Marriages Yesterday and Today
Schiduchim (marriages) are much more difficult in the twenty-first century than they have ever been. Men and women are more “liberal” today. They do not feel that a legal bond between a male and a female are necessary to experience the bond that marriage gives us. Men more than women do not want the commitment that the legality of a marriage certificate brings. Divorces are costly and threatening for people and a financial burden and drain for the participants. It is said to kill the free spirit that is afforded those who feel they need freedom to “love” as they choose. Sexuality and its expression is not guarded today, and people speak about and practice it more freely than a century or even fifty years ago. Marriage was a sacred institution and discussions of sex were unheard of. Today the media freely displays the sexual act and there are no “holes barred” from the public mind and view.
In our Jewish world marriage was holy. It was a great mitzwah to beget and raise children. Our products were our future. We were happy when the sex act resulted in the little cherubs. We celebrated the act with a bris or a festivity and utilized a mikva (a cleansing bath after menstruation) to keep our sexual organs holy and clean. We did not even speak about our sexual desires and compatibilities along those lines. Men and women felt whole when they succeeded in bringing a new life into the world.
At a generally young age, men and women met, fell in love and married. If availability was difficult there were the Schadchens (matchmakers) who, for a price, brought men and women together with the intention of “making a Schidach”. There were some exchanges made in the nineteenth and beginnings of the twentieth century. The parents of the bride were expected to give a “Mitgift” (dowry) to the bridegroom to begin their marriage. This gift was either money or some useful items to assist the couple in the beginning of their betrothal. With some more calculating men and their family the size of the dowry made a difference as far as concluding the “deal”. The orthodox Jewish couple would be married under the prescribed “chupah” (canopy) and a commitment, an oath, to be together as long as their lives existed would be made. There were marriages where the couple did not see each other until they were under the canopy. As time progressed, people met each other, in schools, colleges, at parties, at weddings, funerals and other social occasions. Perhaps families knew each other and felt that a boy or girl would like each other and thus would make introductions where deemed advisable.
Because of the automobile and other forms of transportation in our modern times, it is not unusual for folks to meet in distant places where friends were scattered in far distant towns and were reunited through visits or incidental connections. Today the internet, an impersonal instrument, lists women and men who are interested in a “relationship”. They “wink” at each other, write to one another through this vehicle and may meet casually or otherwise if they possibly find each other suitable for a “try”. These are folks who are not absolutely determined to make their relationships binding ones. There is no certainty that these folks are what they portray or what they really are or desire. It may culminate in a “trial balloon” where they want to test a prospective candidate physically, educationally, sexually. They can eliminate those potential candidates who are unqualified either appearance wise, work wise, or sexually. There are cases where folks deal with innumerable people or have several relationships all at the same time. Meeting a suitable partner takes time and can bring disappointments to many an eager male or female who wants a serious and satisfying connection or a permanent commitment with another human being.
The Jewish boy or girl has a much more difficult situation to face since there are a very small number of our persuasion to be had. Intermarriage is so rampant and the committed Jewish young one has a small choice in finding his or her kind. Often, as a result, they have great difficulty, are frequently rejected, and have to move far away from family and friends; thus, their opportunities are limited and frequently disappointing.
Girls/females have an even more difficult time then men, since their body clock is ticking and their chances of having babies becomes slimmer as time moves on. The educated Jewish girl, i.e. the female physician, lawyer, etc., is, by the time she is available to search for a partner, at the end of her twenties or early thirties. By that time the young men are married, frequently to gentiles, or are threatened by the possible dominance of a potential mate. The men, at least in theory, want to be the protector, the dominant partner, the proverbial “boss” in the marriage, and thus they stay away from the professional female. The men often look for younger “girly girls” who look up to them or at least seem to do so. They want to be admired and adored by a “beauty”. There is, of course, the male who cannot find a job or make a living who will attempt to unite with these professional women so their life will be easier or potentially so.
and male equality is a wonderful and healthy state of affairs, but it brings
with it complications and sadness, especially for the Jewish female who wants to
remain within her culture and the love that she has in her heart and being. She is an independent responsible human being who has much
more to give to a potential prospective partner of her outlook, education, and
experience. Their commonality makes
for a much more successful and happy marriage and partnership than someone
without the similarities of the potential partner.
They have their religion, their education, their interests to share,
their love of family, and much more. Their
combined incomes make for more leisure for them both and their strivings will be
enhanced by their choices.
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.