I Could Have Gotten Married but I Didn’t Want To

NEFs are weird creatures. Their brains go through bizarre metamorphoses similar to that of someone who’s been inducted into a cult. First, they completely forget what it’s like to be single. This includes everything they disliked about it, such as dating, shadchanim, and especially, NEFs. Next, they become completely unaware of life outside their cul–bubble. Everything revolves around their swami–er, chosson–and the upcoming wedding. Finally, with their neurons rearranging and short-circulations connections so rapidly that their brains look like a synchronized swimming team, they sometimes come to strange conclusions.

Such as, “I could have gotten married plenty of times before, but I guess I just didn’t really want to.”

Really. So, you went out with, say, 50 guys. And you’re saying you probably could have married five of them if you hadn’t dumped them for dumb reasons. So…

This raises a number of questions. The smallest is the implication that if she hadn’t said no to her previous dates, a number of them would have asked for her hand in marriage. It’s a teeny bit arrogant, but I guess a new bride is entitled to feel highly desired.

The most obvious and troublesome implication – to me at least – is the denial of bashert. If you can marry any of a number of people without issue, then how can you say that one is your soulmate? Or, since presumably one can marry someone who isn’t their soulmate, how can someone ever know who is their bashert? How do you know to marry this guy, instead of trying to marry one of those previous possibilities? For that matter, aren’t you a little anxious that your current chosson might be the wrong one?

Everyone in our community talks about bashert. But when it comes down to it, who really believes in it? What does it mean to us?

This reminds me of the advice people like giving single people. “Don’t sound so smart,” or “smile more” or “don’t be so opinionated.” Whenever they say something like that they are essentially saying, “This is the big thing standing between you and marriage. You could have been married already if you’d have just smiled more.”

This also troubles me on multiple levels. But mostly: the idea that you can miss your bashert simply by not smiling enough at him. That somehow, two halves of a whole soul can fail to notice that they fit simply due to one being shy or solemn or opinionated or smart. Somehow, it would seem to me, that if two people click, something so small and easily remedied shouldn’t stand between them. Or else God, who is supposed to occupy his time with matchmaking, could bother himself to intervene and inform the parties about the importance of appearing dumb, tractable, and cheerful before they split up. I mean, there’s a lot at stake here – if we believe in bashert.

Or we could just admit that, as a society, we don’t believe in bashert as much as we’d like to. Bashert is like the Jewish fairy tale. That happily-ever-after we all dream about. It gives us hope because it insists that out there, somewhere, is someone who will be perfect for us. It comforts us by insisting that the forces-that-be in the universe are drawing the couple together, slowly perhaps, but inexorably. So we talk about it, and believe in it the way we believe in Prince Charmings: not really, but as a cognitive shortcut. Because we know that there are no perfect Prince Charmings out there, and we know that the marriage market is a loud, noisy shuk with rapid and often sloppy trading and measuring going on, and it’s all chance and chaos and luck of the draw…

No.

It’s not.

It can’t be.

It appears random, sporadic, and messy, but it’s really just a complex pattern, no more random than the traffic at the Swindon Magic Roundabout.  And this I choose to believe.

If you had images enabled, this would show you Swindon's Magic Roundabout

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31 thoughts on “I Could Have Gotten Married but I Didn’t Want To

  1. There’s no such thing as bashert – at least, not that kind (where not smiling once blows it blah blah).

    If anything, bashert is something a person creates/finds through their actions.

  2. If you can marry any of a number of people without issue, then how can you say that one is your soulmate?

    You can’t.

    Or, since presumably one can marry someone who isn’t their soulmate, how can someone ever know who is their bashert?

    They can’t

    How do you know to marry this guy, instead of trying to marry one of those previous possibilities?

    It’s a combination of logic, emotions, and intuition.

    For that matter, aren’t you a little anxious that your current chosson might be the wrong one?

    OF COURSE! And anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

    For me, once I accepted the above answers to your thoughtful questions, dating and marriage became much easier.

    Good luck!

  3. Actually, it gets even more complicated. Suppose people get married, are in love, then their spouse/ husband gets sick and dies, God forbid. Or is killed in a car crash. So then the spouse remarries. Does that mean her first husband wasn’t her bashert or the second was or what?

    What about people who commit suicide- does that mean they never had a bashert? Or that their bashert now has no one for him because he was unlucky enough to have been paired with a person who killed herself?

    Widows, widowers, suicides and divorcees make the ‘bashert’ idea very complicated.

    If you’re interested in looking at a variety of views on this topic, check out Eidensohn’s Daas Torah.

    Personally, though, I’m going to go with Avery on Grey’s Anatomy (this past week’s episode) re: there’s more than one potential soulmate for a person.

  4. In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, I do not think that word means what you think it means. Something as life-altering as a marriage can only happen with Divine assistance, and I believe that Hashem sends us the people we need to be with at different stages in our lives. I actually have married friends who freely admit that they would not have married each other ten years ago (they’re in their thirties), even though the suggestion came up numerous times. Does that mean they couldn’t have married anyone else? I don’t think so.

  5. I think that it’s more a theoretical thinking- technically, I could have married a number of other girls, and I can see it working out OK, because I think that if each party works at it, almost any 2 people can make a marriage work (emphasis on almost). My bride to be, on the other hand, is perfect for me, and I’m happy that I’m marrying her rather than any of the others.

    That being said, I think it is possible to mess up your bashert, but I truly believe that as long as you try to do what is best, then you won’t scare them away. Your bashert is not going to say no to you because of something personality related.

  6. This reminds me of the advice people like giving single people. “Don’t sound so smart,” or “smile more” or “don’t be so opinionated.”
    Is this advice people generally give to single people or just to you?

  7. The way the concept of “bashert” is thrown around in common frum discourse very frequently bothers me. The idea is rooted in several Gemaras and Rishonim, but are often discussed in a way that is very much removed from its primary sources. Many Rishonim reject the concept or heavily limit its application. It starts to take on a life of its own. It seems to be that the whole concept is to demonstrate that, once married, one should have full belief that this was a heavenly decision. I don’t think there could exist a concept of “missing” one’s bashert (see Moed Kattan 18b, which implies this).

  8. The Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote a letter where he detailed the different opinions in Torah (Gemara, Midrash, Rishonim, Kabbalah, Chassidus) about how Bashert your future spouse is.

    The letter is translated here: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/598041/jewish/Whether-a-marriage-partner-is-determined-by-Divine-decree-or-mans-choice.htm

    The letter is adapted into an essay here: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/598011/jewish/Marriage-Destiny-or-Chance.htm

  9. I think if we are open to our bashert, then Hashem will provide accordingly. Never mind smiles, etc. Either we are religious Jews or we’re not.

    I know enough couples who weren’t set up because of obtuseness on one side, and yet still met and wed. Sometimes Hashem is really accommodating. But don’t rely on it. Be open.

  10. Are you also saying that your newly engaged friends, who should be the first to rapturously chirp the divinity of their couple hood, are denying cosmic forces and chalking up their impending marriages to chance and personal whimsy? Interesting.

    Romance, RIP. Even the lovebirds have no use of you.

  11. I heard recently from a noted mechaneches/therapist that there are a lot of people you can marry, but you will only end up with the one Hashem wants you to marry. That’s Bashert. I think that answers a lot of questions, including Chana’s – you will end up with the one Hashem wants you to marry at that time. I guess some people are meant to marry more than one, or even none at all. The frustrating advice (@QED – yes, this is general advice, I’ve heard it given to me personally and to large groups) is just to guide us through the hishtadlus process, which is something we have to do and to which we are required to put a lot of effort, sometimes more than we would like. This is not in contradiction to Bashert or Hashgacha Pratis or anything else. Your spouse has been hand-picked for you by Hashem and nothing will stop that, but the whole process of shidduchim is not just a “temporary stage” in life, one we’re necessarily meant to zip through to the finish line. This is part of life too, a nisyaon given to us by Hashem, to learn from, grow from, and hopefully emerge from as better-developed AND married people.

  12. Didn’t mean to sound so didactic, this was just a topic I feel very strongly about (clearly!) 🙂

  13. B4S – If you get right down to the nitty gritty, I fail to see the difference between this concept and our basic concept of emunah and bitachon. When we are born, Hashem knows when we will die, how many mitzvos and averos we will do, how much money we will make, who we will marry, how many kids we will have and everything else in our lives. Does this mean we have no free-will in our lives because it is pre-destined? We are taught of course not. We will choose to do it – but Hashem just happens to know what we will choose. Our Bashert is part of that cheshbon. There is someone out there who you will actually choose on your own to marry. Hashem knows who that is and we refer to such person as our bashert.

  14. Ah, Bashert.

    People try to figure out who is their bashert.

    I call it playing g-d. Only hashem knows. So don’t try to figure out heavenly matters and just do all you can do to date wisely and make the best, good-faith decisions for yourself. Leave the rest to hashem. Bashert, my tuchus.

  15. The ideas of Bashert (both in dating and everything else in our lives) and Bechira are diametrically opposed. By definition, if Hashem knows what you are going to choose before you choose it, then in reality you are not choosing, because you do not have the power to change. That being said, the fact that it seems paradoxical to our minute human cognition does not make it impossible. I accept it as something that I, personally, can not comprehend, but I believe it, because that is what Emunah is about. Similarly, in Shidduchim, when it seems tough etc, you may not see how something that appears bad is actually good for you in the picture. You just have to believe that God knows best, and that whatever is happening is for a good reason, albeit one that eludes your understanding.

  16. I am in awe of the nested circles-within-circles of the Swindon roundabout. Even if they drove on the right, I’d be horrified at the prospect of attempting that.

  17. I’ve written about this a few times on my blog – and as many people have mentioned here, the concept of bashert is a very complicated one. There was even a shiur at the YU Seforim Sale about Rambam’s concept of Bashert, though it isn’t on YUTorah.org (perhaps it wasn’t recorded for some reason).

    It makes sense to me that there is some sort of balance with all the ideas (as I heard from a rebbe once), with a truly ideal person out there – assuming you live up to your own full potential, while another person (or two) who exists to be your spouse depending on where you are holding based on your actual experiences and growth. It would stand to reason that marrying your absolute ideal spouse if you aren’t “up to it” spiritually wouldn’t be fair to him/her or you, and thus a second bashert, who better matches the actual, not potential you would then make your life as good as it can be, based on your personal decisions.

    A lot of this is based on the Gemara at the beginning of Sotah, which mentions the concept of Zivug Rishon and Zivug Sheini – though other interpretations do exist.

  18. It seems to me that everyone is mixing up the concepts of “zivug” and “bashert”. You have only one zivug but can have multiple basherts because whatever happens in life is “bashert”. And yes, you can pass up on your zivug.

  19. There is no such thing as bashert, so you can’t pass him up.
    You could possibly pass up someone who you realize in hindsight might have been good mate.
    There may or may not be more than one person who would be a good mate for you. I guess the more cookie cutter you are the more potential mates, but maybe not because sometimes I suspect the cookie cutters are actually the minority, they just seem more because so many people pretend.

  20. Princess Lea – yeah, I didn’t even think about how unromantic a statement it was. Possibly she was trying to chide me for being “a picky single” or something.

    Gila – cool, innit?

  21. Not that I think it’s so horrible, but posts like that just seem like bragging. Neither you or her wrote that you were told, “don’t sound so stupid” or “don’t be so dull.”

  22. Ever saw “The Simpsons” episode when they go to England? Homer ends up in a roundabout and can’t get out. They end up circling for hours. He only managed to get out by blunt force.

  23. QED – generally one doesn’t tell someone to stop sounding stupid. With a few exceptions, people don’t do it on purpose or out of carelessness. And I didn’t say anyone said them to me until you asked.

  24. Chazal do speak about bashert, so it does exist. It is people’s misinterpretation about what that means for them, dating, and marriage that is based on a conflation of this idea with the secular notion of “The One” that is immediately recognizable. See the first piece at http://kallahmagazine.com/DivreiTorah1.htm for an explanation of Bashert in Torah, which is very distinct from the starry-eyed view of moder day romance.
    The Maharal has an interesting take on the difference between the 40 days kodem yetziras havlad and the notion that zivugim are harder than kriyas yam suf. Why invoke an image of separation for a shidduch? That is because that refers tot he zivug sheini. As there is a concept of zivug rishon and zivug sheini, one is not guaranteed to marry and stay married to one’s bashert.

  25. Even if you believe in bashert, one can still “mess it up.” (read the comments here: http://solelyinblackandwhite.blogspot.com/2010/06/question-bashert.html) The implications being that one can miss their bashert or even marry someone who isn’t their bashert!

    With regards to your friend’s comment “I could have gotten married plenty of times before, but I guess I just didn’t really want to” there are two possible explanations. First, that comment was made without any forethought at all. Two, after realizing the potential faults in her prominent husband and coming to the realization that she had to “settle” on “something” before getting married, she come to the conclusion that if she would have “settled” earlier she could have gotten married earlier, even if that means she wouldn’t marry her bashert.

    If I had to guess I would say, generally, life is less complicated then people make it out to be, but more complicated than we originally thought. Maybe more like a diamond interchange instead? 😉

  26. I’ll throw this one out to the crowd: Is it possible that you may be someone’s bashert but they are not your bashert?

  27. lawschool – no. I’m inferring from your statement that let’s say a guy is really interested in a girl (or vice-versa) and the other party is not interested. There can be a number of explanations, but being a one-sided bashert is not one of them.

  28. Firstly b4s that roundabout makes me really miss home 😦 Rule Britannia! What on earth am i doing in New York?!?!
    I agree with both anon99 and lsd’s first comment (well, minus the last line). As believing Jews, each one of us should know and trust that Hashem Knows every detail that will happen to us in our lives. This Knowledge though, does not in any way take away our free choice.
    So yes we each have a destined soul mate (maybe more than one), but when we go about our daily lives we should not be playing G-d. Make earthly decisions, based on earthly thought processes, guided by the Torah and leave the Divine Plan up to the Ultimate Architect.

  29. Just a few questions to throw out to the crowd:

    Can one be a frum person without believing in Hashem’s ability to orchestrate every nuance of our universe?

    Why would anybody believe in a G-d Who they believe does not have an interest and involvement in their every step, but is just “The Big Man in The Sky”?

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