner and its something we can get into as a team.

    I know dance classes isn’t an activity ultra-orthodox people do, but maybe something else would suit you better like a couples cooking class

  26. Being married is an ongoing event.
    Getting married is a rite of passage.

    When people think of marriage only as a rite of passage, they are in trouble. The act of getting married is inherently transformational, and like most transformational acts, it isn’t reversible. You can never go back to being someone who was never married.

    Which is all well and good, except that the emphasis needs to be on being married, and not on getting married.

  27. As far as the brainwashing of the fairytales, who wants the moral lesson of “then our hero meets the princess (or heroine meets the prince) and they live happily ever after, living together in an apartment in the Village while they ‘get their careers going’ because they feel comfortable without being rushed into marriage so soon” being taught to our kids?

    On a more serious note, somehow simply vanquishing the bad guy is not enough – the hero needs to demonstrate to the audience that he/she can succeed at romance, too (with a few exceptions – Red Riding Hood doesn’t marry the woodcutter, for example). Why this is, I don’t know. But it has pervaded our culture in many ways, from many sources (some of these fairytales are centuries old…) But once the hero “gets the girl” (or vice versa) the ball is already rolling toward the inevitable marriage (unless there is a sequel!).

  28. Pingback: Repost: Let’s Get Over Marriage | Bad for Shidduchim

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