| Family Reflections |

The Struggle

Being married means feeling a range of emotions, not just joy and bliss


hat if it turned out that Walt Disney was wrong? The grand animator who made fairy tales about young princes and princesses who married and “lived happily ever after” may have perpetrated one of the largest — and most destructive — myths of all time.

The world fell for it so badly that millions of marriages were destroyed because of the acute misfit between the fantasy and the reality of married life. Like all messages, Disney’s seeped into the culture at large, causing people to have totally misguided expectations of their most important and sacred adult relationships.


Picture Perfect

Go find a photo of yourself as a child and show it to me. There you are, smiling your biggest smile at your uncle’s wedding or grinning your biggest grin at your brother’s bar mitzvah. You look happy, right? Can we deduce from studying that picture that you were a happy child? You never cried, right? You didn’t fight with your siblings, am I right? You got perfect test scores, always cleaned your room, and went to bed on time — I can tell by looking at your glowing face right here in this photo. You were a perfect kid with a perfect life.

Now please go get me a picture of your mom. Is that the same simchah? I think it must be. Wow, she looks beautiful. Her smile is even bigger than yours! I can see how happy she is, too. Nothing bothers her, right? I bet she was always patient, loving, understanding, and kind — I can see that in her eyes. I can’t picture a person like her ever losing her cool, feeling harried, or arguing with your dad; I bet your parents were the happiest people in the world. I can see that here in this picture.

You can learn a lot from photos, you know.

But you can learn even more from seeing people in action, in real life. “That’s why I love going to simchahs so much. I love to see bliss all around me,” says one woman. “It’s the only time I’m really happy because when I’m at home — with my own spouse and kids — it’s not like that at all. So much quibbling and quarreling. Grumpy, crabby children. Us grownups all irritated and impatient. It’s not always bad, but it’s hardly ever happy like at a simchah. It’s not what I was expecting.

“My home isn’t like everyone else’s home. I know that for sure, because I’ve been in other people’s homes. You never hear the husband criticizing the wife. You never see a wife not talking to her husband. People are actually nice to each other, and you can see how much they love each other.”


The Truth About Marriage

I think you get what I’m trying to say. Behind the scenes — not when we’re smiling for the camera or putting on a public show — but in the privacy of our homes and relationships, there’s a different story happening. It’s the real story of family life where real men and women have real relationships as they build their home and raise their children. In this story there are real disappointments, frustrations, and irritations — daily. There are real human imperfections that cause real pain within the authentic marital union. All this is scattered amid companionship, friendship, partnership, caring, and joy — to varying extents. Some days, months, or years see more difficulties and problems. Others sport more contentment.

But the challenges of living life with another person keep us all hoping, stretching, praying, and struggling. Not liking one’s spouse from time to time (and sometimes for long periods of time) is normal and common and in no way detracts from living an authentic marriage, just as marriage is designed to be. The commandment “lo sachmod beis rei’acha” hints that there is a very real possibility of doing so; apparently Hashem isn’t surprised that we’re often discontented. And yet the commitment we have toward building Jewish homes keeps us together, struggling together. In our marriages, held together by this commitment, we have hope, despair, guilt, rage, yearning, love, hate, and grief. Our marriages are tender, caring, joyous, and happy, and they’re sad, boring, empty, and lonely.

No, marriage isn’t a simplistic Walt Disney cartoon; it’s life itself in all of its complexity, contradiction, pain, and joy. We embrace this awesome relationship with hearts filled with courage, love, and faith.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 873)

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