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KD MAGAZINE! 
Posted: May 16, 2007                                     ב"ה -
כ"ח באייר, תשס"ז

 
 
 
   
 
What Makes Marriage Work
Rabbi Shea Hecht
About the Author

The title of a recent AP article really made me happy. The title "U.S. Divorce Rate at Lowest Level Since 1970" seemed like great news.

But the euphoria lasted only one moment, because as I read further I realized that the marriage rate is down and therefore the divorce rates are down. This title only reflects divorces, not couples who live together without the benefit of marriage who then decide to live separately. In fact, not only are more couples breaking commitments, but many more are even afraid to make a commitment. Therefore, the title of the article does not necessarily reflect good news, but bad.

The article quoted many different reasons for this drop in divorces such as pre-marital counseling, more openness towards counseling, more classes available to couples with issues, couples marrying later in life and a greater trend towards couples working out their differences instead of divorcing.

Though the report is inconclusive and the experts can't agree on the reasons for this drop in divorces, many of the reasons cited have merit and are worth studying. 

Some experts say relationships are as unstable as ever - and divorces are down primarily because more couples live together without marrying..

Obviously, if this is the reason that divorces are down the study is not positive. Relationships without marriage are nothing to brag about.

Moreover, living together without the benefit of marriage can be harmful for the children as well since the relationship is not a committed one and therefore lacks stability and is more prone to break-up. For the children of such unions when the couple breaks up there may as well be a divorce. The lack of official papers does nothing to make a split easier on the kids.

.. and Americans are waiting about five years longer to marry than they did in 1970.

 People are getting married older because the professionals say that we have a better understanding of what we want in life the older we are. I'm not sure I understand this reasoning at all. 

18 year olds make life-long and life altering decisions which affect the direction their life will take. Most obvious is their choice of profession. 18 year olds CAN give it thought and make a decision and stick to it.

A good marriage lasts if the couple has the proper attitude and real commitment to make the union work. These two traits do not necessarily have anything to do with age. People who marry young, with the right attitude and make a commitment to stay together no matter what, generally grow together and stay together.

Other researchers have documented what they call "the divorce divide," contending that divorce rates are indeed falling substantively among college-educated couples but not among less-affluent, less-educated couples.

Some of the differences within a relationship are simply because of the differences between men and women. There are divorces that do come about because of ignorance of these differences. People don't realize that with a little education marriage can work. Classes, Rabbis, clergy, counselors and mediators are readily available for anyone who seeks help.

Other experts, however, are heartened by what they view as the increased determination of many couples to make marriage work .. through programs like marriage-strengthening programs.

People get married without any formal education about marriage and relationships. That was good enough many years ago when people lived in a house with one parent home all day and then married and lived close to their parents. They learned about marriage from their parents. Today many children don't see their parents that often because both parents are working and they live far away from their parents once they marry. Many young couples today have no role models and could use additional marriage education.

People who've attended marriage workshops said the classes gave them some insight into how to regenerate the closeness they had when they got married.

Many therapists tell couples in marriage counseling that they should take a two week break from the intimacy of their marriage. They say this will help refresh the marriage. People that marry and live by Torah laws are given the opportunity to do just this. Because of the laws of Taharas Hamishpachah (family purity) a husband and wife may not be intimate for the 12 days following the onset of a woman's menstrual period. This two week break allows for the couple to communicate on every level besides an intimate one. When the two weeks end and the couple resume the intimate part of their relationship the marriage feels renewed.
Furthermore, couples must recognize that they need shared time and time spent alone working on their own projects.

Gaetano Ferro of New Canaan, Conn., president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, says overall national trends haven't had a noticeable effect on his fellow divorce lawyers.

"I've been active in the academy two decades plus," Ferro said. "I've never heard anyone say, 'We're in trouble. There are fewer divorces."'

So in the end, we really can't be sure what is working to make the divorce rate drop, if anything is working at all. The one thing that is definite is that marriage is hard work. 

The suggestions of the professionals to take courses and become more aware of what we're getting into should be implemented. The more work we put into our relationship the more we'll see out of it. The most important thing is for each couple to hold their marriage as sacred, work on it and do what it takes to stay together.

 

 


Read more articles by Rabbi Hecht 

Rabbi Hecht's Website:  www.sheahecht.com  

 

 
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