A man shall leave his father and his mother and be united with his wife, and they shall become one flesh
— Genesis, 2:24
A successful marriage is dependent on bringing God into the relationship
— The Rebbe
A wedding ceremony is inde￼ed a joyous occasion. We see family members and old friends, we eat and drink, we dance and rejoice. We share in the happiness of the man and the woman who are committing their lives to each other. But why are they getting married in the first place?
Some might answer that a marriage is a contract that binds two people. But we know that if two people don’t love each other, no contract is strong enough to hold them together. The real question comes one step before marriage: Why is there such a powerful attraction between man and woman?
Because God created them as one entity and then divided them into two. As it is written in the Bible – “God created man in His image … male and female He created them,”as the sages explain, “a single individual with two faces,”. As an independent individual, a person would be left without companionship, without challenge, without the potential for growth. Neither man nor woman would be able to transcend the individuality into which they were born. So God created them as one and clove them into two, two who can join with each other to become one. Man and woman are drawn to each other because individually, we feel incomplete; we are searching for our other half, searching to unite with God.
Two people may love and care for each other, but without a divine force, what is to bond temporal human beings eternally? Such a bond is necessary, for, besides being two strangers with different personalities and backgrounds, a man and a woman differ biologically, emotionally, and psychologically and will undergo many transitions in their lives.
What Makes a Marriage Work?
Many raw materials go into building a healthy marriage. Love, of course, is necessary, and so is a sense of awe – the awe that each spouse feels for the other, and the awe that both husband and wife feel for God. Such awe will weave itself through every aspect of their lives, from the way they keep their home to the way they educate their children.
A successful marriage must have vitality. A union between two living people means that the union itself is alive, and must constantly be nurtured and encouraged to grow. A marriage must also abound in trust. Trust does not come overnight; it takes years to build. But once it is in place, it serves as a solid foundation that will support a marriage through crisis.
Trust does not come from perfect behavior; it comes from accountability. No one can be expected to be perfect, but they can be expected to be accountable, to acknowledge an error. Trust means that your attitude and conduct over time have demonstrated that your spouse can depend on you, that you have the integrity to act properly even when no one but God is watching. Otherwise, there will always be doubt: How can I know that my spouse is truly committed to this marriage?
A healthy marriage also means building a healthy home together – a home not just for your personal comfort, but one that will be a light unto others. From the outset, the priorities in a marriage must not be on the amount of money spent – for the wedding, the honeymoon or expensive furnishings in a house – but on the commitment to building a home that is guided by the divine principles of morality and virtue.
A crucial and central element in achieving a loving marriage is learning to cultivate peace at home, learning to communicate and handle the variables that will arise in any marriage. Learning how to get around an argument, how to reconcile, how to cope when things aren’t going well. Whenever one spouse is having trouble, the other should remember that they are two halves of the same soul. Neglecting your spouse is the same as neglecting yourself, or neglecting God.
There are no magic formulas in handling problems within a marriage, of course. First of all, both spouses must understand that preserving the marriage, a sanctified union, is an absolute necessity for which they carry equal responsibility. We must also understand that a happy marriage cannot be built on one person’s terms. Individuality is enhanced, not obliterated by true love. It may be tempting to always have things your way, but love and respect are nurtured by acknowledging the wants and needs of a spouse. Such selflessness can only come from recognizing God in your life, which enables you to think of your spouse’s space as sacred as your own.
Above all, a healthy marriage necessitates that the wife and husband must always remember their duty to their third partner, God. This includes fulfilling the commandment and blessing that man was given upon his creation: “Be fertile and multiply.”This is a critical component in a successful marriage.
The ability to reproduce is part of our physiological and psychological makeup, and is necessary for our well-being. We should not tamper with or second-guess God, who blesses us with the ability to bear children; with every child to whom we give birth, God blesses us with the strength and resources to sustain, care for, and nurture this child. There may indeed be the fears that result from living in a dysfunctional environment, in which there are many ways for a child to be hurt. But one wrong does not justify another – the wrong of choosing not to bear children. Having children defines and crystallizes the priorities of a marriage – indeed, of life in general – and raising children is the most challenging, profound and gratifying goal that a man and woman can hope to achieve together. It eternally bonds them to each other, to their family, and above all, to God.