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Jun 2, 2011

Weddings: Racing to the Finish-line

The way people talk about shidduchim, the "crisis" and the need to get married can sound like an obsession.

The incessant ranting about it like some holy relic, rite of passage, or penultimate goal feeds me this image of a marathon, where all the runners with their ages pinned to their shirts are dashing headlong down a path, some for miles and miles, exhausted, panting, gasping for air and a moment's respite from the race while hammering the track with their pounding feet, led by all manners of motivation from touch to companionship, social status to family, sexual contact to child-raising, religious obligation to communal acceptance, fear and existential angst in loneliness. Or just to stop everyone from nagging and asking every 3.7 seconds: "So, nuuuu, when are you getting married?"

And of course, every so often, the person I'm running next to suddenly disappears, having finished their race. At which point I'm left sprinting and perspiring and flabbergasted -while being happy for them of course, since their race is finished -wondering what on earth just happened and when I'll be the one to suddenly trip and stumble across my own finish line. Since I've got no idea where it is, I'm practically running blind, which can give this experience the treadmill-esque "going nowhere fast" sensation.  

Of course, this particular marathon ends under the chuppah. But what then? From many perspectives, life opens up. Relationship, togetherness/unity, intimacy, family, acceptance, community, religious fulfillment... all reach a very different place at this "finish line."

It makes me wonder if we're picking the wrong race sometimes. If perhaps the finish line is really a beginning, why are we spending so much effort just to get there, instead of preparing for when we do? If people expend all their energy trying so hard just to get to the wedding, what do we have when we finally reach marriage? What is the purpose in running a marathon towards my wedding when that point is the beginning of marriage?

The voice echoing loudly in my head is adamant: "because you have to get there first!"

Allow me to conjecture for a moment, perhaps what is really necessary to reach the chuppah is a certain preparedness for marriage rather than racing towards a wedding.

Though I must admit that dating and relationships/marriage are completely different skill-sets. and my own focus from much younger has been the latter. More on that later.


  1. You said it so well. It does feel like a race sometimes, and that is when I step back and say "Wait a minute, what is my rush?" The "finish line" is most certainly a beginning, but that is part of the problem with the mentality too- the idea that before you get married you have not really started your life yet. We race to the finish line because we want our life to begin. The problem is that life before marriage is just as much a life as life after marriage is.

  2. I WISH that we were allowed to live our lives as singles (girls in particular) before marriage and it wouldn't be considered a bad thing. And I know that there are a lot of girls out there who agree but, because it is the way of the world, they get married at 19,20,21...instead of just waiting just a few more years to really develop themselves as independent, whole people. I you think we could start a revolution? ;)

  3. For those who view marriage as "I got there first!" it's all about the party, the shrieking, the blessing others. Then after a week of partying, everyone disappears, the fun is over, and now there are many responsibilities.

    I read once by a well-known rebbetzin that couples should get married as young as possible so they can "grow" together. But I think nowadays that's the wrong angle. People mature at later rates nowadays then they did in the 1800's, and the marriage model has changed as well. In the 1800's a good provider was the focus; now it is who I can have long conversations with.

    This frantic rush to say "I WIN!" cheapens marriage. If someone is more mature, they will understand that, and choose not to compete.

  4. @ SternGrad:

    I agree, getting married is a beginning the same way graduate school or work is a beginning. Life doesn't start with any one of those things, even if they are important.

    @ FeistyFrummy:

    Just do it! A know more than a few women who are that way, and they each present a shining beacon to those around them, giving them strength to explore themselves before dating.

    @Pincess Lea:

    There is a new field of research on "emerging adulthood" which explores the very phenomenon you pointed out. Namely, that adulthood starts later and there is a sort of transitioning period.

    Sometimes, especially when it seems so many people/friends/relatives are getting engaged and married, it's tough not to feel stressed or pressured, or that "falling behind" feeling.

  5. I love the marathon imagery. I do think that you have really hit the nail on the head about people not preparing for marriage and focusing on dating as a life in and of itself. After a number of months as a married person, I can certainly say the chuppah is only the beginning - and there is so much more to do, so much more growth to achieve, and much more maturity and experience to be had. I wrote a bit about this at the conclusion to my last Post Wedding Report.