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Yitzchak Schechter, PsyD

Klal Perspectives, Symposium on Preparedness for Marriage

To read this issue’s questions, CLICK HERE.

Creating a Resting Place for the ShechinaIdeals, Expectations and Reality in Marriage

Marital integrity, happiness and success are fundamental to the Jewish community, and indeed to any organized society and community. The concept of zachu shechina beneihem[1] is not only a spiritual statement of God’s Divine presence, but also a symbolic formulation of the psychological and relational impacts of shalom bayis.

The spousal dyad is the central grouping of the family and the building block of the communal system as a whole. The marriage dynamic is the context for the parent-child relationship, and is the model by which, and through which, children learn the most basic truths about themselves, their world and their place in it – including their relationship with Hashem. The concept of shlosha shutfim be’adam[2] is not merely a reference to conception and birth; parents partner with G-d throughout a child’s developmental stages, as he grows up to become himself.

From my perspective as a clinical psychologist and as the clinical director of a large behavioral health clinic serving the needs of the full spectrum of the Orthodox, Yeshivish and Chassidish communities, the marital core and its challenges are among the most pressing issues facing the community, as a stressed and under-performing marriage can be the cause of many family and community ills.

Notwithstanding the growing number of “relationship improvement programs” being offered within the community from professionals and paraprofessionals, we are still far from addressing this issue adequately and effectively. To be clear, this is not due to the lack of genuine effort, but rather reflects the fact that the issues of successful marriage are inextricably linked to the array of complex, nuanced, and pernicious systems issues that the community faces and has yet to solve. Presented below is an approach to some of these broader issues and the impact they are having on our communities. Hopefully, this article, and this issue of Klal Perspectives, will trigger a dialogue that leads to practical solutions, both from short and long term perspectives.

Research and Empirical Data

As suggested by many commentators, including authors in the first issue of Klal Perspectives, a responsible approach to communal challenges must be premised upon meaningful research and data. As a maturing and increasingly sophisticated community, it is critical that we evolve from reliance solely on intuition-based models of decision making to an emphasis on empirically-based models that can inform leadership’s decision making.

Reliable research should not be confused with the arcane number crunching taking place in the sterile halls of the ivory tower of irrelevant academia; rather, research must be an accessible engine that can revitalize the hallowed institution of marriage. This requisite investigation can create, through comprehensive needs analysis and careful diagnosis, a real-life action plan for couples in our community.

Given the cohesive and organized nature of our community, prospective research and its translation can be exceedingly powerful. For example, through using the interconnectivity of the community and its many touch-points (e.g. yeshivas, kollel, mikvah, kallah teachers, shuls, schools/pre-schools, and community organizations), we can create a marriage-wellbeing surveillance and support network, akin to the best of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has done for health[3]. Empirically-developed questionnaires that are simple and focused can be used as a newlywed screening system to test for the stress fractures in marriage, leading to quick intervention when necessary. This is one way our tight-knit communal network can actualize its function of areivus and mutual support[4].

Influences and Unintended Consequences

Communal steps to better prepare young adults for marriage must consider and evaluate the variety of influences that impinge on the marriage experience. Marriage is the insulating unit that forms the basis of family and community, but it is not built on lofty ideals alone; there are many insidious, extrinsic factors that affect marriage. Some of these factors are externally generated while others are internal, communal influences.

The most oft discussed are the external influences of general culture from non-Torah sources – most notably those attributed to the Internet and media exposure. These intrusions impact the core values of developing youth and young couples, by shaping their images of marriage and their conceptualization of love, attraction and sexuality. Appropriately, a great deal of focus is placed on these forms of influence.

While focus on such external influences is crucial, we as a community must also be conscious of elements from within our own communal system that are potentially harmful, and/or which require attention. The nature of our community, and many of its attendant practices, can sometimes influence the way marriage is structured and experienced in a less than ideal manner.  Even some practices that are wholly justifiable, if not very important, contain negative implications, falling within the well-known rule of unintended consequences. These consequences must be recognized and addressed.

A significant example of internal, unintended yet seriously negative influences relates to decision making in shidduchim. For example, our soon-to-be-released study (Ehrenpreis and Schechter, 2012) found that there are significant differences in Body Mass Index weight categories in a sampling of self-identified Modern Orthodox, Modern Yeshivish and Yeshivish women. Prior to the release of the study, researchers, clinicians, and educators were surveyed for their predictions of any differences that might be found between women of the different socio-religious categories. Many surmised that the Modern Orthodox sample would be lower in weight due to increased exposure to media and the “Hollywood” ideals of thinness and beauty. Others predicted that the Yeshivish sample would lean towards thinness, due to the pressures of shidduchim. In actuality, the Yeshivish and Modern Yeshivish groups were skewed towards thinness to a statistically significant degree. More important than the socio-religious comparison, this finding potentially highlights that unique internal systems (e.g., shidduchim) can have even greater influence than external ones (e.g. media exposure).

Obviously, great importance and many values are associated with the community’s system of dating.  But what, to a large degree, began as a practical system, now represents the prevailing cultural and institutional norm, and, moreover, has been imbued with spiritual and religious value. There was no directive of gedolai Yisroel to shape the shidduch system so that it should be precisely as it is, such as the set of questions to be asked. Similarly, many other particulars of the community’s internal processes are also products of ad hoc and non-deliberate development (e.g. selection criteria for yeshivas, wives working as they do, etc.).

A common example of a positive practice having unintended consequences on marriage stems from the Orthodox community’s significant emphasis placed on tzniyus, gender-separation and kedusha in matters of sexuality and intimacy. For some, attitudes about marital and sexual intimacy may, at times, be overly influenced by this intense communal focus.   Of the large numbers of people who present with problems in their intimate relationships (whether sexual or interpersonal), many are likely suffering from excessive inhibition, and lack a basic comfort level with their bodies and drives.

Having correctly understood that modesty is a great value, those with particular personality styles may internalize the Torah values of modesty in a manner that imposes a generalized discomfort with physical and sensual pleasure. Experiencing normal urges and natural arousal – even when appropriately channeled – may create tension, as intimacy and sexuality, by their very nature, require a psychological and physiological disinhibition and relaxation. Thus, an individual uncomfortable with “letting go” in mind and body has a severely diminished capacity for emotional and physical intimacy. Many of our young people find this expectation and aspiration to be counterintuitive, and perhaps even antithetical to their implicit (and often explicit) training.

Another, related, consequence of our community’s intense training of its youth is the frustration of many individuals’ capacity to have personal experiences. Our community encourages children to accept the “correct” beliefs, both in terms of what they should think and what they should feel. Proscribed beliefs, feelings and attitudes, and the demands for acceptance of these inclinations, can, at times, supplant personal experience, displacing genuine feelings and mood states.

Furthermore, the urgent sense of obligation to comply with lofty Torah imperatives, or to live up to aspirational models of mussar and self-growth, may lead some to deny their actual yet imperfect tendencies and emotions and become alienated from themselves. They are convinced that being an oved Hashem (servant of G-d) requires ridding one’s self of all negative feelings, urges, instincts and reactions but, as we are taught in Mishlei, yodea tzaddik nefesh behemto (the righteous understand their animal soul – 12:10)[5]. A healthy person must own, experience and struggle with his or her feelings and emotions rather than succumb to the platitudes of hollow and disingenuous denial. At times, the individual must reject the incongruous “baruch Hashem” in favor of a more honest but pained “eicha?! (how could this happen?!)”[6]

Owning one’s personal experience – the good, the bad and the ugly – is not only essential for healthy growth as a person and as a Jew, it is also critical for marriage. To enjoy a successful marriage, we are forced to engage with another who sees us as we really are, without the mask of distance. Vulnerability, in fact, actually serves as the greatest evidence of trust and security, as well as strength. Efforts to hide or suppress genuine feelings are rarely successful, since such feelings surface inevitably, whether through direct communication, reactivity, or otherwise. Furthermore, when family relationships are based on “what should be,” rather than on “what is,” they become disingenuous, or even hypocritical, and emotionally disconnected, resulting in ultimate disappointment and an unsustainable situation.

Moreover, children are the keenest of observers, and can quickly identify the type of person an adult really is, whether as a parent or as a spouse. They are especially adept at perceiving authenticity and hypocrisy. The “do as I say” approach is utterly transparent to adolescents, who readily reject it (to the great disappointment of adults).

Another possible example of unintended internal influences that may impact the married lives of couples is a divergence between boys’ and girls’ educational systems, even as far back as elementary school. Boys’ schools (especially in the more yeshivish circles) focus on the primacy of learning Torah above all else. This educational model values the academic and intellectual rigor of shakla ve’tarya (give and take), chiddushim (creative thinking) and charifus (sharpness), as well as kushiyas (questioning), upshlugging (disproving) and the rischa de’oryasa (fiery passion of Torah) in a way that may devalue other forms of personal expression, emotional experience and interpersonal domains (e.g. plays, non-academic creativity, sports). Together with this single-minded focus may come sharpness in discourse, an inclination toward potentially harsh, authoritarian discipline and a tendency toward elitism.

Girls’ education is radically different. First, girls’ education includes the development of an appreciation of social interactions, experiential learning, cooperation, creativity and expressing talents in both academic and non-academic domains (e.g. plays, dances, chesed, G.O.). Furthermore, girls are not encouraged to engage in the same elitism, and certainly not the same adversarial and caustic forms of debate and intellectual confrontation promoted in in the education of boys.

When educators of boys and of girls get together, there is often discussion of this gender gap and speculation about how it may translate to different worldviews and expectations during marriage. Looking at the world through the distinct lenses of shakla v’tarya and rischa d’oryasia for the boys vs. respect, cooperation, personal experience and growth for the girls can certainly contribute to the difficulty in communication that challenges many frum couples at the start of marriage.

These differences certainly do not necessarily lead to difficulties in communication, nor is this observation intended as a critique of an educational system that successfully focuses on the primacy of Torah. But these distinct backgrounds must be addressed and efforts must be made to ensure that these factors do not unintentionally impede spouses’ ability to appreciate each other’s experiences and views.[7]

Expectations, Ideals and Challenges

Another source of marital stress is the common tendency of couples to begin their married life with unreasonable expectations and to allow those illusions to drive their marriage and family goals. Often, young husbands and wives become beholden to the ideal images of their perception of those around them, setting themselves up for failure. The elusive ideal, not reality, has become their standard for comparison.

These ideal images span a wide range of life dimensions: “My spouse and I should be happy and joyful at all times,” “My children should all love learning more than anything else,” or “be sweet and well-disciplined and at the top of their class,” or, commonly, “We will have the same spiritual and material blessings as our neighbors.”

As a composite illustration of this hope, a young couple will imagine their perfect Shabbos table, with the radiance of the holy Shabbos permeating their home as he, the proud baal habayis, recites Kiddush with utmost kavanah (concentration), and as she, the gracious baalas habayis, having prepared a glorious seuda, beams with pride throughout the meal, as all the gorgeous children sit with blissful obedience, listening quietly to, or reciting, many thoughtful divrei Torah.”

Ultimately, however, reality will set in, as children are hardly known for accommodating such dreams. As healthy children, they will bicker during Kiddush, fidget during divrei Torah (if they stay at the table at all) and don’t seem to do much of anything with blissful obedience. Moreover, mother and father, exhausted from a hectic week and last-minute Shabbos preparations, will often come to the table with feelings of inadequacy in their struggles – for parnassa, in learning and in child-rearing – and frustrated at the shattering of their sublime image. If they fail to shed their unrealistic dream of the “ideal” Shabbos, this couple will almost certainly suffer the loss of joy in Shabbos and beyond – and their children will suffer all the more. Rather than mourning over fleeting and unrealistic ideals, couples must overcome the disappointment, learn to recognize and adjust to their realities, and embrace and celebrate the blessings they have.

In a very different, but increasingly common situation, my staff and I confront the distraught, young wife who has recently discovered that her husband, whom she believed to be – and who indeed is – a serious ben torah, has at some point been exposed to inappropriate images on the Internet. She is jolted by the discovery and seeks to reassess her relationship with her world. Confronting disappointment in one’s spouse may appear in even more subtle situations. A young wife may discover that her husband is not quite the masmid (committed student of Torah) or oved HaShem (servant of G-d) she had expected him to be, or a husband finds that his wife is less capable of managing stress than he imagined, or that she is less attractive to him than she was while dating.

A significant impediment to successful marriage is the inability to adjust when reality deviates from expectations, and unanticipated challenges arise – especially for those who are the source of a challenge. How do we respond if life is different from the idyllic image created for us by our communal imagination? Will we be able to embrace a realistic and affirming model and to fulfill the verse ki nafalti kamti; ki eyshev bachosech Hashem ohr li (When I fall, I will rise up; when I sit in the dark, Hashem is my light – Micha 7:8).

This is a critical developmental challenge for couples – one young people are not sufficiently prepared to address.

Form versus Substance

Interrelated with several of the earlier discussions is the struggle to avoid choosing form over substance. This challenge, of course, confronts all community members, but plays a particularly acute role at the advent of marriage.

In any community, those focusing on serious goals – whether religious, social, material or spiritual – must live up to demands and expectations in order to achieve and maintain those aspirations. In our community, most of our communal ideals emanate from a substantive core of religious values and spiritual yearning. Over time, however, vitality and idealism can be lost in the practical steps being implemented to achieve the goals. The individual who gets stuck in the practical structure can forfeit the cause, with the entire effort becoming an empty and hollow shell of its ideal self.

Marriage is no different. Though the goals of marriage may be lofty, the intense efforts necessary to achieving these goals risk serving as a distraction to the goals themselves. How often have we observed that even the choice of spouse and the wedding preparations fall into this trap? For many, unfortunately, getting married has become divorced from being married.

Navigating challenges in a successful marriage requires flexibility, forbearance, genuineness and cooperation. Yet for many, these building blocks of a life partnership are incidental as they seek a spouse, with checklists stressing instead (at times exclusively) appearance, body type, yeshiva/seminary attended or hyper-specific hashkafas (approaches to Judaism). These factors, of course, bear little on the joys, tribulations and success of marriage in the real world. There is no checklist for a loving marriage – it is crafted out of connection and shared experience.

It is not just the young couple that falls into this trap. Many parents, as well, undertake the goal of marrying off their children with little thought about how the marriage will unfold[8]. For some, the parental role is solely to get the child to the chupah, with insufficient attention to the personal details or to preparing for the wellbeing of the child from that point on. One parent, whose nine married children all suffered exceedingly conflicted marriages, rebuffed a therapist’s recommendation with: “You can’t tell me what to do. I got nine kids married; obviously I know what I am doing” (as if merely effectuating a child’s wedding is evidence of parental wisdom).

When marriage is treated as merely an automatic step on the social escalator of community accession, is failure not to be expected? Where is the room in this process for personal experience, responsibility and growth? If a young couple, either individually or as a couple, want something or experience something different from their friends and neighbors, how do they find the fortitude to chart their course orsolve problems?

Children in our community are guided in their transition from physical separation to sexual intimacy. They understandably cannot be expected to achieve that transformation spontaneously. Similarly, our children must be guided in embracing emotional closeness with their new spouse, as well as the attendant psychological and personal experiences.

As one newly married individual articulated the needed approach, “I don’t want to just play house – I want to know what to do and how to do it as a mature and responsible adult.” Learning what is right is not just relying on community guideposts or informal surveys of friends – it is an internalization of the deep values instilled by parents, family and an education system, that must be maintained even when it runs counter to community expectations.

Body without soul is, of course, not unique to marriage. It can be found in the learning/yeshiva experience without internalization of values, in tefila without beseeching G-d, and in Shabbos with only eating and sleeping. It is by imbuing meaning and substance into the structures of our life that we ultimately enrich our personal, spiritual and marital relationships.

Practical Implications and Recommendations

Emerging from this discussion come several practical recommendations. They are listed below by developmental stages and targets of intervention. In my experience developing and implementing aspects of these programs in mosdos across the world, tailor-made interventions – that appreciate the particular community, parents and young adults – are most successful. I, therefore, offer the readers these recommendations as guideposts for forming such programs for your family, school or community.

Elementary School (6-8th grade)

Early experiences are critical to personality development and adult behavior. The issues must be addressed early to create the positive and successful marriage. Skills learned at a young age can shape responses to self and others throughout life.

  • Educational efforts towards providing children with stronger interpersonal, empathic and social skills sets
    • Such a curriculum should include
      • Understanding emotions and their impact
      • Identifying emotions in self and others
      • Understanding and living empathy
      • Practical social skills
      • Effective conflict resolution (age appropriate)
    • Programming should be -
      • Fully integrated with the religious teachings of Chazal, including mareh mekomos (citations), as appropriate
      • Experiential and with small groups
      • Relevant and practical for the lives of children
      • Involving parents and school staff
        • if possible, providing parents with a workshop on some of the same material, ensuring that school, child and parents are on the same page, and enabling parents to reinforce skills  at home
        • The rabbeim and teachers should, ideally, be informed and even taught the curriculum so that when issues arise, in any part of the school, everyone is speaking the same language

š Mesivta/Bais Yaakov/High School

  • Development of values clarification curricula for boys and girls in high school {and continuing in yeshiva/seminary} around issues of
    • Individuality vs. group belonging
      • Where and why do I belong, and what happens once I have my own home?
    • Personal experience
      • Where do my own personal feelings fit with my relationships with others and with Hashem
    • Influences working upon me and how I make decisions (internal and external)
    • Dealing with conflict and disappointment
    • Understanding self, sexuality and struggle
      • Having an education al taharas hakodesh and in a positive and psychologically supportive environment, is better than in the uncharted and unsupervised territories of adolescence in an internet age
      • Addressing the ever-present tension of sexual desire is critical for boys. Differentiation from the mutuality of marital intimacy as it relates to personal, emotional development and formulation of images of sexuality
      • Those who seem to not demonstrate such urges may invest great efforts in squelching that human experience and may develop negative attitudes towards self and sexual expression
      • Given that sexual urges cannot be fulfilled, seeing the religious value of struggle is critical for adolescents/young adults. It helps give meaning to their accomplishments, and provides a model of gevurah for challenging situations
    • Values clarification around dating and relationships
  • Such programming should be -
    • Administered by selected rabbeim/mechanchos, frum professionals or identified staff of the schools
    • With same structures as above, though parents tend to be less involved
    • Staff Members should be available and accessible to the students with opportunities for open and private forums for conversations, support and “check-ins”
    • Small groups (va’adim) around some of these issues can be helpful, especially for older students
    • A proper balance of discussion and self-containment is important, to avoid excessive focus on the issues
    • Referral to trusted mental health professionals when genuine problems are identified
      • Addressing these issues earlier leads to better and quicker resolution

š For Those “In the Parsha

  • Creating a (written) mission statement regarding non-negotiable values for the home you hope to build
    • What is mission critical in a potential spouse, what is important, a plus or a fantasy
    • Clarifying where my goals are coming from and seeing if they withstand the test of reality
    • Test your mission statement out on your support system
  • Maintain a trusted support system
    • Yourself
      • Understand your own “stuff,” strengths and weakness to prepare for a strong marriage
    • Friends
      • Friends help form one’s view of the world and offer important support
      • One must know whether they share your values or add to illusions or challenges
    • Family
    • Rabbeim/Mentors
    • Seeking professional guidance (from trained therapists) for oneself or as a young couple (even during engagement if needed). Far from being a weakness, it reflects strength and commitment; indeed, many couples do exceedingly well with a little extra push

š For Those Soon to Be or Very Recently Married

  • In addition to chosson/kallahhalacha classes, teaching basic marriage values should be required
    • What are my expectations (short and long term) of marriage and spouse
      • These expectations shape the lenses through which one views marriage
    • What can my spouse expect from me
      • Learning pre-marriage the responsibilities of marriage is important for shaping a harmonious home, especially for those coming from yeshiva, where the responsibility set outside of learning is minimal
    • What are the positive attributes that I see in my spouse
    • Being our own unit, part of a family and part of the community
      • As the couple individuates to become its own unit they must understand how permeable the boundaries are with family and community and how they are the same or different from the circles around them
      • Respond to the Piaseczner Rebbe’s call (Zav V’ziruv10)  – “reveal your own personal truth through choosing as an individual, not just as part of the herd”
    • Being vulnerable and feeling safe with my spouse
      • Educating towards mutuality and support
      • Identification and referral in cases of pathology
      • Ability to be (healthfully) disinhibited and comfortable with spouse and self
      • Identifying personal triggers and emotions
        • It’s not always him/her- sometimes it’s you
    • Comfort with intimate relationships and physical intimacy
      • Importance, meaning and positive value of sexual closeness
        • Earlier in life sexual expression was out of bounds, the transition to it being encouraged and positive requires support and at times boundaries
      • Sexual intimacy as a caring and mutual experience
      • Respect of personal and religious boundaries together with closeness
      • Sexual intimacy consistent with Torah values
      • Being able to be a sexual being and a religious/spiritual person
      • Understanding the learning curve in sexual experience
      • Questions about trauma (especially sexual) should be asked routinely by the chosson/kallah teachers. If such a history is noted, more gentle and personalized attention must be given during discussions
  • Seeking professional guidance, where needed, to address emerging challenges

š For Parents of Children Soon to be Married

  • With your child, help develop expectations for the dating, engagement and marriage periods
  • Develop a “mission statement” for the simcha– its vision, goals, and tone. This includes
    • What is ikkar and tafel? Mission statements focuses on what is most important at this transition point
    • What message do you want to send the chosson/kallah, friends and family?
    • What budgeting you can realistically afford (simcha and beyond)?
  • Be sure to communicate with your children
    • Communicate about the ideas/values and ideals of marriage (including that which you learned from your experience)
    • Communicate about the role that you as parents will have in the new marriage, and the balance of boundaries and emotional support
    • Communicate openly and honestly regarding the expectations and realities of financial support

š For Rabbonim, Rebbetzins and Teachers of Chassanim/Kallahs

  • Just as there are refresher courses in taharas hamishpacha there should be refresher courses on the hashkafos of chayus hamischpacha
  • If known issues arise check in with the young couple and parents (gently of course). It helps them to know that someone is there at times of crisis or stress
  • Meetings of chosson/kallah teachers to learn from others’ expertise and experience in non-halacha areas
  • Increased communication between chosson teachers and kallah teachers
  • More specific and useful information about the sexual act itself
    • A recent unpublished study of over 100 frum young marrieds found that it would have been very helpful and less stressful if they we have understood more about intercourse. This is consistent with the report of many marriage and sex therapists in the community as well.
  • There should be a trusted mental health professional in the rolodex of every community leader
    • Early intervention and referral for services leads to better and quicker resolutions to the problem and the prevention of many others (especially when dealing with those about to be, or were recently married)

š Community-wide Recommendations

  • Careful research to describe practical and actionable root causes for problems
  • A marriage monitoring system as described above
  • Mesadrei kiddushin requiring that the young couple participate in some emotional/marital training classes beyond hilchos niddah
  • Ultimately there should be a standardized course or curriculum, behechsher harabbonim and certified by qualified mental health professional available to provide this scope of education
  • Where appropriate (schools, classes, or community-wide events etc.) there should be data collection to all the educational efforts.
    • This feedback can help schools and communities understand what is working and what their particular needs are, and enable them to share “best practices” with other schools or communities.

With this comprehensive approach may we be able to enjoy the fruits of great and successful marriages and build a community with a firm and solid home for the Shechina to dwell within us.

Yitzchak Schechter, PsyD, is the Clinical Director of the Center for Applied Psychology (CAPs) at Bikur Cholim in Monsey, NY and is the Director of the newly launched Institute for Applied Research and Community Collaboration to study psychiatric, psychological and social issues in the community.

To view the other responses in this issue, CLICK HERE.


1 When a man and woman (are married), if they merit, G-d’s presence dwells among them (Sota 17a).

[2] There are three partners in (the formation of) a person – G-d, his father and his mother (Niddah 31a).

[3] i.e. CDC’s Health Surveillance Study monitoring health changes in various communities.

[4] Obviously, as with all professionally-conducted research or intervention, confidentially is an essential element to its acceptance and effectiveness. One can conceive of a model of privacy, not unlike that of Dor Yeshorim, school tuition payments, therapist relationships etc. that supports the sensitive but important information.

[5] This is echoed, l’havdil, in the language of Carl Jung, who said, “The civilized man makes for an unhealthy beast.”

[6] Or, as Rav Yochanan declared when asked if his fierce suffering was meaningful to him, “Lo hain, v’lo scharan” (not the suffering, and not the reward [for enduring it] – Berachos 5b).

[7] Interestingly, the threshold for hurtful or demeaning communication (ona’as devarim) to one’s wife is subjective and not contingent on the husband’s intention or way of communicating (Bava Metzia, 69a). A yeshiva student who is used to speaking with his colleagues in sharp and  sparring terms (“that argument is ridiculous!” or “your explanation is dead wrong!”) will quickly learn that such a mode of communication, fine for melchamata shel torah (the battles of Torah study) is hurtful and destructive at home.

[8] Ironically, the process that is intended to lead to the couple’s separation and individuation from their parents becomes, for some, the most highly enmeshed experience in the child’s adulthood. In preparation for a couple’s lifetime together, the “adults” in their lives may make all the decisions for them. The couple may never even speak outside of the structured date, with proxies (mothers, shadchanim, rabbonim) working out the details, as the young couple becomes secondary to the process. For some, opportunities for problem-solving and real-life struggle together don’t come until after marriage, when it can come as a great shock. Alternatively, they may develop an unhealthily overreliance on their parents (undermining the stated goal of being ozev es aviv vemo, v’davek b’ishto – leaving one’s father and mother to connect with one’s wife – Bereishis 2:24).

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