April 21, 2024
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April 21, 2024
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How Can I Be Happily Married…Ever After?

Dear Dr. Chani,

I have been holding back a secret from everyone I know. I decided to share it with you so that maybe you could help me. I got married around 15 months ago to a wonderful man. He is sweet, loving and very supportive of me. I know I should be so thankful to be married to a man who accepts me and loves me. But, deep down, I am afraid that when I married him, maybe I settled.

Dating was very difficult for me. I went out with many men over 12 years. I had a few serious relationships with men who I was really excited about and wanted to marry. Unfortunately, they all did not work out for one reason or another.

I always dreamed of marrying a person who would be a spiritual leader in the community. I felt drawn to men who were training to become rabbis or would teach Torah. But I was willing to marry someone with a different profession as long as he learned Torah regularly, was very serious about keeping Halacha, and davened with a minyan three times a day.

Somehow, my relationships with these religiously devoted men never worked out. One man wanted to marry me, but his family was adamantly against it, so our relationship fell apart. Another man could not commit to me. It seemed like he and I could date forever and he still would never be ready to get engaged, so we broke up.

When I met my husband, I had almost given up on ever finding someone I really liked and who was also willing to marry me. Imagine my surprise when this kind, sensitive, responsible and religious man took a strong liking to me from the start. I really enjoyed our dates and felt stable and secure with him. At the same time, I feared that he was not so interested in learning and did not always daven with a minyan. I struggled with doubts for almost a year. I shared my doubts with him and he reassured me that he wanted to grow religiously. He loved and respected my passion for Judaism. Eventually, I chose to marry him.

While we were engaged, I was on an emotional high. Our first few married months together were also very special. I never felt so loved and emotionally safe. But, over time, I began to worry that maybe I settled too soon. Maybe I should have waited for the right guy to come along? I love my husband, but sometimes I do not respect him. He plays video games in his spare time instead of learning. I peek over the mechitza in shul and I see him spacing out instead of davening. I really wish he would be more religiously inspired. Then I would feel more connected to him. What can I do?

Sincerely,

Amy

Dear Amy,

I understand that you are conflicted about your decision to marry your husband. On the one hand, he has so many outstanding qualities to be treasured in a spouse: He is loving, kind, sensitive, and desires to make you happy. You appreciate him. That’s why you chose to marry him. On the other hand, he does not fully measure up to the vision of the man you hoped to marry. Part of you feels you made a mistake and you settled when you chose to marry your husband. You wish he was more naturally interested in religious pursuits, as you are. You would love to be able to share the same spiritual passion.That sounds extremely distressing.

Your realization that your husband is not what you had hoped for is understandably disappointing. The question is, where can you go from here? It is important to realize that you have the ability to create an amazing marriage with the husband you chose to marry. Your husband has a lot of endearing qualities and the potential to grow. You have a lot to work with if you adopt the right perspective.

The search for marital happiness is generally not about finding the right partner. It is about being the right partner yourself. When you were dating, you probably told yourself, “If only I was married, then I would be happier.” For a relatively fleeting time during your engagement and the initial months of your marriage, you were happy and content. Then, you began to have second thoughts about your decision.

Research on happiness calls this “the principle of adaptability.” This states that people who become happier after they attain something they wanted cannot sustain that increased level of happiness. Rather, they tend to adapt to their new circumstances and eventually return to approximately their former state of happiness. For example, it has been found that people who win the lottery do not become much happier than they were beforehand. In fact, they often become depressed. It is possible they despair when they realize that having all that money does not lead them to the happiness they crave.

You might be telling yourself, “If only I had married ____, I would be happier.” (You can fill in a specific man’s name, or a type of man.) It is unlikely that would have been true. Even if you had married a man who fit your vision perfectly, eventually you would have adapted to your new reality, and you would have fallen back to your former state of not-happy-enough. Marital happiness is not assured just because you marry who you think is the right person.

If you cannot achieve marital happiness by marrying the person that you want, then how can you be happier? There are specific practices that are found among happily married people. You can increase your marital happiness day by day by consciously incorporating those strategies into your life.

Research shows that one of those ways to increase happiness is by avoiding social comparison. This can be particularly helpful in your situation. You are questioning if your husband is enough for you compared to other men who fit your vision. Motivate yourself to focus solely on your husband, as if he is the only man left on the planet. When your mind starts to critically compare him to your fantasy husband, or other men you see or hear about, replace your critical thoughts about your husband. Focus on your husband’s positive qualities instead. Challenge yourself to identify a new specific positive character trait every day. Find an example of how your husband demonstrated that trait. Then, compliment your husband for that quality. Express what you appreciate about him and tell him the specific example you noticed.

Appreciating your husband and complimenting him regularly will make you happier. It will also create a supportive environment that can motivate him to grow religiously together with you. Your ability to appreciate your husband instead of constantly evaluating him will either make or break your marriage. I encourage you to continuously discover more of your husband’s positive qualities. In this way you can choose to be married happily, even after.

With warm wishes for a lifetime of marital happiness,

Chani


Chani Maybruch is a social psychologist and relationship coach, specializing in teaching emotional connection and communication skills for over two decades. She coaches individuals and couples, teaches courses on how to become a master of relationships and provides free relationship resources at chanimaybruch.com. Find out 10 creative ways to show your love in any relationship at chanimaybruch.com/showyourlove. Get clarity in dating with her free e-course at chanimaybruch.com/datingclarity. Send in your relationship question, big or small, to [email protected].

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