I have always said, and I will always believe, that everything happens for a reason, and that everything we go through (good, bad, and weird) takes us to the place we are meant to be. So though I’m divorced, my first marriage did, in more ways than one, lead me to my wife…to our child…and to our life. And now that I’ve been in two marriages, I think I have figured a few things out.
One of the biggest advantages my second marriage has is the fact that my wife and I are bound together by a common religion (in our case, Judaism, of course), and we have a sense of purpose and community. It’s not that I didn’t have enjoyable, meaningful, and memorable birthdays, holidays, and life events in my first marriage, but there wasn’t as much of a tie to something historical, cultural, bigger. Christmas and Easter were celebrated, but we were not Christian, so they were celebrated secularly. I know there’s nothing wrong with that–I have always enjoyed celebrating those holidays without religion–but having this common tie in my second marriage provides a deeper connection in the long haul.
I attribute this to the concept of being a part of the “tribe.” The tribe that puts so much emphasis, celebration, and (lest we forget) food around life events. The tribe that doesn’t allow any of these events to pass without great preparation and fanfare. The tribe that says, “You will remember this, this will be important, this is a long-standing tradition.”
In my previous marriage, weeks would go by with our busy personal lives, and we wouldn’t take any short moments to stop and just re-connect with one another in a meaningful way. Television shows that we both liked to watch each week, or restaurants that we both enjoyed, were “our things.” But it became clear after months and years went by that we didn’t have anything else meaningful that was just for us. We even took separate vacations toward the end of our marriage, because there wasn’t enough of a common interest to connect us anymore.
But for my wife and me, Shabbat itself provides a weekly meaningful connection. Even if we do not do anything “involved,” we at least say the prayers on Shabbat, and I feel like our family unit is connected to something bigger, every single week. One of the things I usually do is stop at the local bakery that makes fantastic challah, and bring it home for us. We pull out the challah plate we received as a wedding present and the Shabbat candles. We light the candles, have our little one say the prayers with us, and we take this very short, but very important moment to let go of our work week and say something that binds us.
And that is often it–we go back to our busy weekends–and yet, as wives and as a family unit, we take our moment and it means something. We are connected to each other through Judaism in those brief moments every week, and it serves as a reminder of that bigger picture–our lives together. Our lives filled with traditions, holidays, and celebrations rooted in a deep history that we are both a part of.
My first marriage obviously did not work out. I’ve learned from the two marriages that marriage is difficult–no surprise or big revelation there. You are two people trying to fit together through your own personal ups and downs and through the marriage’s ups and downs. Having my first marriage end in divorce lead me to my wife, and now that I look back on marriage after a year into my second one, I realize that opposites can and do attract, but commonality will sustain you.