||TWO DOZEN CRITERIA FOR MEASURING READINESS FOR
MARRIAGE [WITH EXPLANATIONS]
- Thursday, September 7, '00 - Parshas Kee Saitsay 5760
F1. You want to love a partner as
much as you love yourself (Kidushin 41a).
2. As much as you want marriage to give love to you, you want even MORE to give love to
your partner. Note the difference between this point and #1 just above. There, we said
that you want to love a partner as much as you love yourself. Here, we are saying that you
want to give love more than you want to take or get love.
3. The Shulchan Aruch says to run from marrying anyone who is cruel, antagonistic,
insolent, a fighter; anyone with whom marriage would be a disaster or non-permanent. Do
you incline to be unattracted to, or at least run from, anyone who would be a destructive
relating partner? E.g. do you avoid people with bad midos (anger, absence of self-control,
hunger for honor and approval, arrogance, selfishness, jealousy, grudge-bearing) - any bad
trait that would indicate that the person would be difficult, miserable and/ or
destructive to live with?
4. If you see a pattern time after time, and you say that it is always the other's
fault, do you see the contradiction between what you want and the fact that what you want
doesn't work? or see that you are attracted to people who relationships don't work with?
or see that you are not attracted to people who you intellectually know it really should
work with? Such patterns and/or contradictions need objective exploration. It's important
to want the same kind of people you get along with (and to be attracted to them) and have
fulfilling, productive and peaceful times with them.
5. The Maharal says that the best and clearest indicator that we have as to who a
person really is, among the various possible indicators, is speech. Speech can be more
reliable an indicator as to who a person is, as compared with action or thought. Actions
are the form of self-expression which is most likely to be phoney (to make an impression)
and thoughts are too abstract and furnishes no commitment to the idea. Listen to what
people say. True, some people may not be in touch with themselves, may not say what they
really feel, or may not know how to articulate themselves perfectly. Some people don't put
on acts, so that their "actions may speak louder than words." But of all the
available indicators that we have, relatively speaking, speech is the one which most
across-the-board reveals who a person really is. Listen to what a person emphasizes,
criticizes or praises. Listen to how the person talks about other people, about noble or
negative ideas; how the person exhibits responsiveness to you and others. I know one woman
who rejected a man who treated her like gold but treated their waiter condescendingly.
"He couldn't have really been a nice person if he could treat another human being
badly." Listen to what a person says to define who they are. When one speaks, there
is more of a commitment to the idea than a thought and you have to concretize an idea (and
bring it "down" from the abstract) in order to verbalize it. Actions are more
subject to change on behalf of what people will think of you, while speech is not quite as
strongly guarded. Speech is the most reliable indicator of who a person is. Speech should
mirror what is good and what is real. When you're dating someone, what does his/her speech
tell you (s)he "is?"
6. You take commitment very seriously. You don't feel that "if it doesn't work
out, we can always get a divorce." Without commitment being axiomatic, one is not
ready for marriage. Your policy is NOT: "marriage is very easy...I've done it lots of
times!" You see marriage as "for keeps."
7. You are more afraid of losing someone else's commitment to you than you are afraid
of giving your commitment to another. You are willing and prepared to "give up
yourself" to give to a commitment seriously. You are attracted to someone who is
serious and committed to you, also.
8. Do you really value what you get from a relationship? It is worth all that you have
to give to have a wholesome and successful marriage, in order to have what marriage gives
9. Relationships are essentially uncomplicated, calm and struggle-free.
10. Although getting along always requires work and giving, the work and the giving
primarily make you happy. You want to be a source of good and a refuge from bad to a
partner. You are willing to sacrifice, give-in, be bendable, be caring and be unselfish in
the interest of peace in your relationship. You seek a partner who is the same way and for
whom peace is likewise a top priority. In your value system, there is no better way to
define "success" in relationship than "peace." Nothing is more
important than getting along. You are attracted to people with whom you do. Your
"policy" is: in my relationships, fighting is not an option.
11. A soulmate defines who you are. In looking for a marriage partner one has to know
oneself and identify who one is before one has a chance of being able to elect and find
someone to complete oneself. Does a person complete (and help to define and optimize vs.
to contradict) who your best self is?
12. Matters of the heart (midos, virtues, human qualities, character, etc.) are the
highest priority is choosing, solidifying and conducting the relationship.
13. You don't have to fight for relationship-basics (e.g. peace, respect, giving in,
trust, responsibility, patience, communication, appreciation, thoughtfulness, attention,
integrity, good-heartedness, orientation to growing, etc. [when "basics" aren't
there, there is no relationship]). Other people don't have to fight for basics from you.
14. You treat all people with kavod and derech eretz (respect and courtesty) as a
consistent matter of normal conduct.
15. You appreciate and value people and their qualities and all nice things that they
16. You are responsive to people and give to them based on their feelings, wants, needs
17. You are "have-able." You are there to give a full and committed
relationship to another person. To the extent appropriate before married, you demonstrate
unfaltering responsibility to people you relate to. You are equipped to give to another
person and to fulfill the responsibilities of marriage such that another person can
"have" you and have what marriage should offer to the other. You do not set up
obstacles to relationships. You do not make yourself difficult to get along with. You do
not set up unattainable demands or ideals (that no mortal can never meet). You are
flexible (except in matters of halacha [law] and non-compromisable morals or principles -
you will contact a rav when you have a question or when a matter contains conflicting
morals or principles). You are stable, consistent and reliable. You are not concerned that
you'll be one-sidedly "had" because your criteria for choosing a mate are
mature, healthy and functional; so you will choose a mate who you will likewise
"have." The relating partners to whom you are attracted are people who do not
fight and do not provoke fights with you. You do not think of being on the defensive. You
do not think in terms of taking protective measures, whether for the present or for the
future. Relationships are essentially smooth, pleasant and consistently trustworthy; they
essentially grow, blossom and deepen with time (as a basic pattern); they essentially have
sweetness, integrity and momentum. Even if you have not found your "basherte (true
soulmate)," when you break up with someone, there is a logical and rational cause,
not an emotional or turbulent cause; and the break is done in a "mentshlach (human,
dignified, thoughtful)" fashion. The person just wasn't the right one.
18. You accept things and people calmly when they are less than perfect, less than what
you want or when not on your terms.
19. What are your expectations of a spouse? Are they realistic? Are they borne out by
your practical experience and in what you've see in successfully married couples? How
satisfied have you been by relating partners?
20. To what expectations of another (i.e. relating partners) can you live up? Is this
realistic? Is this truly enough? Is this validated by your practical experience and in
what you've seen in successfully married couples? How satisfied have relating partners
been with you? Do matchmakers say, when a person doesn't want to date you again, that the
person said of you, "(S)he was a phenominal person!...just wasn't the one for
21. How might you have to change what you expect to give to a relating partner or to
receive from a relating partner (so that you are a more likely candidate for a stable,
lasting, functional and fulfilling marriage relationship)?
22. One of the pitfalls I have seen from time to time in doing counseling or workshops
is preoccupation with being and needing someone "special" or "above
average." It can be true that someone who is brighter or more sensitive or more
aesthetic or more religiously stringent, for example, than the majority of people, may
need someone comperable in order to be compatible. But establishing certain criteria for a
"special" mate, in reality terms, may not necessarily be realistic or healthy.
Different criteria have different objective priority levels. I have often seen singles
requiring someone "beyond average" or "special" as a defense or
arising out of unhealthy psychological needs. Further, the emotional intensity and
investment in the "special need" is, on varying levels, an indicator that the
"requirement" is unhealthy and is not an intrinsic need in the person. If a need
is an objective and authentic priority (e.g. religious compatibility, strength of
character, mental stability, good-heartedness, etc.), by all means require it without
compromise. However if the need is either a. less-than-priority or b. a
"psychological trap," particularly if it is intense or something about which one
is rigid or stubborn, watch out. It is either a. serious confusion about what should be a
priority for a wholesome and lasting marriage or b. rooted in an unhealthy and
dysfunctional source. In case a, one would do well to obtain mature guidance on how to
seek and select a mate. In case b, the need for professional help is indicated.
23. When in relationships, you do not fear, inhibit, evade or damage the development of
closeness. Sometimes, when relationships show "promise" (the capacity to grow
seriously close), fears and insecurities unconsciously cause sabotage to the relationship.
For example, one may fear that some imperfection will be discovered which
"should" cause the other person to reject, ridicule or despise the single. The
person may expect marriage to be combatitive or painful and want to avoid the risk of
futility, hurt, rejection or failure. The person may have been abused or emotionally
neglected as a child. The person may have seen trouble, coldness or break-up in his/her
parents' marriage and may be psychologically "programmed" to expect the same or
use the parents' dysfunctional marriage as a role model. It could be selfishness (not
wanting to be tied-down, limited, responsible). There could be any number of reasons why
singles put off closeness or marriage to a genuine candidate. In the case of a person who
is ready, relationships will be reasonably well-chosen, with partners who show prospects
for a compatible and healthy relationship. Relationships progress to their potential,
during the course of which there is a discernable trend of developing a closeness (up to
the relationship's maximum level of potential). Talking is basically comfortable and
progressively becomes more detailed, secure and private. There is a growing sense of
warmth, concern, connection, reliance and pleasantness. Communication is generally calm
and respectful, even when you have differences or individual opinions. There is an
atmosphere of trust, supportiveness and stability. You each keep gradually extending the
bounds of trust and confidentiality. Together with growing interest in eachother, there is
heightened quality of relationship, development of closeness and smooth intertwining of
your lives. Even when this occurs gradually, it occurs steadily and consistently. There is
a clear sense of strong, lasting, realistic and workable foundation. This foundations
progressively grows stronger and warmer. Relationships feel like "this is what a
marriage should be like" and look like the marriages of successful couples you have
24. Marriage is a package of responsibilities, not entitlements. The word "nesuin
(marriage)" comes from the same shoresh (root word) as "noso (carry, burden or
responsibility)" and "nasee (leader)." A Jewish leader is, by definition,
one who bears responsibility for klall Yisroel. Similarly, one who is married is, by
definition, one who carries responsibility - for practical life duties as well as for