Has Marriage Gone the Way of the Passenger Pigeon?

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17 Responses

  1. Yaakov Green says:

    You mention five kinds of marriage, in which the Traditional Marriage is where “the man works while the woman runs the home.” What about the sixth kind – the one where the husband learns, and the wife has six kids, runs the home, and earns the income? I had a meshulach recently come to my door, collecting for hachnasas kallah. He told me that the chassan is in yeshivah, and I asked if that was appropriate when he needs people to collect money for him. When I pointed out that the kesubah places the responsibility for supporting the family on the shoulders of the husband, he looked at me like I was from a different planet!

  2. Shira says:

    Yes, B”H for the Recipe Book we’ve been given, and all the experienced chefs who teach us how to use it!

    In addition to a couple’s common goals, there’s another piece of hashkafa that brings the Jewish couple to a different marriage zone: the declaration of the bat kol 40 days before conception, of one’s soul-mate.

    In a series of shiurim on Shalom Bayis (harmony in the home), Rebetzin Neustadt explains that the decree of Heavenly voice teaches us that our life partner is intended to be part of our mission in life – both for achievement of our goals and self improvement. So when a couple does hit those rough spots, they can reflect upon them as opportunities to grow, to further achieve their personal best.

    (The full version is available free at the kolhashiurim website, second shiur in the series.)

  3. TK says:

    As a young husband in a great marriage with my wife of a year and a half, I say thank you for writing this article. It is always encouraging to hear of the joy in Torah-observant marriages and families. The words you have written remind me of my wedding day, a day when my wife and I looked at each other and promised to work towards a common goal to bless HaShem. Thank you for writing this, my friend. May HaShem bless you today.

  4. Nathan says:

    100 years ago, women were happy to marry a man with: average height, average good looks, average wealth, average intelligence, average education and average personality.

    In our times, being average is no longer acceptable.

    Women only wants to marry a man with: excellent height, excellent good looks, excellent wealth, excellent intelligence, excellent education and excellent personality.

    Since few men excel in all things, few women find the men they really want.

  5. another Nathan says:

    People used to see themselves as members of a tribe, then members of an extended family, with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Then their identity became reduced to belonging to an isolated nuclear family. That nuclear family had its role reduced to that of economic fallout shelter, with the state taking responsibility for many functions. With the free love movement of the 1960’s and decline in the concept of responsibility, we had the rise of the single-parent family (that wasn’t the result of a death of a spouse. The next stage will likely be children bred and born in test-tubes, raised by government agencies.
    However, as last night’s referendum in Maine, the earlier one in California, and 30 other such state votes have shown, the majority of the population, though not the media elite, support the traditional concept of marriage.

  6. L. Oberstein says:

    Yes. Many of our young people ‘live together’ without the benefit of marriage. They do not hide it and there is absolutely no stigma whatsoever. This is generally true of Jews and also describes a certain sub-set of nominally orthodox young adults. Marriage ,as the frum world understands it, is not portrayed on television any longer. The bastion of traditional marriage is among really ortodox Jews and probably among many Christians. This phenomenon is causing Arab Americans to engage in honor killings. We just pull our hair out.

  7. Shira says:

    first Nathan: “Since few men excel in all things, few women find the men they really want.”

    Not exactly. In the olden days, neither the women nor the men deluded themselves into thinking that the essence of marriage was about these external qualities.

    For example, the farming lifestyle was by nature a religious framework – investing, hoping, care-taking, waiting, harvesting. Lots of discipline and essential routine. Each family member valued for their contribution. It naturally produced the Common Goal environment that Rav Adlerstein describes above.

    Anyone who was too busy with the non-essential values was eventually pushed out by society – even Rhett Butler caught on, it was Scarlet who blew it.

  8. Simcha Younger says:

    Beautiful ideas are always dangerous, and never a good way to guarantee desired behavior.
    A Romantic Marriage will often fail when the romance is gone, but a Common Goal Marriage will fail even faster if the common goal is gone. There is no guarantee that the two spouses will continue to share the goal, or to interpret it in the same way.

    `Ahava shehi teluya badavar’ – love which is dependent on something (or, love which is dependent on what people say) will not last any longer than the external consideration (Avos 5:19). This applies equally to romance, comapnionship, and rescue, as well as to a common goal. Perhaps our education is strong enough that the goal itself has greater holding power; in some cases that is true, in many it is not.

    I think it is wrong to reject the claim that we are not evolutionarily built for marriage. The Halacha clearly recognizes that women often want to switch marriage partners for no legitimate reason – `shema nasna eineha be’acher’. The longterm benefits of marriage are no match for the immediate wanderlust. The Teshuvos Ha’Rosh seems to agree with her claim, here ( 43:8, in the middle, `V’od Ani Omer’. click for text). Marriage, like the passenger pigeon, cannot survive in the name of the future.

    The excuses that Sandra Loh gives to ignore any downside in divorce are to be expected . She wants out, because she has no sufficient personal interest in staying, and anyone will excuse all external considerations in that situation. I have to admit that I am also getting divorced and I have been hearing all these same arguments from my wife – in terms of our common goals. She cares about the kids charedi education etc… and thats why she needs a divorce. And if I would be promised custody and generous child support, I would insist on the divorce.

    Any marriage which is built on love – `ahava’ – has a very shaky foundation. A true, deep-seated, and authentic love is rare, especially at the time of marriage. Perhaps this is why the Torah rarely refers to marriage in romantic terms, and the Gemara generally deals with it in extremely pragmatic, even economic, terms. Marriage is not good because of the economic benefits each side gets, but those benefits are what can hold it together while the true benefits of marriage develop. The Traditional Marriage is successful because each side gets significant immediate benefit, which forms a foundation for their love, romance, rescue, and common goals.

    All that you have written about the beauty and benefits of a committed marriage are true, but as long as women can have the economic benefits of marriage even after they leave – either as alimony, child support, or from taking a significant amount of the assets – few of them will stay long enough to enjoy those benefits, and even a common Jewish goal will not be enough to keep marriages together.

  9. Charles B. Hall says:

    L. Oberstein,

    Many Christians still get married, but the divorce rate in the Bible Belt is considerably higher than in the rest of the allegedly less religious US, and research has shown that Protestant Christians who belong to conservative denominations or to non-denominational (usually even more conservative) churches have the highest divorce rates of any religious group. (Unfortunately, Jews are right up there with a high divorce rate, too; I’ve not seen a breakdown, though, of orthodox vs. non-orthodox. Catholics seem to have lower divorce rates possibly in part because the church makes some effort to insure that couples are compatible.)

    Possible evidence that the Bible Belt actually has lower moral standards despite their protestations to the contrary is the way that politicians are treated when they stray from traditional standards. James McGreevey and Eliot Spitzer were forced to resign from office, but Mark Sanford remains Governor of South Carolina, John Ensign remains a US Senator from Nevada, Larry Craig served out his term, and David Vitter is actually favored to win re-election as US Senator from Louisiana!

  10. DF says:

    One can nitpick, but basically everything YA said is true. We may have fallen short, at this time, in many ideals, but I think the bedrock of orthodoxy in these times is: shabbos, and the concept of marriage and family. And these two concepts are very much related.

    [I also think Yakov Green’s point, at the top, is very important, and I know many people think the same – maybe even YA? – but it doesnt detract from this article.]

  11. Ori says:

    Charles B. Hall: research has shown that Protestant Christians who belong to conservative denominations or to non-denominational (usually even more conservative) churches have the highest divorce rates of any religious group.

    Ori: Is this because they have more couples getting separated, or because the couples that got separated were previously married whereas in more liberal denominations they would be living together without having gotten married in the first place? Is trying to build a marriage and failing less moral than not even trying?

  12. Bob Miller says:

    The attacks on the traditional marriage bond are part of a broader, sinister development in American society, discussed at the American Thinker web site on 4 Nov 2009 in the article The Sociopathic Epidemic. The author, “Robin of Berkeley”, is described there as “a psychotherapist and a recovering liberal”.

    Here are some key portions of this extraordinary article:

    1. “There’s so much crime out here that most of the time, the residents are numb. We have waves of takeover restaurant robberies and you barely hear a peep.

    And when a teacher was beaten and stoned a few months ago during her class at Portola Middle School in El Cerrito (minutes from Berkeley) a small article was buried in the local paper. Many in the leftist community defended the youths as victims of white privilege, and some even blamed the teacher.

    But then, last weekend, there was a crime so evil that no one could brush it off.

    At a homecoming dance at Richmond High School (in the same district as the middle school stoning), a fifteen-year-old girl was beaten and gang-raped for over two hours while a crowd from the dance watched, laughed, and photographed the scene. No one called the cops.

    The girl was left unconscious, dumped under a bench. She had to be airlifted to a specialty hospital.

    The so-called experts fault the usual suspects: absentee parents, indigence, drug-infested schools, and herd behavior. One teacher indicts the media’s sexual exploitation of women. A parent of one of the arrested youths blames racism.

    But there was hardship, alcoholism, bad parents, sexism, and teenagers fifty years ago without such mayhem.”

    2. “It’s easier to blame society than face the deep, dark truth: we’ve created a nation filled to the brim with sociopaths (also known as antisocial personalities).

    I recently read a book called The Narcissism Epidemic. It reports the high number of narcissists among the young and contends that their condition is aided and abetted by self-esteem training.

    True, but the theory feels a bit dated. The biggest danger now is a sociopathic epidemic.

    While narcissists are selfish, annoying people, their humanity is still in place. They possess a conscience and can feel guilt and shame. Most people in power have some degree of narcissism.

    Sociopaths are a different breed entirely. Here are some common features: callous disregard for others, superficial charm, pathological self-centeredness, lying and manipulation, irritability and aggression, lack of remorse or guilt, cruelty, ingratitude, and antisocial behavior.”

    3. “How did this happen, the metastasizing of an antisocial tumor?

    Feiffer’s Little Murders offered some clues over forty years ago, such as self-worshiping, moral relativism, and rejecting God and religion.

    The movie also sounded an alarm about the resurgence of the Left. The film’s most prescient moment is when Patsy’s husband, played by Elliot Gould, recalls being a college radical who has a change of heart.

    In a darkened room, he gravely says to Patsy, “You shouldn’t destroy institutions until you know what will take their place. You might find that you will miss them when they’re gone.” Seconds later, Patsy is shot.

    The progressives have destroyed the structures uniting this country since its founding. Now, the rules of morality that kept people’s base impulses in check have gone AWOL. Cruelty is the new normal, while the sacred is mocked.

    What has the Left unleashed? A quasi-autocracy where dissidents are silenced and the Constitution is trashed. A government that loves animals, the earth, and endangered birds, but not humans.

    Everywhere we look, from the ghettos to the corporations to the pristine halls of the government, we can see people whose hearts and souls are empty.

    Their antisocial behavior is enabled by a codependent society that gives aggrieved groups the green light to pillage and plunder.”

  13. CZ says:

    Charles Hall, I noticed you didnt list Edward Kennedy on your list of immoral politicians who remained in power, for example. Same with Bill Clinton, a philanderer and a perjurer. You may still be living in the 60s, but your party has fallen a long way since Powell v. Mcormack.

    I’d like to see you back up your claims with evidence, and assuming you do that, I’d like to know if you atually studies the numbers. We all know numbers can be manipulated.

  14. One Christian's perspective says:

    “Many Christians still get married, but the divorce rate in the Bible Belt is considerably higher than in the rest of the allegedly less religious US, and research has shown that Protestant Christians who belong to conservative denominations or to non-denominational (usually even more conservative) churches have the highest divorce rates of any religious group” – Comment by Charles B. Hall

    You could be right but stats don’t always reflect the great fluidity of movement today between Christian churches – both within & between the Protestant churches and between the Catholic and Protestant churches. In my grandparents generation and prior, church teaching, cultural values,work ethics and family were much more closely aligned than today for many reasons.
    Reformed Evangelical Churches are “orthodox” in their stance on marriage and divorce. Divorce may be considered for adultery, abuse and abandonment. Marriage within the church is not considered unless the couple attend “counseling” classes that teach the seriousness of the marriage covenant, sound relational values and expectations and the couple must make a serious profession of faith. Interestingly, remarriage is usually not considered unless the divorce was for adultery, abuse and abandonment. NT teachings and OT (teachings of Moses) are both given serious weight. A marriage partner who is unrepentant and unwilling to seek counseling to lead toward repentance and reconciliation can be excommunicated from the congregation – usually after a lengthy period of time and effort has been expended by church leaders. That said, the church provides free programs to facilitate healing, renewal and peace for those suffering from addictions that may lead to divorce (not just alcohol,drugs etc.) and for those suffering from the pain of divorce.

    ” I think the bedrock of orthodoxy in these times is: shabbos, and the concept of marriage and family. And these two concepts are very much related.” – DF

    You are onto something. A Christian missionary serving many years in the field among discarded children – literally thrown in the streets – in the Soviet Union mentioned that very rarely did they have Jewish children in the orphanage. They simply were not discarded by their family.

  15. Shira says:

    Well, if Rav Adlerstein’s article didn’t give us gratitude to be living in a haven, these comments certainly will….

  16. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    I have since read the original article and it is truly sad. My heart goes out to these people. If the Jewish People is to be a light to the nations, we have to get our act together. Both divorce and the shidduch crisis are hitting us and we should not take this article and similar phenomena as a license to be complacent. More is expected of us and we must do the work in our own marriages and families and also in the philosophical and sociological sphere to understand the hard cases which happen to us as well. We have seen some unfortunate divorce cases in our own community and one preventable marriage failure is too many. The kids pay. The parents eat sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge. Then the parents publish articles in the media and pour their toxic sour grape waste out into the public sphere.

  17. sima braunstein says:

    I’ve read Ms. Tsing Loh’s article, and a subsequent article published in this month’s Atlantic. Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

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