July 9, 2024
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July 9, 2024
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I Could Have Done Better

After being married for a while, most people come to the shocking realization that their spouse isn’t perfect after all.

And then begin the comparisons.

Why can’t my wife be as organized as that woman? Why can’t my husband be as responsible as that man?

Sometimes a husband or wife might think back to when they were single. Doubts start to surface: Did I choose the right one? Maybe I “settled”? I could have done better, and then I wouldn’t have to go through what I’m going through now.

The interesting thing is that they may be right. It could be that if they had pursued that “other person,” they might have married him or her. Hashem gave us each free will. But the question is, if they had in fact married that other person, would their life be any easier? Would they be happier now?

When you were dating, you might have met someone smarter, taller, kinder or richer than your spouse. If you wanted to, you might have succeeded in marrying that other person. But you would have suffered, because the best qualities in the world all put together into one person doesn’t mean that he’s a fit for you.

A marriage is a complex weave of needs, emotions and temperaments. The two partners come from different homes, have different upbringings, and have vastly different natures and dispositions. To find the right match for all the components that must fit requires the wisdom of… well, the wisdom of our Creator. And that’s the point. Hashem chose the right one for you. You fit together like a hand in a glove. And while he may not be the best bochur in Lakewood, he is the best one for you. She might not be perfect, but she is perfect for you. Your spouse is handpicked by the One Who knows your nature and the essence of your personality—this is the ideal match for you. Could you have done “better”? Maybe—but “better” doesn’t mean a better marriage, and “better” certainly doesn’t mean that you would be happy together.

The Second Really Dumb Mistake (see last week’s article for the first)

This is the Second Really Dumb Mistake That Very Smart Couples Make. They look around and say, “I could have done better,” and they might be right. They might have been able to snag a person who has more of a specific positive quality, or doesn’t have the shortcomings that their spouse has. And they think, If only I had married him, life would be so easy. I would be so happy. (What they forget is that this other person has his own constellation of issues, shortcomings, flaws and idiosyncrasies that make him difficult to live with. Just ask his wife.)

It boils down to a question of bitachon. Do I trust Hashem? Do I trust that Hashem has chosen the ideal life partner for me?

Bitachon is something that we often talk about but seldom understand. The Chovos Halevavos (4:3) explains that in order to have bitachon, there are two concepts a person must fully embrace. The first is simple: that Hashem loves me more than I love me. As much as I want what’s best for me, Hashem wants it even more. As much as I want everything to turn out well, Hashem wants it even more. As much as I want my success, Hashem wants it even more. As much as I love myself, Hashem loves me even more.

That concept isn’t that difficult to accept. It is the second concept that gives us the most trouble in life. And that is accepting that Hashem knows better than me what is for my best.

This is something that trips us up all the time, the “I know what I need” game. I need to marry that woman. I need to get that job. I need my child to get into that school. But Hashem doesn’t listen, and you feel frustrated. I don’t get it! I need it. It’s good for me. It’s so important. Hashem, why aren’t You giving me this? Are You angry with me? Hashem, why?!

The thought that maybe, just maybe, this isn’t what’s best for you, never crosses your mind. “Trusting Hashem” doesn’t mean trusting that Hashem will do your bidding. (In fact, that’s a bit like saying, I’m the master and Hashem, You’re my servant.) “Trusting Hashem” means trusting in His master plan, trusting that Hashem knows better than you what is best for you.

The simple reality is that in so many of the choices that we make in life, we don’t have an option other than to trust Hashem, because we simply don’t know what’s right. I have limited sight. I don’t know where I’ll be in 20 years. I don’t know what type of person I will be or what will be important to me then.

When you get married, you fully intend that it will be for life. But you are woefully ill-equipped to make that choice. You don’t know the future. You don’t know who you’ll be or who your spouse will be many years down the line. You are both works in progress, changing, growing, and charting unknown waters. The decision of whom to marry is something that any thinking person will quickly realize is above their capacity. The only sane way to make that choice is by trusting Hashem. Trusting Hashem means trusting that Hashem knows exactly what you need now and for the future, and that Hashem chose the ideal partner for you.

Rabbi Bentzion Shafier is the founder of TheShmuz.com, a life-changing mussar shiur that is available on TorahAnytime, The Shmuz Podcast and The Shmuz App. His newest book release, “The Ten Really Dumb Mistakes That Very Smart Couples Make,” is available on TheShmuz.com and your local Jewish bookstore.

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