Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Marriage as tikkun midot

Why did the Almighty create marriage? Wouldn't it be easier and more convenient if He made us sexless, or able to reproduce by pollination like some plants, or at least without the yearning to settle into families?

Or, without wandering into the realm of science fiction, why couldn't He make marriage easier? About one third to one half of all couples (the statistics differ around the world, but nevertheless, compared to previous generations the number is astounding) end up in the divorce court. How many of those couples explain they drifted apart while using the vague term of "incompatibility"?

There is such a matter as compatibility. Yet I'm convinced that in some, perhaps many cases, what people label as "incompatibility" can be more accurately described as "inconvenience". How so?

The Almighty did not design marriage so we could have an easy time. Should my spouse love and accept me as I am? Yes, but it doesn't mean we're not supposed to be challenged to improve ourselves. In Hebrew, it's called "tikkun midot", which can be roughly translated as working on one's character.

My husband is not "convenient" to live with. A marriage of convenience would allow me to continue with my old ways, to fall into my old habits. To continue spending my life in a comfort zone. But my husband is just right for me in the area of "tikkun midot", because he challenges me to improve precisely in the areas that want improvement. I'm challenged to develop in ways that have previously been neglected.

My husband makes me confront my fears and doubts. He makes me double-check old, long-formed opinions. With him, I'm motivated to do a great deal of soul-searching. It isn't convenient. It is often painful. But it is so important for my growth as a human, as a woman, and a child of God. I feel I have grown so much in the year we have been married.

Am I "losing myself", then? Yes, probably. I'm losing my old self, as I'm most definitely not the person I used to be. My husband is losing his old self too, and we are both molding and changing as we meet new curves along the road - of marriage, family, motherhood, fatherhood.

It's a winding road, and sometimes there are bumps. Sometimes we can't just fall back in our seats and relax. Sometimes we must teach ourselves to hold on to keep from falling. And this holding on, I'm convinced, is a big part of what tikkun midot is all about.

Edit: It turns out Karen wrote a post about married life too, and a very interesting one.

20 comments:

Brooke H. said...

Anna,

Thank you for the post. You're absolutely right about this, and I'm glad to read that someone else understands what it's like as well. I've been married for almost 7 years, and I'm still learning things that I need to improve on. I don't think it will ever end, although, wouldn't it be lovely, once we and our husbands are older, to have that complete rapport where we've gone through all that hard stuff and can just enjoy each other? I hope that day is on the horizon for me, for all of us.

Pom Pom said...

Just last evening, my husband and I met with an engaged couple. They wanted to "pick our brains" and I must be honest and tell you that it seemed rather tiresome at first. Marriage does exactly what you say, it transforms us and shows us what it means to surrender our own will. It is lovely to love and a difficult endeavor on our own. Our Creator allows us to be chiseled and shaped as we selflessly (and not always cheerfully!) love others as we love ourselves. It's a mystery and a privilege, isn't it? I think marriage compares with climbing a mountain. We get all excited about seeing and experiencing the beauty on the journey and we LIVE the climb - which is hard work! Great post, Anna! You have a true heart and a deep perspective.

Tracy said...

Beautiful, and as it should be. Perhaps that's why our spouses are called our "better half". They are supposed to bring out the best in us. And sometimes that means changing until we are better than we were before.

Anonymous said...

I must be misreading this post, since I agree with everything in it!

-- Pendragon

Jo said...

Thank you so much for this, Anna. I'm also a newlywed (6 months) and I couldn't agree with you more. At times I almost feel that I am mourning the death of my old self. It is a much harder process than I had imagined, but I am looking forward to seeing how the Lord will mold me.

Teartaye said...

This post is so inspiring that I just had to comment. (Usually I feel like I have nothing to say)

This is exactly the way my fiance makes me feel: Like there are things about me that need to be changed, and ways I need to grow, and that he's here to help me accomplish that (or at least keep poking me until I do it on my own, whichever you prefer).
A few of my friends have been throwing the whole "don't lose yourself" point at me... but yes, I will "lose myself" when I get married. Much like I've "lost" the person I was five or ten years ago.
And besides, "finding ourselves" sounds like it's worth losing a little bit of our individual weak points.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Pendragon,

Now that is a historical moment, a comment from you without actually contradicting me. :o)))

Kelly said...

Very well said. I was blessed with a wonderful Pastor who told my then fiancee and I that in marriage, over time, you become more like your spouse. You soften, change, and move more toward the center in your behavior and personality.
Glad he said that, it was not something that any relative bothered to mention, but it's the best advice I received.

Gombojav Tribe said...

Excellent, Anna! I'm going to share it with others!

I also blogged about "compatability" a year or so ago. Here it is:

http://gombojav.blogspot.com/2007/09/happy-incompatible.html

Daja

Anonymous said...

Another post that hits the nail on the head, bravo to you, Anna. :) This is exactly why my husband is someone I truly feel blessed to be married to. He always encourages me to improve, to be better, and so do I to him. Is it always "convenient"? No. But is it much better for us? Yes. I am forever thankful that we help each other in self-improvement, and constantly doing so- marriage is no walk in the park, it requires strong teamwork. But at the end of the day.. good teamwork is also what brings us closer to each other.

Hope you're staying cool amidst all this summer heat!

Prayers,
W

Lanita said...

Anna,
What a beautiful picture of marriage. My husband I will celebrate our 29th anniversary in 5 weeks. We have both changed SO much. I tell everyone that he is not the same man I married 29 years ago and I am not the same woman (little girl) he married either. I am making him a video for our anniversary and through it I have fallen in love with him all over again. Staying married this long is NOT easy, but it is so worth it. We have vowed that we would not do to our children what our parents did to us(both sets are divorced at least once). We are so thankful that God has blessed with 29 years and look forward to the next 29 years. I also look forward to the changes that will continue to occur.

Annajean D. said...

Anna,

Thanks for sharing! We just completed six months of marriage. And after 26 years of being single marriage has not been a smooth transition for me (even though it has always been the deepest desire of my heart.) I truly believe that God chose us for each other because we can help each other grow in ways we could have never done alone. Our strengths and weaknesses are so complimentary. And despite our differences when it come down to the end of the day there isn't anybody else I'd rather be with than my sweet husband.

Buffy said...

I couldn't agree more :)

Anna said...

Right on! My husband and I have changed so much to be like each other since marriage, and it's been for the better and we're both so glad of it!
I believe there's way too much individuality worship in our culture anyway.

Elizabeth said...

This is so beautiful Anna, thank you for sharing your perspective! :)

Anonymous said...

This is the first post I have commented on because it is the first post I 100% agree with. Great Job Anna!

The Stay at Home Wifey said...

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post, and everything else I've read on here. It is so encouraging to find that there are other women seeking to live as God made us to. I also really appreciate being able to see life from your perspective as a Jewish lady, as this really helps me understand God's Word in a richer way. Thank you for being a blessing to me, and many others in the online world.
Lyn

Kate said...

I always love reading your posts, and today was no exception. I don't think I'd ever thought of marriage as a way God improves our character.

I'd like to learn more about the concept of tikkun midot. Do you have any links/book titles/info to share about that?

~Kate
"Which Proverbs 14:1 Woman?"
www.proverbs14.com

Michelle at #!/usr/bin/mom said...

I'm so glad to hear someone speak positively about "losing yourself." I hear so much complaining about that very thing, and so many are adamant on the importance of preserving yourself. I have to wonder, why is "self" such an important and sacred thing that we can't give up a little bit of it to become better people?

Kate said...

We put 'tikkun midot' at the fore-front of our marriage vows, saying that we would work on "constantly improving ourselves for each other".