Sunday, November 18, 2007

Looking for Rachel

What are these voices outside Love's open door
Make us throw off our contentment
And beg for something more?......

....The more I know, the less I understand

All the things I thought I figured out, I had to learn again.

-Don Henley ("The Heart of the Matter")

Went to a women's shiur this Shabbos on the Parsha. When women get together to discuss Torah, it could either go very badly or it could be electric. I have always loved learning with women...if they are even a little knowledgeable, there is a particular energy in the room that is absent with co-ed learning, which is usually more about subliminal socializing than learning. Sometimes though, if one of the participants has an agenda or is either very close-minded or much too open-minded, it could be a bust. But this was a good class, lots of energy, lots of thinking, lots of analysis.

So there we were, talking about Rachel and Leah, and Leah's very sad situation, and how she rose to the occasion. Jacob hated Leah (it actually says snuah in plain Hebrew), mostly because she was not Rachel. There are many textual clues that Jacob saw in Rachel, who was beautiful and younger, his soulmate, his bashert, the woman he would build a nation with, the woman he was willing to sacrifice years of his life for. Leah was someone he was tricked into marrying...he just had no interest in her whatsoever, and he never chose her. But mostly, her biggest problem was, she wasn't Rachel. She wasn't The One.

Leah didn't seem to falter at her hopeless position. She went on to bear child after child, and continued to prove to her husband that she too was part of the vision of the future, even if she wasn't his choice. The Midrash brings some interesting examples of how she slowly removed the layers of his hatred until Jacob recognized that she was indeed his wife and his partner, not more than Rachel, not less than Rachel, but a partner in her own right. It wasn't a quantitative was a qualitative shift. And in the end, Rachel died young, and Jacob spent his life with Leah, and was eventually buried with her...his partner in eternity.

Many of us hang on to a vision of The Perfect Spouse in our minds. I didn't marry my ideal spouse the first time around. I married a good guy, whom I loved at the time (but was not passionately in love with), who was not right for me on many levels. And so, being on my own again begs the question(s): should I have held out for The Perfect Spouse, or close to it? Is there a soulmate out there waiting for me? Was the mistake of my first marriage a lesson for my second? Do I need to be crazy, madly in love to get married again?

I'm not sure. I've had a lot of blind dates lately, an assortment of first and second dates and not much further than that, and I've asked myself this question over and over again. Who is it that I'm looking for, what is it that I want? Will I hold out (possibly until it's too late) for a fiery "Rachel" kinda-guy or is a "Leah" kinda-guy, who will give me love, a family, a good life, and happiness going to be enough? I know that it would have been enough for me the first time around, but now I have a second I hold out for The One?

Divorce throws you for a loop. I like what Smoo writes in his profile, that "divorce has been a catalyst in my spiritual evolution." It has certainly been a catalyst in mine. So here I am, trying to find my other half, once again, a little late, but the door is wide open, and I ask myself: what have I learned and how will I do this better next time?


smoo said...

Thanks for the that little shout out.

I gotta tell you that I would never want my marriage to start out like Leah's even if I come to appreciate her over time. The grief isn't worth it. I think you should write a post about what you have learned, it will help crystallize your thoughts on the matter.

I have done a bit of dating and have noticed that each woman brings something different to the relationship that appeals to me. However, as the relationship progresses, I start to recognize aspects of her personality that in itself may not be bad but would not mesh with me. This of course after accounting for compromise and how much would I sacrifice for my partner before I start to lose myself or my values. I start to consider Y who had this important quality but lacked another and Z who had that but lacked the first. I really try to convince my self that the person I'm with has most of the qualities I seek but my gut says, "You won't be happy and in the end both of you will suffer." The fact that I have to convince myself of anything is a warning right there!

I accept that people have flaws as do I and I accommodate for that in my reckoning but there can't be red flags or even unreasonable sacrifice. Everyone must decide what is right for them. Personally, I would rather wait until I find the right woman and in the meantime enjoy my independence. We know how badly a poor marriage could be so what's the rush? Marriage isn't the GOAL. It is a means to deepen your connection with another on your journey towards happiness.

I think you'll find my old post on this interesting:

WebGirl said...

I get everything you are saying. I really do.

But our approaches are fundamentally different. I think we've exchanged these views before. Marriage is the goal for me. I didn't have children in my first marriage and that window of opportunity is slowly closing. Frankly, I don't enjoy my independence on too many levels. I want to be part of a marriage. Yes, being in a bad marriage is horrible, but being single is simply unfulfilling, to me at least. Even being single and being in a relationship is unfulfilling. I loved being married (just not to my ex,) and I want to be married again.

So being with a great guy with whom I'm completely compatible isn't going to do it for me. Being married to a great guy...that's the goal.

Now if you're saying that relaxing a little and not constantly worrying about getting married while I'm dating will be better for me, I'm in complete agreement. The best initial dates I've had were very laid back, just shmoozing, laughing, connecting, not talking about the M word. No one wants to be with someone who is totally single-mindedly focused on marriage marriage marriage, and you can smell that desperation a mile away. On the other hand, I don't want to be part of that MO social scene where wanting to get married is almost an afterthought, and the relationship is the thing.

smoo said...

I actually know a woman who decided to have a baby without a marriage because her time was limited. I know that isn't for everyone but I also know a lot of women who missed their window and there is no going back.

Consider how many divorced moms are raising their kids practically by themselves. The only difference is that they have to contend with a hostile other party!

WebGirl said...

I've thought about that and that path is not for me, though I give single parents (no matter how they got that way) a lot of credit.

I'm between a rock and a hard place right now. In some sense, regardless of whether or not the clock is ticking, we are all in that place. I want to be married, but not to the wrong person or for the wrong reasons.

It's just not easy.

Nice Jewish Guy said...

I was talking the other day with a friend- whose marriage I have no fears about- who said that he doesn't get the butterflies anymore with his wife. It seems as if they have, predictable and appropriately, settled into a best-friendship, a team, with good sex.

And I wonder: if it is going to (ideally) end up that way anyway, why not just marry someone with whom you can get along, be good friends with, and with whom you can have at least moderately satisfying (and hopefully more than occasionally, great) sex?

WebGirl said...

You know what, that (plus love and sacrifice) sounds great.

I was only able to sustain butterflies with one person in my life, and that ship has sailed. I just don't think butterflies are in my marital future. But butterflies and fire are not the same thing. I'm still not willing to give up on fire.

MarriageNewbie said...

While I am newly married and I still DO get butterflies sometimes when my husband walks into the room, I think it's unrealistic to expect that to happen after 20 years. I think that a good marriage, built on love, trust, and understanding, is more important than that feeling of butterflies or raging passion. Passion and butterflies will always fade. True, lasting love, slowly created in a solid relationship, is what will last, and be the most satisfying and fulfilling. So if you find a guy you can have that with, go for it. Don't wait for the infatuation and the rush and the crazy-dizzy feelings - you'll have them, but only for awhile. And if you think he's "The One" because of that, and then it inevitably fades, what are you left with then?

Anonymous said...

I am close with a couple who still have butterflies with their partner. I am a single (never been married) woman in my 30s and would love to have that, but I'd much prefer to have a strong supportive marriage without great sex, than have great sex without a supportive marriage. I've had both sorts of relationships, but not within the context of marriage.