R.E.L.A.T.E Part 1 – What comes first

November 14, 2014 by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
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Jewish marriage begins with the signing of the Ketuba (legal marriage document) in which the groom pledges to be a good and faithful husband…writes Rabbi Michoel Gourarie.

Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

The opening paragraph states that the husband has committed to his new wife, saying: “I will work for you, respect you and sustain you.”

An important word that seems to be missing from this commitment is “love”. One would think that a successful marriage is one where the husband and wife love each other deeply. Love is what binds them together and creates a deep and harmonious union. So why is this critical marriage ingredient missing from the marriage document

To understand this we need to examine the development of relationships. When children are born they spend the first number of years focused on themselves. Children are incredibly self-absorbed and see themselves as the centre of all of existence. This is an intentional part of the creation design as the formative years are there for us to discover ourselves and create our own identity.

But as we grow older we begin to form relationships. In these new experiences we need to learn to go beyond ourselves and consider other people. After establishing our own identities, relationships are an amazing opportunity to broaden our experience and strengthen our personality by connecting and relating to other people, who think differently, feel differently and see the world in a very different way than we do.

For this to work we need to respect and value the other person as a unique individual outside of ourselves.  We need to acknowledge that their needs and perspectives bring a new dimension to the relationship that we cannot provide. For the relationship to develop and thrive we must learn to respect, value and maintain the individuality of the other person.

Love on its own can be egocentric. Sometimes what appears to be intense love is really an expression of self-interest and pursuit of pleasure. Unfortunately it is not uncommon to see relationships that begin with intense romance deteriorate rapidly as soon as one person realizes that other is not the perfect human being that they initially thought they were. For love to be real and long term it must be built on the foundation of deep respect. Only when we genuinely respect the individuality and the differences of the other person, can we truly love them.

The Ketuba lays the foundation of the marriage. The goal of marriage is love and connection. The goal of every relationship is the closeness, connection and bond between the two people. This happens in each relationship in a different way.  But for true love to be achieved, respect must be there first. When the foundation is built with healthy respect, the love will be lasting and blissful.

 

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