When Susan Shuman, of SusanWritesPrecise who has been an enormous help with my book, suggested I post an essay on Secrets of a Happy Marriage, I thought, “No way, I don’t pretend to know any secrets.” As I thought about her idea, though, the more it appealed because I believe that many of the ideas in What’s in It for Me? Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives are directly responsible for the durability of my marriage to Vickie.
It begins with the ideas underlying Genesis’ creation story that however it happened scientifically, God is behind creation, and life has meaning and purpose. One of my favorite midrashim, that I quote frequently at weddings, tells of a Roman matron who asked Rabbi Jose bar Chalafta, “This God of yours who you say created the world with purpose and meaning … what has your God been doing since then?”
Without batting an eye, the rabbi answered, “Since creation, God has been busy arranging marriages … ” (Bereshit Rabbah 68:4). Yes, I believe that in ways beyond our understanding God has a role in bringing couples together. But even if you find the notion as preposterous as the Roman Matron did at first than (as I point out in the chapter,”What if I Don’t Believe in God) act k‘eeloo, “as if” God picked your mate for you. If you do, you will treat him or her differently than if you think of your significant other as someone you just met by chance!
Next, as I say frequently, “We have all been expelled from the Garden of Eden.” Life is not perfect, you are not perfect, and neither is your partner. You will have trials, tribulations and disagreements. Expect them and regard them as a necessary part of life! Combine that realistic perspective with a firm commitment to the sanctity of your marriage and your odds of making it to forty years and beyond increase.
Take the relationship between Moses and God as a metaphor for your marriage. There were times when God was ready to give up on the people of Israel, but Moses encouraged the Almighty to stick with them. There were also times when Moses felt he could no longer go on, and in those times God strengthened him. Be there for each other. Be ready to encourage and pick your partner up in his or her moments of weakness.
Consider your marriage your most important priority in your life. Without question I view my forty-year marriage to Vickie as my most important accomplishment.
Finally, never think you have it made. Try to win your partner’s love every day. In congratulating me on our anniversary, Paulette German wrote, “To go the distance is a beautiful accomplishment!” Indeed it is, but we haven’t “gone the distance” yet. Hopefully there is still a long way to go, but
–if we continue to act, k’eeloo “as if” God brought us together,
–if we realize that we both have imperfections and that life will not always be perfect,
–if we look to pick each other up in our moments of weakness,
–and if we continue to consider our marriage our most important priority, then I would say that the prospects that our marriage will indeed “go the distance” are very good indeed.