I don’t know when the myth of marital bliss entered my psyche and became so ingrained that I couldn’t shake it off, but I know it must have been a gradual process, like Rabbi Akiva’s famed hole in the rock. The myth of happiness after marriage dripped, dripped, dripped, slowly until it bore a hole into my soul where the knowledge of reality, of the simple fact that marriage doesn’t “save” was eroded.
Somewhere along the journey up to the chuppah, after fairy tale and romantic movie and the concept of “bashert”, I woke up truly believing that even if life wasn’t perfect after marriage, it would by definition be happier. Fulfilled, complete. The “other half” of what was missing from my past life.
Yet when my husband asks whether I’m happier now than when I was single, I can never answer the question. I’ve found my zivug, I believe in the holiness of my marriage, but happiness?
One man doesn’t make you happy.
I am glowing at the wedding banquet, watching my beloved say HaMotzi as my husband for the first time. In the photos, I peer out with an expression of adoration and trust. It’s real. It’s beautiful.
“A husband and wife are one soul, separated only through their descent to this world. When they are married, they are reunited again.”-Zohar
I am crying as my husband makes kiddush this Shabbos, realizing our last cent has been spent on his medical bills. I’m so tired, so depressed, and neither one of us got much food for Shabbos in the house. Even though there’s still two of us, we both feel so alone.
One man doesn’t erase your loneliness.
I am snuggling up to my husband after watching a film together, feeling loved and complete. He makes me so happy. I love him unconditionally, eternally. He is a vital limb of my existence now, like the heart or the brain. This is what marriage is.
“I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”- King Solomon, Song of Songs
I am screaming at my husband to leave me alone after a long work day. We have struggled with money for a long time, and I am so tired of worrying about our survival. I know it’s not his fault, that he can’t help it, but I just feel so alone. So eternally “in charge” of everything, now even more so with his temporary disability, and so alone.
One man doesn’t erase your pain.
I am sitting down with my husband for tea as we exchange stories about our childhoods. Even after so many years, there’s things we still never told each other. This is what love is: the continuous journey to know the deepest parts of person’s soul. This is holy.
“He who is without a wife dwells without blessing, life, joy, help, good, and peace”-Babylonian Talmud
I am crying in our bedroom alone, the door locked so that my husband doesn’t come in. I miss my friends, the friends I left to live with my husband thousands of miles away. I miss my family. One man can’t replace so many loved ones. Why was I taught that he can?
One man doesn’t cure your depression.
I am crying after my husband says he feel inadequate, after he says he just wants to take care of me. I don’t want to see him cry like this. It hurts so much. It hurts more than the loneliness I feel every day, when I wake up and I’m afraid of everything: of bills, of not knowing anyone, of whether we are failing as a couple. I am always so damn afraid. I wonder if I used to be this afraid.
One man doesn’t make you fearless.
If marriage was a business venture, would we be told to file for bankruptcy? To close up shop and move on? Yet how can we have failed when the love is still so strong? But no, this can’t be failure. I define failure as the desire to quit, as the plan to quit. I don’t want to quit.
Yet the thought never fully dissipates. The self-doubt, the loneliness, the fear drips, drips, drips into me until it bores a hole into my soul. The rock eroded by my tears.
One man doesn’t make you strong.
Sometimes, I am envious of the unmarried, or rather, the past version of me that was unmarried. The carefree girl with minimal responsibilities, constant access to close friends, and the idealistic fantasy of what her marriage could still be one day. I know I shouldn’t talk about it, not when the people who want so badly to be married would despise me if I ever said the words aloud. I don’t think my longing is even real, just the tricks of a pained heart. But in the dark hours, I always look back nostalgically at the past.
“Husband and wife, if they are meritorious, the divine presence (Shechinah) dwells among them. If they are not, a fire consumes them.”-Rabbi Akiva