I always find it super cool when I realize that chassidim are reading my blog, I know they are because it’s quite rare for me to walk around Williamsburg or New Square without being recognized, but I don’t think I have ever featured a post from an on the derech chossid before. As many of you know, I find chassidim and chassidism fascinating, but since I don’t know enough about it – I pretty much leave it alone, maybe the author of the following post can write some more funny thoughts on chassidic life.
Top Ten perks of being in an arranged marriage:By Nachaum
We were waiting for the elevator to arrive. It crept ever so slowly to the lobby of the apartment building in which I was about to meet my wife to be. Cutting the silence, my father said sternly, “Remember, Nachum, don’t be a wiseguy. Don’t make us any problems. We worked hard to get this beshow (pre-engagement meeting with a girl).” My mother nodded her head in agreement. So did I.
Fifty minutes later we were on our way home, and the next morning I got engaged. I didn’t really have much of a say in the matter. It happened the way they all do. The shadchan called my father. My father called everyone he knew that might know the girl and her family. There wasn’t a reason not to go ahead with the shidduch. I got engaged. Exactly the way things are meant to be. Nothing out of the ordinary.
It is now ten years later, and I am here reflecting on the nature of the arranged marriage. I don’t have what to compare it to, as I have never experienced a marriage borne of love. Neither have I ever had any meaningful relationship with any woman or girl. If you feel like pitying me, please don’t.
There are many perks that come with being in an arranged marriage. Some benefits are known. Others are unknown. Some are not often admitted. Others are only spoken about by members of the arranged club. Let me clue you in.
1) Finding a wife is guaranteed. Right along with the laws of nature such as light by day and dark at night is the fact that we chassidim are always taken care of. We don’t pay rent. We have section 8. We don’t pay for food. We have Foodstamps. Health insurance? No, we have Medicaid. Tuition? Electricity bills? Speeding tickets? There’s an assistance program for that.
Do you really think we should go out and work on finding a girl or a potential wife? Thanks, but no thanks. It doesn’t fit our way of life. We like being taken care of. We are guaranteed to be married by a certain age. We can be the biggest loser; we’ll still get married. The shadchans will go ahead and look for a loser of equal dimension and convince us of how great a match it is. It’s just like Oprah. Everyone gets a wife. You have a wife, and you have wife, and you have a wife…
2) It’s like winning a grab bag. Have you ever won a grab bag? Regardless of what you win, it feels pretty good. Putting your hand into that big black bag, not knowing what you’ll take out feels great. In an arranged marriage we put your hand into the bag and out comes whatever our luck has in store. It’s just like winning a grab bag in which everyone wins something. We might not win more than the status of being married, but we still got that for free. If we find out that our wife doesn’t mind that we watch movies, you hit the jackpot.
3) We can get away with murder. As far as I understand, in typical marriages you have something to protect and preserve. You at least have to play this game. In arranged marriages, we can go ahead and leave our socks on the floor the night of our wedding. We can then take our new wife’s virginity and watch porn on our Blackberry the next day.
There just simply isn’t the inherent social contract in our arranged relationships as there is in other mainstream relationships. The girls are told before they get married that the bochurim (boys) are animals from the zoo. The bochurim are told that the girls are simpleminded, hormonal, and emotionally fragile. With an introduction like this there are no expectations for social norms from either spouse. And so debauchery is the norm.
4) It actually feels good when others flirt with our wives. Jealousy is one emotion we do not have to deal with. As a matter of fact most of us, don’t feel possessive of our wives. After all, our wives are just something that happened to us. She’s not someone I sought out, pursued, and scored. On the other hand, there’s this constant nagging feeling of not knowing how you measure up to that of others. How does your grab bag compare to that of others?
The best confirmation you can get is when other men stare at your wife in the street or in front of shul. You suddenly realize you are in possession of a commodity. When a friend of yours subtly flirts, shmoozes, or jokes with your wife that’s the ultimate compliment. You got someone that others want. Score.
5) We never feel guilty for having made a bad choice. You often buy a car, a house, electronics, then a month later you berate yourself for having bought model A instead of Model B. The same, I guess, applies to mainstream marriages. You chose one girl over another, and if things don’t work out you have only yourself to blame.
We never have buyer’s remorse. Our spouses are chosen for us. We can’t blame ourselves because we didn’t even enter the marketplace. We took whatever was picked for us. One less thing to obsess over. On the other hand, we get to hold a justifiable grudge against our parents for the rest of our lives.
6) There’s no reason to put in any work into our marriages. Our marriages are not meant to be built on love, romance, and intimacy. Our rabbis are quick to say that the Torah does not define marriage in such terms. But we have an even better reason not to put any work into our marriages. Why clean up someone else’s mess? Seriously? We should spend thousands of dollars to fix a wreck our parents created? We are not expected to assume that level of responsibility.
7) We get to discuss the important things before we get engaged. Before mainstream relationships turn into marriages, many months are spent doing who knows what. These people may be getting to know each other. They might be discussing values and opinions. But they don’t discuss the important stuff.
You see, when all we have is forty five minutes to meet with the girl you’re going to spend the rest of our life with, we must discuss the important stuff. The stuff that really matters. For example, we’ll talk about how old you were and where you were on 9/11. We’ll discuss in detail the number and ages of our and their siblings. We’ll ask each other if/when they’ve been to Israel, and the details of the trips. You know, the important stuff, because all you got is an hour or so.
8) Divorce just isn’t an option. Part and parcel with arranged marriage is the knowledge that it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever get divorced. It’s just not something we believe in. You might know one or two arranged marriages that ended in divorce, but these are the exceptions. For the most part our spouses are considered a permanent appendage. Knowing this rids us from many obligations, frees us from the need to impress, and opens up our options to do whatever we want, and not do whatever we don’t want, within our marriages.
In the likely case that your marriage sucks, we become martyrs. We take one for the team. We don’t just get divorced because the marriage is not ok. Rather, we proudly put the needs of our families before our own needs. Our families’ needs to have a full house of married, non-divorced children takes precedent to anything we may think we need. The only way to experience this spiritual high is by being in an arranged marriage.
9) We never know what a real relationship is, so we don’t know what we’re missing. Is the grass really greener on the other side? Only if you can see the grass, of course. In our case, we have no clue about the nature of relationships and marriage on the other side. It’s grand, I tell you. It’s the epitome of ignorance-induced bliss. We get married. We have our own apartment. We get to have sex once or twice a month. We get fresh kugel from our mothers in law. What else can one possibly want or need. It’s blissful not knowing.
10) Compatibility between spouses is extremely high. Before we get hitched, there’s weeks of research done. Our parents call around, ask people in shul, make phone calls to rebbes, and meet up with mashgichim and rosh yeshivos. Our parents want to make sure that the boy/girl they are considering won’t end up being a shanda (embarrassment) to the family. The other side’s parents are doing the same thing. They also do all they can to assure that the boy/girl they are considering won’t be a shanda to their family. It really doesn’t get more compatible than this. One boy, one girl, no shanda, perfect match.
So, my dear friends, if you ever feel stuck in an arranged marriage, just read through this list and it’ll instantly make you feel better. If you ever are being red a shidduch and are skeptical, just go over this list and it’ll give you the push you need. And if you ever encounter an arranged marriage basher, just show them this list for instant mind-changing results. They’ll thank you for shedding some light on a misunderstood institution.
By the way, in case you wondered, I’m happily married. Insert evil laugh here.